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September 2014
21

As announced, we are going on hiatus. We should be back sometime in mid to late October. See you then. - HH team.

As announced, we are going on hiatus. We should be back sometime in mid to late October. See you then. - HH team.

September 2014
21

About the Last Ask / Telling Different Stories

Hello.

I find it necessary, without getting into all the particulars, to mention our last question and our reply to it. First, I must say that while blogging is more or less a hobby, both of us still take it very seriously. Despite being in different fields (History and Sociology), we find ourselves being very much compatible because we share the same commitment towards education and we are both fascinated by how the digital age in changing the way in which we practice and think of humanities and social sciences.  

By making this blog on Tumblr and not a blogging platform such as WordPress, we knew we were most likely exposing ourselves to a different type of audience altogether. Like others, we were aware of Tumblr’s social justice warrior subculture before we begin this blog, yet we went ahead because our main aim was diffusion and sharing reading suggestions. Now, before we go any further, I do want to make one thing clear: we are not against social justice, on the contrary, I would say, however, we are very critical of the behaviour of some social justice warriors and we are very distressed about the way they seem to believe History, as a discipline, “functions”. (While there is no “right way” or “one-size fits all” about thinking and speaking about History, we believe that some core principals should not be transgressed in the way that they are at the moment.)

In the present case, given that this blog is about Haiti, and in light of the above comment about social justice warrior subculture, I feel it necessary to add that: had we wanted this blog to be anti-French, anti-American or anti-anything else, we would have done so a long time ago. We never made any comment about this issue up until this moment because we never felt it should have been required. 

When we started this blog, almost a year ago, the Haitian and Dominican governments were in the midst of yet another border and citizenship dispute. While we certainly had (and still have) our opinions about what is a problem that started long before this renewed tension, we tried to keep them to ourselves. This discretion on our part was not the result of our failures to understand the long history of antihaitianismo in the Dominican Republic, nor was it a lack of comprehension on our part in regards to the tension between the two countries that some date back to Boyer’s annexation in the 1820s (and other’s, as far as Toussaint Louverture’s 1801 campaign). No, rather this was because we were interested, even if just modestly, in historicising some of Haiti’s problems, rather than just too hastily jump to over-simplistic conclusions when we only had a poor grasp of Haiti’s evolution as a state. 

It is in this context that we refuse to participate in what we believe this last asker was interested in and should discourage further disturbance of this sort. Looking back, I believe we could have been less sarcastic in our reply, nevertheless, we both stand behind the overall spirit of our message.

Now, we are in no ways apologist for French, American, Canadian and corporate imperialism in Haiti. Neither, in our refusal to start conversations with half-truths, do we suffer from this “internalized racism” that has become a popular phrase on Tumblr. With this blog, we were interested in telling different stories about Haiti, stories that are left untold because people are usually too interested in talking about how poor, corrupt and backward Haiti is as a state. By “different stories,” we did not mean simple over-generalizations and “fell-good anecdotes” about “how great things we then.” Things have not almost been as they are at the moment, but we surely won’t be wearing pink coloured glasses and pretend “once upon a time, everything was fine” or “had we only done this or that, none of this would have happen.” By different stories, we wanted to show that the history of Haiti could not be summed up by the supposed pathological inferiority of the Haitian people and their refusal to accept or even understand democratic principals. By different stories, we meant to show that Haiti was a modern state, born out of a successful slave rebellion into a world that rarely recognized the humanity of Black people. By different stories, we meant to show that, for various reasons, Haiti inherited a situation that was very different from that of its Caribbean and Latin American peers. By different stories, we meant to express that Haiti’s militarism, which might have been justifiable in the early decades of the nineteenth century to protect its fragile sovereignty, has become an integral aspect of its political and social landscape, must to the distress of the population. By different stories, we meant to make clear that while Haitian (Black and Mulatto) élites have participated, at various moments, to the pillage of their country, they have usually done so with much encouragement from foreign powers, to say the least. By different stories, we were not actually trying to tell stories that should have been so odd or surprising to anyone had they cared to know more. 

If telling those different stories, in a way that seeks to make clear our respect for scholarship and academic conduct, somehow make us “elitist,” “traitors” to our race, if it makes us “white allies” blinded by our love of “White culture,” if it supposedly means that we are denying our “true roots,” then so be it (although, we strongly doubt we are in fact doing any of those things). In any event, we shall not jeopardize what we believe to be our freedom and intellectual integrity for the sake of adhering to anyone’s agenda. Our interest is in, exploring the complexities of our disciplines, recognizing their limits and challenging those limits, when necessary. Our interest is also in, finding better ways to tell those different stories when we acknowledge that by the nature of the medium we choose (Tumblr) our posts tend to be decontextualized and there is so much we can say in one entry. Our interest is not, has never been, and shall never be in becoming the most popular blog because we feed on some individuals’ endless indignation and need for venting. There are various ways to tell different stories, and voice criticism that do not defeat the original intent. It was our desire to explore these with this blog. 

At this point, I will stop, having gone much further than I intend to, but I trust my message was clear. 

September 2014
14
Hello.
I must say that we were both puzzled as to whether any of these were sincere questions or just rants. However, I suspect it was most likely the latter and should ask you, in all due respect, to find a more appropriate place to express your feelings than this blog. 
Now, I will answer you in the following fashion: first, I will address each question separately. Then, I will make a general commentary on what I find generally problematic with your thought process. 
[[MORE]]
Q1: “What did really happen back then in ” Ceremony of Bwa Kayiman.”?”
I do not know what “really happened.” Some tumblr users seem to take offence at the fact that certain historians debate whether or not Bois-Caïman actually took place, and if it did, whether it had the magnitude some have ascribed to it in later decades. While I have no doubt that there were most likely Vodou ceremonies leading up and during the Revolution, whether or not they took place where we estimate Bois-Caïman to be and whether all slaves, on all plantations magically flew to Bois-Caïman to prepare the uprising (as some popular self-described Haitian historians would like it to be) is unlikely, or at the very least, extremely difficult to attest to. What most academic historians agree on however, is that, whether or not Bois-Caïman occurred, and irrespective of its actual magnitude, it has a symbolic importance. This is where I think the source of indignation is. I cannot “prove” to you that this event NEVER happened, nor can I claim with much precision that it DID happen and involved the majority of Saint-Domingue’s slave population. What I can say is that it has a cultural significance in Haiti, even outside of Vodouisant circles. While any prolonged discussion here is sure to confuse you even further and would be counterproductive to my point, I should hope you realize that while the lines between History and Myth are often blurred, we should at least keep in mind that those lines actually “exist” and try to distinguish them with historical scholarship. This is why I cannot confirm or refute anything in this particular question and it has nothing to do with some sort of malice and not wanting to speak of this suppose “true culture” of Haitians. 
Q2: “Dont You Think Haitian Still Have Chain In Their Brain By Rejecting Their Roots What Our Ancestors Believe In? Now We Have White People All Over The Place With Big Enterprises Making Money While The Country Is Not Doing Well For Decade Now”
I’m not entirely sure how to answer this question, since it’s not, in fact, a question; this is an opinion camouflaged with a question mark at the end. You are free to believe people are “chain in” as much as you like. 
Indeed, to quote from your text, there are many “White People All Over The Place With Big Enterprises Making Money While The Country Is Not Doing Well For Decade Now” however, aside from a few notable exceptions, the white people generating considerable wealth from their adventure in Haiti do not necessarily work with enterprise and work inside organisations that are suppose to be interesting in humanitarian causes. 
Q3: “If We Take A Look At The “Code Noir” Second And Third Article Why Haitian Still Blind About It? Why Most Haitian Is Not Following Our Ancestors Road They Prefer The Path White People Showed?”
There are many ways I could answer this but, I shall keep it brief. The Code Noir was promulgated in 1685, in France, and for what was then the French Empire. Today, in 2014, it has no judicial relevance whatsoever in Haiti. What does have legal importance is the Constitution of 1987. I suggest you read articles 30, 30-1, 30-2 very closely.  
Q4: “Base On The Haitian Revolution And Base On How Poor The Country Look Dont You Think We Miss Something In The Picture? Back Then White Master Never gave Good House Or Treat Our Ancestors Well Why Haitian Keep In Their Head White People Will Save Us?”
Perhaps we should take a bit more time with this question. First, the most basic assumption you make in this paragraph is that there is some sort of a connection to be made with the Haitian Revolution (which ended 209-210 years ago) and the more modern situation in Haiti (2014). What you are in fact doing is showcasing the same type of argumentative logic as Pat Robertson and his claim about Haiti’s infamous pact with the devil (which somehow explains the country’s current state of material poverty). In both cases, Vodou becomes the sole vector by which Haitian history and society is to be understood. In both cases, Pat Robertson and yourself are exposing a clear lack of critical thinking and steep intellectual idleness. Of course, it is easier to claim that Haiti’s embrace (or in your case, repression) of Vodou is the supreme reason for its material poverty. You speak about a general degradation of life in Haiti in the past decade, and the fact that Haitians do not embrace their “roots” as if there were any logical deductions to be made here. So, the failures of the Haitian state to function as an organized body and the constant political and constitutional crisis since 1986; combined with, pressure from Washington’s neoliberal conservatives, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are all to be eluded from the question? Right? Of course it must, it’s about Vodou, isn’t’ it? This, and only this will save us all. Tumblr advocates of Vodou like yourself appear to be less interested in religious elevation and integrity, as you claim, and more in finding an easy path to conceptualize Haiti’s problems full of what-ifs, because anything and everything is justifiable when you live in the magical land of possibilities. Vodou is decontextualized and becomes this tool by which you can not only engage in some sentimentalism and play identity politics, it also becomes an effective mechanism to channel discontent and pretend everything is either black or white. This anti-intellectualism on your part, this banding together around our “true roots,” this listening to “ancestral” voices, is an easy way to minimize and deny the complexities of the problems in Haiti. Why bother even coming to this blog? You already have an answer to all your questions: Vodou. Were you expecting some sort of validation on the part of the moderators of this blog for your opinions? 
Now, I do not want to pretend that the Catholic Church (despite not recognizing Haiti until 1860) has not enjoyed predominance in Haiti.  (*And this is a much more complex story than I intend on exploring here. I would recommend a few books and articles, but, I know some of you postmodern, avant-garde, intellectually self-sufficient tumblr users would not dare look at any of these, especially if the authors were not a certified oppressed minorities.)
Also, I will not deny that the Haitian Catholic Church has not launched full-scale attacks on Vodou, most notably under the Lescot administration, and did this less out of fear, than, in many cases, for the sake of continuing to relish its privileges. However, this idea that, if we somehow magically went into the past and erased these misfortunes and replaced the Catholic Church by a Vodou religious order, all of the problems of Haiti would be gone is utterly ridiculous. There is this popular idea around certain tumblr blogs that Haitians who do not fully support or practice Vodou rituals are either not Haitian or living in denial, as if one needed a document proving that she or he was a certified Mambo or Houngan to be Haitian.  As if for most Haitians living in Haiti, one was either a Vodouisant or Christian and that the duality between the two wasn’t much more complex than this. This is the same type of essentialism that many noiriste, including François Duvalier himself were urging. *Note that I am comparing your person with that of Dr. Duvalier, what I do want you to understand however is that this kind of essentialism is not only ludicrous, it can easily become very dangerous. 
I believe a lot of efforts have been made by Haitians and non-Haitians alike in the last few decades to start a greater dialogue around Vodou, its religiosity and its cultural significance. While Vodou, in many regards, does not yet enjoy the same status as other religions, to even be recognized as such, is already something that many did not believe they would live to see. 
I apologize if my tone may have sounded harsh, and I fully expect some Tumblr Social Justice Warriors to miss the point of my reply entirely, but all of this need to be said. 
**For the time being we will disable anonymous questions. I really, really regret we created this blog sometimes. 

Hello.

I must say that we were both puzzled as to whether any of these were sincere questions or just rants. However, I suspect it was most likely the latter and should ask you, in all due respect, to find a more appropriate place to express your feelings than this blog. 

Now, I will answer you in the following fashion: first, I will address each question separately. Then, I will make a general commentary on what I find generally problematic with your thought process. 

Read More

#ask   #anon   
September 2014
14

Anonymous asked

I know this is post-1986 history, but what are the best academic readings on post-earthquake Haiti, historical, sociological, and political? I enjoyed Jonathan Katz's work, but he's obviously a journalist and not a historian or sociologist.

Hello. Thank you for your question.

You are right in assessing that we do not usually concern ourselves too directly with the post-Duvalier period precisely because we feel that time often allows for a clearer view of events (and thus often helps produce better research with important documents becoming available). Because of this, I hope you understand why it’s rather difficult for us to talk about “best academic readings” on the topic. First, because it implies that we have some sort of superior knowledge on all that has been written about the post-earthquake period (which we don’t). Second, — speaking for myself here — because some of the best work I’ve read on this (and i do want to insist that I did not read the panoply of articles on post-earthquake Haiti) was not in books and usually in commentaries made by some Haitian academics in journals. 

That being said, as I suspect you are looking for (English) scholarship, let me give you a few titles that seem to be very much in vogue right now (but for which I’m afraid I cannot attest to the full merit). 

Haiti: A Shattered Nation by Elizabeth Abbott seems to be quite popular and i’ve heard it recommended among students (but judging from the title you can sort of guess the orientation). There’s also Haiti: The Tumultuous History - From Pearl of the Caribbean to Broken Nation by Philippe Girard. Aside from academic dishonesty (see the controversy with French historian Jacques de Cauna), reading only a couple of pages from this book, I could tell exactly what it was trying to push forward, that is: ”Haiti is a failed state and it’s all because of its terrible government.” While Girard is certainly not on my list of favourite historians, I recommend this book because it still has its moments and it seems to be widely circulated among (some) academics and more popular audiences. You may also want to check Haiti: The Aftershocks of History by Laurent Dubois. While Dubois is a well respected American scholar of Haitian history, this book (if you ask for my own very humble opinion) suffers from the exact opposite of Girard’s work. Although Haiti gets a lot of negative attention and we should (perhaps) welcome the efforts of someone to look at its complex history until the earthquake with a more critical outlook on the actions of foreign interests, I fear in being too sympathetic to “the Haitian cause” Dubois has made his book rather problematic in that it seems to suggest that almost every modern problems Haiti faces as a state can somehow be traced back to and blamed on the United States, France, NGOs and so on. While we should not, in any event, remove the weight outside interventions have had on Haitian domestic affairs, I feel there is a sort of middle line that Dubois misses completely. Yet again, I recommend it because I think you will find his work interesting in many regards.

(*You may also want to check the works of Haitian scholars like Patrick Bellegarde-SmithAlex Dupuy and Robert Fatton, Jr. (among others) since they write in English. I believe they’ve all made comments on the post-earthquake situation with NGOs, Christian missionaries and MINUSTAH. Also, as ironic as i may seem, I think you should consider some official reviews on progress made by the U.N. They of course tend to downplay the resentment most of the Haitian population feels towards this occupation mission, but from what i’ve been able to read briefly, they do engage with the problem of rapes following the earthquake. (Well, this, in itself. is comical in a deeply sardonic way.) Anyhow, this may be outside of what you originally wished to consider but, I felt it was important to mention.)  

In any event, I should think it important that you always stay very critical of what you read. I am not saying this for the sake of making a cute closing commentary but because most of the historiography on this post-earthquake period (as far as I read it) seems to fall either sides of this spectrum: ”Haiti is, has always been, and will always be, a failed state.”or it’s :”Haiti is sooooooooo poor and it’s all because of France and the United States!” As i am sure you can image, these sorts of dichotomized assessments rarely depict the current political situation very well. (While I am not suggesting that all authors are guilty of this, there does seems to be an alignment closely following these lines.) I trust you’ll use these few suggestions and build a small bibliography to explore this question. I’ve only included books (and those that I could think of at this time), but I am convinced you may find even better scholarship with articles.

- Good luck and good night/morning! 

September 2014
13

Upcoming Hiatus

Hello. We are just taking this opportunity to say that we are planning to go on hiatus sometime next week and therefore will answer all the questions that were submitted before 11pm today. 

- Have a great evening. HH Admin.

#admin   
September 2014
13

Some of the many faces of 20th century Haitian women’s activism. From left to right: Emmeline Carries-Lemaire, Leonie Coicou-Madiou, Janine Lafontant-Nelson, Lydia Jeanty, Yvonne Hakime Rimpel and Madeleine Sylvain-Bouchereau. Dates Unknown. images: Courtesy of CIDIHCA.

While their contribution is often forgotten and/or neglected, these women (and others) shared a similar conviction and worked, in their own fashion, for greater justice in Haitian society.

To provide few blatant examples, though the popular demonstrations in many cities during the Forbes Commission of 1930 are often discussed, rarely is there a mention of women who also seized this opportunity to protest and demand more rights within Haitian society. Similarly, while the “Revolution of 1946" is usually regarded as an event putting together protagonists of the Noirisme movement and members of the Haitian left, the role of women, who frequently assisted their male peers, is often obscured and rarely studied independently. Additionally, by 1957, despite the threat of violence (and often, at the risk of rape) many women dared to defy the Duvalier dictatorship by speaking openly against the regime. Although not every women embraced the title “feminist,” the few figures included in this post are only among the many who have attempted to challenge Haitian society’s systematic sexism in the earlier decades of the 20th century. 

September 2014
13

Following the October 1929 student strikes, general demonstrations and insurrections in the following months, Washington was forced into reviewing its position in the Republic of Haiti. The Forbes Commission,presided by William Cameron Forbes held hearings in the country in hopes of investigating the situation and better advise the Hoover administration in its policy in Haiti. Aside from rapid “Haitianization” and other concerns, the Commission also recommended the gradual withdrawal of American Marines form Haiti, as their presence had become too unpopular in almost every sectors of Haitian society. This Commission was of significant importance in Haitian/American relations and, amongst other factors, did lead the the “end” of the Marine occupation of Haiti. The full document is available at the University of Florida Digital Collections.   

Following the October 1929 student strikes, general demonstrations and insurrections in the following months, Washington was forced into reviewing its position in the Republic of Haiti. The Forbes Commission,presided by William Cameron Forbes held hearings in the country in hopes of investigating the situation and better advise the Hoover administration in its policy in Haiti. Aside from rapid “Haitianization” and other concerns, the Commission also recommended the gradual withdrawal of American Marines form Haiti, as their presence had become too unpopular in almost every sectors of Haitian society. This Commission was of significant importance in Haitian/American relations and, amongst other factors, did lead the the “end” of the Marine occupation of Haiti. The full document is available at the University of Florida Digital Collections.   

September 2014
11

Portrait of Haitian doctor and politician Rosalvo Bobo (Pierre François Joseph Benoit Rosalvo Bobo). Date Unknown.

Most scholars agree that Bobo was next in line for presidency after the bloody assassination of Vilbrun Guillaume Sam (that triggered the beginning of the U.S. Marine Occupation of Haiti). American ultimately choose Philippe Sudre Dartiguenave for the role, feeling that he was more “stable” and more likely to collaborate with occupation forces. 
Original Image: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. // Template: Itsphotoshop.

Portrait of Haitian doctor and politician Rosalvo Bobo (Pierre François Joseph Benoit Rosalvo Bobo). Date Unknown.

Most scholars agree that Bobo was next in line for presidency after the bloody assassination of Vilbrun Guillaume Sam (that triggered the beginning of the U.S. Marine Occupation of Haiti). American ultimately choose Philippe Sudre Dartiguenave for the role, feeling that he was more “stable” and more likely to collaborate with occupation forces. 

Original Image: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. // Template: Itsphotoshop.

September 2014
11

Anonymous asked

Voodoo take part in the revolution how come they never mention that?

Hello. 

Who exactly is “they”? I’m pretty sure it is mentioned, at least in some form, in the vast majority of research on the Revolution. (C.L.J James’ The Black Jacobins was even criticized by some for not approaching this factor enough). 

However — and this is where i partially understand your question — due to the way many Western historians of the major Revolutions (American, French and Latin Americans) have often attempted to dismiss the Haitian Revolution because of the “barbarism” they perceived in Vodou, most scholars who have tried to put the Haitian Revolution back into the larger discussion of the Age of Revolutions have emphasized how, while Vodou was important, it was not the only component of this thirteen (and some would argue fifteen) years struggle. And indeed, it was not. It is important not to understand the entire Revolution in this manner, the same way today, we are careful with James’ class analysis of the Revolution. 

I sense you are not very familiar with the major historiography of the Haitian Revolution if you believe this (especially the more recent one), therefore you should be a bit more careful before jumping to conclusions too hastily. 

#anon   #ask   
September 2014
11

Anonymous asked

Are there still Haitians with native blood still in Haiti? Are there still native people from Hispaniola living in Haiti? (Meaning Taino peoples)

Hello. Thank you for your question. 

I’m guessing you saw our answer this question, well the same overall logic applies to yours. And to be more specific, in this case, most of the Taino/Arawak population in Hispaniola was decimated by the sixteenth century. Indeed, by most estimates, only a dozen were left in the 1560s. (The Taino population did survive much longer in places like Puerto Rico however.) While we may debate numbers as much as we like, and every source will give you a different approximation, I think sometimes it is important to separate national histories and national myths from historical “reality”. (I am sure you will understand my meaning here.) 

You should see our timeline and the sources we’ve used for more information on this topic if it interests you.

#anon   #ask   
September 2014
11

Rare Photos of Dumarsais Estimé’s Presidency (1946-1950). Images: Courtesy of CIDIHCA.

Following the United States Marine Occupation of Haiti (1915-1934) the Haitian military, Gendarmerie d’Haïti (later known simply as Garde d’Haïti), received major transformations, from what, by the turn of the last century, was a decentralized and often unorganized coalition, to a modern military force. While the army was key in protecting the regimes of Sténio Vincent (1930-1941) and Élie Lescot (1941-1946), it was through the election of 1946, that which brought moderate noiriste Dumarsais Estimé in power that it was able to test its strength as arbiter of Haitian politics

Ironically, the same men who installed Estimé in power later disposed of him due to disputes and Estimé’s attempt to stretch his presidency. He was replaced by Paul Eugène Magloire, one of the key military figures behind the 1946 junta.  (Sources: XX and X)

September 2014
11

soy-un-madridista asked

Hello, my father's family is from Tortuga can you give my some info on the genetic make up of the population there and where the major components came from?

Hello. Thank you for your question.

I’m afraid, however, that neither one of us at this blog can answer it. This is something that goes beyond what we personally study in history and sociology. 

That being said, I believe you are a few google clicks away from getting some sort of an answer, probably an unresearched one I should add. Any answer to this, especially in the case of Haiti, would most likely be in the canon of: “let’s prove 105% — as if this number was plausible — of the population actually comes from Africa, is Black and hence African!” This, has a lot more to do with ideology than real science, I’m afraid. Now, please understand my meaning: Totuga aside, I am neither denying nor minimizing the vast African origins of the majority of Haiti’s inhabitants, still, what I am suggesting here instead is that you should be careful with these type of questions since they rarely generate serious answers and that whatever these answers in turn claim, almost always encompass some sort of a political agenda. (You need only to look historically at some adepts the noirisme movement to comprehend my reservation.) 

I hope you understand my answer, although I have every reason to believe that with a lot of tumblr bloggers constant desire to hegemonize people of African decent, my meaning will most likely fly off their heads.