Haiti in Context

Folks at NYU, as everywhere, have been riveted by the unfolding crisis in Haiti. The NYU Haiti response page gives people in the NYU community information on how it can help as well as updates on benefits and other events at NYU. Please click here for more information

In an effort to help students, faculty, the K-12 community, and the public in general keep informed of events, as well as to help place the current crisis in a broader context, CLACS is organizing several initiatives. First, CLACS hosted a panel/teach-in on Haiti on Wednesday, January 20. The first event of its kind at NYU or any New York campus, the panel brought together NYU faculty and others to discuss the earthquake and its aftermath in Haiti.
Sibylle Fischer (Spanish, NYU, and author of Modernity Disavowed: Haiti and the Cultures of Slavery in the Age of Revolution), who this semester is teaching a CLACS course “The Subject of Rights” part of which is focused on the philosophical legacies of the Haitian Revolution spoke about how the legacies of the world’s disencounter with the Haitian Revolution helps in part explain the ways in which the current crisis are being understood and narrated. Millery Pollyne (NYU, Gallatin), historian and author of a forthcoming book on African Americans and Haiti, spoke about the tension between militarism and humanitarianism in twentieth- and now twenty first century approaches to Haiti in the western hemisphere. Michael Dash (French and SCA, NYU), who this semester is teaching a CLACS course “Haiti in Caribbean Context” and who has written several important books on Haiti (see faculty profile here) spoke about the ways in which the history of US-Haitian relations also shapes dominant approaches to Haiti (and the crisis). Karen Greenberg (NYU Center on Law and Security), author of The Least Worst Place: Guantánamo’s First 100 Days, spoke about the US role and the current emphasis on security concerns on the part of the US government. Meg Satterthwaite (NYU Law, Center for Global Justice and Human Rights) spoke about the ways in which a human rights perspective might inform current initiatives for aid and development. Gina Athena Ulysse (Wesleyan, Anthropology), anthropologist, poet, and performance artist, spoke about trauma and the ways in which the media are covering the current crisis.
There were lots of questions and comments from the audience including remarks by Nathalie Pierre, the PhD candidate in the NYU history department, who works on Haitian history and was in Port-au-Prince during the earthquake. Gina Ulysse performed a song of her own composition, which is forthcoming in a Haiti relief CD. First year CLACS MA student Paola Reyes shared her thoughts, “the question and answer portion of the panel allowed members of the community to share personal narratives, as well as to ask relevant questions to the panelists. I was surprised by how many members of the audience had a personal connection to Haiti.”
A video of the event will be posted shortly. And several of the speakers’ presentations have been posted as well on the web forum of the journal Social Text.
CLACS will organize other events designed to give the NYU and general public access to greater and deeper knowledge about Haiti. Please check our calendar of events, for more information. In addition, we are working on a Resource Page on Haiti designed to give K-12 teachers, university faculty, students, and the general public easy access to a clearinghouse of reliable information on Haiti past and present.
Ada Ferrer, Director of the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at NYU

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