Jeanne Essame

  • Fellowship year:2017-2018
  • University: University of Wisconsin
  • Dissertation Topic/Category: Caribbean/Africa
  • Dissertation Title: Diaspora as Detour: Haitian emigres during the Duvalier years, 1950's-1980's.
  • "Diaspora as Detour: Haitian emigres during the Duvalier years, 1950's-1980's" examines the Haitian educated elite on the move mainly in Canada, Africa and the U.S. during the Duvalier dictatorship. Going beyond the trope of catastrophic exile, it demonstrates how Haiti was constantly and purposefully refashioned and kept alive discursively, visually, and through pan-African practices in new re-imagined spaces. It analyzes these practices and spaces as Glissantian detours, or ruses to cope with the impossibility of return inherent to our understanding of diaspora. Here, diaspora does not merely refer to a group of people outside their original national space. This work approaches diaspora as a concept that simultaneously denotes dissimilarity and fluidity, black internationalism, as well as the yearning for the motherland. Looking at racial alienation in rural Quebec, the instillation of racial pride in the newly independent Congo, the ushering of Hatian papers in Montreal and New York City, or the transnational support for the so-called boat-people, this project articulates the centrality of racial collaboration across ethnic and class lines as well as the necessity to preserve or create positive imageries of Haiti. Drawing on a wide range of sources, including institutional records, oral history interviews, as well as textual and visual artworks, it argues that the Haitian educated elite engaged in diverse political, social and cultural practices to recast their relationship to their homeland and to challenge notions of race, citizenship, class, and representation across national boundries while carving out new diasporic spaces that spoke to all Haitians abroad.