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The Universal Dimension of Haitian Culture : History, and the Politics of Memory

27 novembre 2017, 8:49 catégorie: Diaspora2 467 vue(s) A+ / A-

Dr Eddy Saint-Paul.


Last week, we ran a story on the celebration of the Battle of Vertières at the City University of New York’s Haitian Studies Institute. As part of the festivities, seven Haitian artists were invited to exhibit their paintings, the first time such an event was held in the university’s 130-year history. Our piece was so enthusiastically welcomed by our readers that today, we’re thrilled to publish Dr. Jean Eddy Saint Paul’s opening statement, with an eye on contextualizing the commemorative festivities. A renowned multidisciplinary scholar, Dr. Saint-Paul is the institute’s founding director.

Sociology, we argue, cannot afford to forget memory (Olick & Robbins, 1998).

Haiti, as a country and a topos, is very strong culturally. Many believe Haiti keeps moving forward because of its cultural strengths. From an intellectual, cultural and artistic point of view, the Haitian person is a human being of excellence who shines everywhere. Notwithstanding, in the United States of America –where I sit to write this text– it is not necessary to hear this narrative on Haiti. In a constant effort to create a negative public opinion of Haiti, the country has been portrayed as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Even though poverty is blatant and flagrant in the country, Haiti is more than its economic woes. In The Butterfly’s Way, Edwidge Danticat wrote: “And we are not, as Joel Dreyfuss reminds the world in his essay, ‘A Cage of Worlds,’ just people from ‘the Poorest Nation in the Western Hemisphere,’ but also people who ‘have produced great art like that of Ireland and Portugal…great writers and scholars like those of Russia and Brazil “(Danticat 2001, p. xvi).

As we commemorate the 214th anniversary of the Battle of Vertières, the CUNY Haitian Studies Institute, housed at Brooklyn College, kindly invites you to re-discover and re-appreciate Haiti through the artistic work of its proud filles (daughters) and fils (sons). Through the lens of this exhibit, I hope you will appreciate the universal dimension of Haitian culture.

In this specific context of cultural globalization characterized by hybridity, fluidity, enracinerrance and where the local is connected to the global in a double process of de-territoriality and re-territoriality, the exhibit offers you the opportunity to appreciate how Haiti (the source/root/ local) has always been a constant in the inspiration and artistic creation of these Haitian citizens who are also global citizens.

Please enjoy the exhibition !

Dr. Jean Eddy Saint Paul


Director of the Haitian Studies Institute.

Brooklyn College,

Thursday, November 16, 2017



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