Looking Back on Haiti: Reexploration and Rewriting in a Diasporic Perspective (Panel)


French and Francophone / American/Diaspora

Jeanne Devautour Choi (Columbia University)

In the second half of the 20th century, Haitian society has been profoundly impacted by massive waves of exile provoked by the collective trauma of the Duvaliers dictatorships and epitomized by the internationally recognizable image of the "boat people". On the literary scene, the resulting Haitian diaspora, in North America and elsewhere, has found ways to maintain connections with the native land, reminiscing on childhood memories, revisiting Haiti both physically and metaphorically, and engaging with their shared history, myths, and traditions.

What discourses and representations are held by these exiled authors on their native land? How do their diasporic perspective inform their perception on, and relationship with, Haiti? To what extent do they reflect on the socio-economic gap between Haitian people's living situation and their own, brought by their settling abroad, and how does such distance question their ability and legitimacy to write on Haiti, or for Haitians?

This panel welcomes submissions that consider works by exiled Haitian-born authors reflecting on external representations and personal experience and memories of Haiti. Topics may include, but are not limited to:
- migration, exile, and diaspora
- childhood memories
- dictatorship and political violence
- trauma, (inter)generational trauma
- metatextuality and reception
- historical narratives and testimony
- questions of "authenticity" and "legitimacy"

This panel focuses on representations of Haiti and discourses on Haitian society offered by exiled Haitian-born writers in their works. We seek to discuss and problematize the particular diasporic perspective of these authors and their relationship with their native land. We welcome proposals that explore, among others, the questions of exile, trauma, memory, and sense of legitimacy in 20th- and 21st-century literary productions of the Haitian diaspora.
Please submit abstracts of 200 to 250 words.