Town Hall Response Strategy (2021)
International media often portrays Haiti as an ongoing crisis since its successful revolution for independence in 1804. This representation of history simultaneously fails to consider Haiti’s transnational roots and global connections and how Haitians persist in their brave fight for their freedom and sovereignty. Despite the Haitian Revolution’s triumph — an “unthinkable” act in the words of anthropologist/historian Michel-Rolph Trouillot — the event threatened the core of white supremacy. It resulted in dire repercussions against the new nation. In the face of “Western” critics, we aim to highlight real concerns in the country and stand in solidarity with Haiti. Men nou la! (We are here!)
Moments such as the current intersectional crisis oblige scholars and professionals to do more than talk or write. We are compelled to come together to think critically and productively about how theory and practice intertwine and how to incite meaningful change.
The 32nd Annual Haitian Studies Conference was an opportunity for conversations across advocacy NGOs, policymakers, and international institutions who will benefit from the reservoir of interdisciplinary knowledge that HSA has been filling for over 30 years. How did we do? How can we evaluate ourselves individually and collectively? What role should HSA be playing? How do we get there?
The Town Hall provided members with an opportunity to deliberate on these urgent questions about individual, collective, and organization praxis.
The membership was organized into randomly assigned breakout rooms. Each breakout group discussed the below questions for 20 minutes and then reported back on each question individually.
1. What is Haitian Studies’ relationship to Black Studies? To ethnic studies overall? Or is Haitian Studies area studies? As board member Nadège Clitandre inspires us, Haitian Studies informs global studies. Do we, as an association, need to come to clarity about our identity? How do we signal this to the outside world?
2. Given the changes in higher education as an institution, with the evisceration of funding exasperated by COVID, scholarly associations such as ours need to adapt quickly. What should HSA be doing? (when we get to the larger group discussion, we will be asking about how to establish priorities)
3. How does HSA facilitate truly interdisciplinary dialogue and collaboration? Does it? What can be done better?
4. How does HSA facilitate activism and real-world engagement? Does it? What can be done better? What barriers do you see to this engagement? How can we as an association overcome or undercut them?
With the results of these conversations, the Haitian Studies Association has developed a strategic plan to guide us forward:
I. Create A Statement About Haitian Studies’ Relationship To Other Similar Interdisciplinary Fields Of Study, Namely, Black Studies, Global Studies, And Caribbean Studies.
II. Establish An Open-Access Platform Of Recent Haitian Studies Publications.
III. Implement A Comprehensive Mentorship Program As Part Of Emerging Scholars’ Programming.
IV. Create A Decolonizing Haiti Syllabus Project
V. Create A Permanent Haiti Outreach Committee
VI. Implement Monthly Events
You can read our ‘Town Hall Response Strategy’, which details the takeaways from our conversations and our plans on how to accomplish the above here (PDF).