Haitian Studies Association

Past Conferences

H.S.A. 2023 Award Recipients

♦ Lifetime Achievement Awards ♦

Dr. Robert Fatton Jr.

Dr. Robert Fatton Jr. is one of the most accomplished and recognized scholars on Haitian society, politics, and history in Haiti, the United States, and internationally. He is the Ambassador Henry J. Taylor and Mrs. Marion R. Taylor Professor of Politics, Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics, University of Virginia, Charlottesville.

Since receiving his Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Notre Dame in 1981, he has taught at the University of Notre Dame (1976-1981); at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, The John Hopkins University, in the Spring 1990; Fall 1991; and Fall 1992; and at the University of Virginia since 1981 where he also served as Department Chair (1977-2000 and 2001-2004).

Before turning his scholarly gaze on Haiti, Robert earned a reputation as a scholar on Africa with his many books, articles, and book reviews on South Africa and Senegal. Likewise, his publications on Haiti include more than three dozen articles in journals and anthologies, and five books, including Haiti’s Predatory Republic: The Unending Transition to Democracy (2002); The Roots of Haitian Despotism (2007); Haiti: Trapped in the Outer Periphery (2014); and The Guise of Exceptionalism: Unmasking the National Narratives of Haiti and the United States (2021).

Robert has lectured at colleges, universities, and professional association meetings; made presentations, and offered commentaries on public media (radio, television, newspapers) in the United States, Haiti, the Caribbean, Africa, Israel, Mexico, and Canada; and has been interviewed, written op-eds, and quoted in major newspapers/journals, including The New York Times; The Los Angeles Times; The Miami Herald; The Economist; Chicago Tribune; AP; NPR; The World/BBC; CBC; CBS Radio; MediaPart, Paris; Radio-TV Solidarité Haiti; and Radio Métropole, Haiti.

A long-time member of the Haitian Studies Association, he served as its Vice-President from 1997-2001; a member of the Board from 2001-2003 and 2015-2018; and as a member of the Editorial Board of The Journal of Haitian Studies. He also received the Haitian Studies Association “Leadership Recognition” in 2009, and the Haitian Studies Association Award of Excellence in 2017.

Dr. LeGrace Benson

Dr. LeGrace Benson is Professor Emerita of SUNY-Empire State College and the Founder and Director of the Arts of Haiti Research Project.LeGrace holds an interdisciplinary Masters in Arts and Philosophy from the University of Georgia in 1955; and Doctor of Philosophy in Perception, Art History, and Philosophy of Education in 1974 from Cornell University.

An interdisciplinary scholar by training, LeGrace Benson rose to the rank of Associate Professor of Art History at Cornell University, and went on to serve as Associate Dean for Special Programs for Women at Wells College, followed by Associate Dean for Academic Programs at the Albany Center of Empire State College.

LeGrace has been a member of the Haitian Studies Association since its inception, attending the inaugural conference at Tufts University in 1989. She has made invaluable contributions to the HSA, serving multiple terms on the Board of Directors, acting as the Associate Editor of the Journal of Haitian Studies since its founding, and organizing the first conference to be held in Cap Haïtien during her term as HSA President in 2016. Since then, LeGrace has been active on a number of HSA committees and is co-convenor of the organization’s working group on the environment. She has also been active in the Haitian Arts Society and KOSANBA.

Students and colleagues in Haitian Studies cherish LeGrace Benson’s contributions to scholarship through presentations and publications. Besides lectures delivered at venues including the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Center for Black Studies in Santa Barbara, and many others in the US and abroad, she has published chapters and articles on subjects ranging from André Breton and Muslim antecedents in Drapo Vodou to Haiti’s Ghetto Biennale to the Royal Garden of the Kingdom of Haiti. In 2015 Ian Randle Publishers released her book, Arts and Religions of Haiti: How the Sun Illuminates under the Cover of Darkness, which was praised as “a sweeping and lavishly illustrated study.” Like her book’s organizing principle, LeGrace Benson’s own engagement, contributions, and commitment to Haitian Studies take the form of a long, enriched conversation. She has influenced and continues to inspire generations of students and scholars in Haitian Studies and beyond.

LeGrace’s forthcoming book is focused on the history, preservation and pilgrimage of Haiti’s World Monument, Citadelle and Palais Sans-Souci, jointly authored with architect Frederick Mangones and photographer Antonio Marcelli. 

♦ Award for Excellence ♦

Marie-José Nzengou-Tayo

Marie-José Nzengou-Tayo is an independent scholar, and formerly Senior Lecturer in French at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus and a former head of the Department of Modern Languages & Literatures (2005-2011), as well as a translator and interpreter. Over the past decade, her foundational essay, “Fanm se Poto Mitan: Haitian Women, the Pillar of Society” (1998) has become the subject of extensive intellectual theorization, by scholars such as Régine Michelle Jean-Charles and Gina Athena Ulysse. Her work is respected for its close reading of literary texts paired with her deep knowledge of Haitian literature. She is co-editor of the book reviews section of the Journal of Haitian Studies. Most recently, she has published an essay on poetry for an anthology of Haitian literature. Her area of specialization is the literature and culture of the French-speaking Caribbean: Haiti, Martinique, and Guadeloupe.

She has published more than sixty articles, book chapters, and encyclopedia entries in English, French, Kreyòl, and Spanish in the fields of: linguistics; translation studies; poetry studies; literary studies; women’s studies; Vodou studies; migration studies; and urban studies. She has written articles on authors and filmmakers including: Jacques Stéphen Alexis; Marie Vieux-Chauvet; Patrick Chamoiseau; Maryse Condé; Edwidge Danticat; Carlos Esteban Deive; Édouard Glissant; Bob Lemoine; Kettly Mars; Jacques Roumain; Madison Smartt Bell; and Ana Lydia Vega.

She is a past president of the Haitian Studies Association (2005-2006). In 2004, she was awarded the distinction of Palmes académiques, at the rank of Chevalier. She has also been honored by the Caribbean Studies Association in Recognition of Service to the Association, as well as by the Rotary Club of Kingston, and received UWI’s Long Service Award..

She received her PhD in Contemporary French Literature and Comparative Literature (Doctorat de 3ème cycle de Lettres Modernes, mention très bien) at University Lille III – Charles de Gaulle. France. Villeneuve d’Ascq, France. She also received her D.E.A. [Diploma of Higher Studies] Culture of the Caribbean, North America and Latin America and French Foreign Language Teaching at Université des Antilles et de la Guyane, Schoelcher Campus, Martinique.

♦ Awards for Service ♦

Dr. Lois Wilcken

Dr. Lois Wilcken is a musician, musicologist, author, and diligent environmentalist. A native New Yorker, Lois earned her Ph.D. in ethnomusicology at Columbia University in 1991. She has had the pleasure of researching the traditional music and dance of Haiti in Port-au-Prince and in the Haitian diaspora in New York City. She shares her experiences with academic and general audiences and administers and develops programs with La Troupe Makandal, such as The Drum and the Seed: A Haitian Odyssey, her theater piece on an environmental theme.

Dr. Wilcken has published essays and reviews and presented at seminars and meetings in the United States and abroad. White Cliffs Media Company published her book, The Drums of Vodou, in 1992. In 1998 the University of Illinois Press published Island Sounds in the Global City, which she co-edited with Dr. Ray Allen. Dr. Wilcken created the exhibit, “Musique Vodou en Haiti,” for La Médiatèque Caraïbes of Basse-Terre in Guadeloupe, and one may view it online in French or English at http://www.lameca.org.

As Co-chair of the Haitian Studies Association’s Working Group on the Environment (Konbit), Lois brought an important film and post-showing discussion to an international online audience. She helped create the Konbit blog and worked with its two editors to recruit contributors and assure the publication of their illustrated essays. With HSA support the Konbit has arranged for an experienced Haiti-based creator of video logs (vlogs) to convert the Konbit’s blog posts to videos for distribution on WhatsApp and other platforms widely used in Haiti. Lois has also served as a reviewer for submissions to the annual conference, and she currently brings her professional editorial background as a reviewer and editor to the Journal of Haitian Studies, with exceptional contributions to the forthcoming special issue on the environment.

Dr. Wilcken’s long association with Master Drummer and NEA Heritage Fellow Frisner Augustin is materializing in an online archive of his life and work with extensive annotation, leaving a legacy centered on the individual, on the Haitian community in New York during a dynamic phase in its evolution, and on one of Haiti’s most outstanding art forms: Vodou drumming. She is also working at this time on Mr. Augustin’s biography, a book that will blend the literary approaches of biography with scholarship.

Mireille Louis Charles

Mireille Louis Charles is currently Executive Director of the Green Family Foundation in Miami, FL, a private non-profit foundation dedicated to providing funding and resources to organizations in the US and abroad that support education, global health, community development, the arts and cultural preservation. Since 2011, she has facilitated securing numerous grants, collaborations and partnerships with organizations and entities; liaising with universities, community-based organizations, arts organizations and private foundations.

Mireille joined the Green Family Foundation following a 20-year career in both stewardship and development at United Way of Miami-Dade, the largest not-for-profit organization in the county focused on improving education, financial stability and health. During her tenure at United Way, Mireille also concentrated her efforts on informing, involving, and creating partnerships with the Haitian and Caribbean communities in Miami. Her efforts resulted in attracting many individuals of Haitian and Caribbean descent to serve on the organization’s board of directors and to become members of its affinity groups.

When she first moved to Miami from Haiti, Mireille forged relationships with community leaders. She worked as a liaison while managing the daily operations of the Haitian Task Force, a former community-based economic development organization, and the developer of the unique commercial shopping center in Little Haiti, the Caribbean Marketplace. Three years later, the Marketplace opened for the first time with 22 tenants resulting in the creation of 40 jobs for the local community and opening the way for the “Little Haiti neighborhood walks”.

Mireille serves on various boards and committees including the Sant La Fellows Advisory Board, Prizm Advisory Committee, UNCF South Florida Leadership Council, and Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami (MOCA) Board of Trustees.

Mireille has been recognized for her contributions and dedication to the community by the Miami Chapter of the Association of Haitian Physicians Abroad (AMHE), Koze-Fanm (Women’s Issues) and the Haitian Mentorship Program at Florida International University. She was honored by Unity on the Bay for her service as a Face of Unity for the month of October 2016 and was a recipient of the 2016 ICABA Salutes to Caribbean Excellence Distinguished Achiever Award. In July of 2019, she received the Year Up South Florida Volunteer Impact Award.

Mireille enjoys listening to music, reading, traveling, and spending time with her family in her backyard. She is a proud mother of two children and two grandchildren who inspire her every day to leave a legacy of giving back to the community.

Rose Elfman

Rose Elfman earned her doctorate in theater at the University of California, Santa Barbara, with a focus on postcolonial adaptations of Shakespeare. She has published book chapters in various anthologies including The Oxford Handbook of Shakespeare and Performance and has edited academic books for Temple University Press and others.

Since 2013 she has been the managing editor of Journal of Haitian Studies as well as Kalfou: A Journal of Comparative and Relational Ethnic Studies. As managing editor, she is known for her dedication and meticulous attention and intellectualism in supporting Haitian scholarship, at once cultivating and promoting new directions in Haitian scholarship, as well as mentoring and supporting scholars–both emerging and more seasoned–in their writing. Renowned scholar George Lipsitz once noted that in his many decades of publishing over a dozen books, he had never worked with any editor as rigorous in their ability to integrate intellectualism to syntactic and lexical detail.

Moreover, Rose is known for her considerateness, diplomacy, and ability to process and translate difficult conversations into articulations that neither betray the fraughtness of a particular intellectual inquiry nor dilute it. As one Haitian Studies Association member has noted, her skills are also informed by an ethics of composure: “infinite patience, infinite flexibility, infinite ball-juggling skills, the ability to google her way out of almost any query or situation, planning her workload with soothsaying to be able to do the job around other people’s schedules and availability.”

♦ Book Award ♦


Grace Sanders Johnson (2023) White Gloves, Black Nation: Women, Citizenship, and Political Wayfaring in Haiti – University of North Carolina Press

White Gloves, Black Nation is a groundbreaking work that sheds light on Haitian women’s often overlooked but pivotal role in the country’s historical and political landscape. The author’s meticulous engagement with primary sources is commendable, offering readers a comprehensive understanding of the contributions made by Haitian women activists, thinkers, and leaders in the struggle for democracy and women’s full integration into society.

The book skillfully contextualizes the Ligue Féminine d’Action Sociale (LFAS) efforts within Haiti’s broader historical and political context, particularly in their battle for rights, education, and societal integration. One of the book’s standout features is the extraordinary amount of research that underpins its content. Sanders Johnson’s work is a testament to her dedication to unraveling the transnational histories of Haitian women’s political life, particularly during and after the US occupation of Haiti from 1915 to 1934. The use of digital humanities to navigate a vast archive is notably effective, providing readers with an ambitious and comprehensive account of this crucial period.

Grace Sanders Johnson’s thorough and illuminating exploration of the contributions of Haitian women activists is a welcome and invaluable contribution to the field. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding women’s dynamic and transformative role in Haiti’s political landscape.

Honorary Mention

Crystal Eddins (2021) Rituals, Runaways, and the Haitian Revolution: Collective Action in the African Diaspora – Cambridge University Press.

Rituals, Runaways, and the Haitian Revolution by Crystal Eddins is an insightful contribution to Africana Studies, weaving together accounts of resistance to slavery with a comprehensive narrative from Africa to Saint-Domingue/Haiti. Eddins adeptly utilizes qualitative, numerical, and textual data to construct a nuanced and well-supported portrayal of the radical actions taken by Africans and Haitians in their pursuit of liberty on various scales.

One of the book’s standout features is Eddins’ adept application of sociological theory to illuminate the lives and actions of runaway communities in Haiti. Additionally, the book examines the often-overlooked roles of runaway/maroon women in the French colony, providing a vital contribution to contemporary studies. Eddins’ assertion of a shared collective consciousness among revolution participants sheds light on the intricate relationship between ritual and what she terms “free space,” where marronage served as a vehicle for collective action.

Rituals, Runaways, and the Haitian Revolution bridges multiple academic disciplines, offering a sweeping yet meticulously detailed examination of resistance to slavery in the African diaspora. This book is essential for anyone seeking a deeper comprehension of the interconnected struggles for freedom and agency in Haiti’s history.

Honorary Mention

Leslie Alexander (2023) Fear of a Black Republic: Haiti and the Birth of Black Internationalism in the United States – University of Illinois Press

Fear of a Black Republic by Leslie Alexander draws from an extensive array of primary sources to offer a fresh and meticulous exploration of the relationship between African Americans and the Haitian Revolution. Alexander’s creative and insightful interpretations breathe life into the historical trajectories and contexts of the subject matter, shedding light on a wealth of previously unexplored primary sources from the nineteenth century. In doing so, this book illuminates how revolutionary Haiti served as a beacon of inspiration for abolitionism and aspirations for Black autonomy and sovereignty within American society.

Alexander’s work provides readers with a comprehensive theoretical framework, tracing a multi-century backlash against the idea of a Black republic. Examining how this fear, ingrained within public spheres shaped by white supremacy, influenced Black thought and action in the United States is a significant contribution to the field.

Fear of a Black Republic provides a comprehensive understanding of the enduring impact of Haiti’s revolutionary legacy on Black internationalism. This book is vital to the discourse on race, resistance, and the struggle for freedom in the Americas.

♦ Arnold Antonin Haitian Studies Association Film Award ♦


Ti Toya

When a stranger crosses the path of Ti Toya, a young country girl. He wishes to take advantage of her as an easy prey, he quickly learns that she is not who he thinks she is, and this was the worst mistake of his life.

Michel Dessources Jr. is a native Haitian born and raised in Port-au- Prince, Haiti. Michel currently resides in New York City.  In addition to being a filmmaker, he has also been working as a photographer and graphic designer for over a decade.

♦ Emerging Scholars’ Fund Recipients ♦

Savannah Bowen is a Caribbean-American writer, artist, and editor from Mount Vernon, New York. She is currently a second year Masters in Fine Arts candidate at the University of Kentucky. She earned her undergraduate degree in English at Howard University in Washington DC and has worked as a teacher and educator in Paris, France and Jacmel, Haiti. She is also a former literary intern at Serendipity Literary Agency and a former assistant editor for Amistad, an imprint of HarperCollins. In her creative work Savannah writes about black women and girls, about diaspora and family, and about relationships to home and land. She is a 2019 We Need Diverse Books grant recipient, a 2022 Betty Combs Owen scholar, and a 2023 Kimbilio Fiction fellow. Her work has been published in SONKU magazine, in McSweeney’s Black Powerful anthology, and Castle in Our Skins’ Black Poet Miniature Challenge. She has a forthcoming publication in The Seventh Wave Magazine.

Neud’s Saint-Cyr is a Provost fellow and third-year Ph.D. Student in American Studies & Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte with her Bachelor of Arts with honors in Africana Studies and a minor in chemistry in 2021. Her research interests include migration, Black immigrants in the U.S., Haitian refugees & asylum seekers, and ethnographic research methods. Her research centers the lived experiences of Haitian asylum seekers and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders to ask what can be gleaned from the methods Haitians use to build permanent lives in “temporary” places.

♦ Michel-Rolph Trouillot Fund Recipients ♦

Jean Mozart Féron est doctorant en anthropologie à l’Université Laval (Canada) et détient une maîtrise en Histoire, Mémoire et Patrimoine au programme de Maîtrise Interdisciplinaire en Sciences Sociales et Humaines (Université d’état d’Haïti en partenariat avec l’Université Laval, Canada). Il est également licencié en anthropologie/sociologie à l’Université d’état d’Haïti. Il a réalisé un stage de recherche au Laboratoire de Muséologie et d’Ingénierie de la Culture (LAMIC) de l’Université Laval et au Musée de la Civilisation du Québec. Il membre de l’International Council Of Museums (ICOM) et membre-enseignant de la Chaire UNESCO en Histoire et Patrimoine de l’Université d’État d’Haïti. Ses premiers intérêts de recherche se sont portés vers l’enseignement de l’histoire par les musées et vers l’évaluation des publics du Musée. Maintenant, ses intentions de recherche portent sur la mémoire de l’esclavage en Haïti. Il s’intéresse aussi à la relation entre le patrimoine culturel et le développement des collectivités locales. Il enseigne à l’Université d’État d’Haïti depuis 2012, notamment à l’Institut d’Études et de Recherches Africaines d’Haïti (IERAH) et à la Faculté d’Ethnologie où il enseigne au département d’anthropologie les classes d’ethnographie, de Muséographie et patrimoines culturels et de Cultures et sexualités. Il a enseigné également en tant que vacataire à l’Université Quisqueya (Uniq) de 2016 à 2019.

Djems Olivier (Diplômé de l’Université Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne) est docteur en géographie (Université Paris 8). Il enseigne la géographie économique et l’anthropologie des ONG à l’Université d’Etat d’Haïti et la décentralisation à l’Université de Port-au-Prince. Ses travaux de recherche portent sur des problématiques liées à la pauvreté, aux ONG et au phénomène des gangs territoriaux. Il a déjà publié des articles scientifiques traitant de ces problématiques.