Haitian Studies Association

Past Events

Authors Meet Readers Roundtable: The Sexual Politics of Empire (Jan. 26, 2024)


Note: This is not an HSA event. We are simply sharing the word as a service. 


With Janet Jakobsen, Marina Magloire, Mario LaMothe, Dasha Chapman, Carly Thomsen, Anahi Russo Garrido, Mamyrah Dougé-Prosper & Erin L. Durban

This event will take place ONLINE

FRIDAY, JAN 26, 2024 | 1pm CST/2pm ET

PLEASE REGISTER @ https://z.umn.edu/ASAbookevent

The Sexual Politics of Empire (2022, University of Illinois Press, ISBN: 0252044754) by Erin L. Durban was recognized, in an earlier version, as a significant contribution to American studies as the winner of the Ralph Henry Gabriel Dissertation Prize, as well as the NWSA/University of Illinois Press First Book Prize. Now published, this book—the first monograph engaging the “LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex) community” in Haiti—is of great importance to the field of transnational American studies, exploring the long term effects of U.S. imperialism in Haiti in relationship to racialized gender and sexuality. This Author Meets Readers roundtable contributes to the conference-wide theme “Solidarity: What Love Looks Like in Public,” which calls on us to address the responsibilities of transnational American studies scholar-activists to ensure that we are engaging the lives of those who live in the shadows of U.S. empire and showing up to transform social relationships through solidarity work.

The Sexual Politics of Empire develops an innovative and widely relevant theory of postcolonial homophobia based on multi-sited ethnographic research in Haiti and its diaspora and extensive archival research between 2008 and 2016. Postcolonial homophobia refers to the effects of historical and contemporary Western imperialist biopolitical interventions to regulate, manage, control, govern, and liberate (trans)gender embodiments and (homo)sexuality. The book contends that imperialist discourses construct postcolonial nations as simultaneously too queer (resistant to modernity) and too homophobic (failed modernity). These discourses respectively emerge from two transnational social movements: evangelical Christianity and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI) human rights. One would expect that the first of these would have detrimental impacts on same-sex desiring and transgender Haitians, and indeed the book documents how Catholic and Protestant homophobias—respectively rooted in French colonialism and American imperialism—harm people’s lives. However, the interplay of the discourses from these movements and those produced by LGBTQI human rights amplifies negative material effects for queer postcolonial subjects.

Durban traces the long-term effects of the circulation of the transnational imperialist discourse of Haiti as the perverse premodern land of “voodoo,” meanwhile outlining the religious sexual politics of Vodou, Catholicism, and Protestantism in Haiti. The book takes up not only postcolonial homophobic violences but also the counter-force of LGBTI Haitians’ creative art-making and political mobilizations. Durban describes flare-ups of homophobic oppression and violence AND key moments of resistance, such as a queer act of intervention at the 2009 Ghetto Biennale in Port-au-Prince and the emergence of a social movement against homophobia in Haiti.

To properly engage this innovative interdisciplinary work in transnational American studies, this roundtable gathers distinguished and emerging feminist and queer studies scholars who bring to bear expertise on Haitian arts and culture, religion, Black studies, social movement studies, transnational queer and feminist studies, and LGBTI life and activism in Haiti and beyond.