Archive, Student Initiatives

Beyond Silence: meaning and memory in the noise of Haiti’s present


Winter Schneider, a Bard senior, organized an all-day multi-disciplinary conference on Haiti and history. Caught in the Haitian earthquake over intersession, she gained a new sense of urgency around the problems of documentation and historical representation. She invited a stunning array of activists, archivists, and scholars, including the world-renowned Valentin Mudimbe, to join us in considering how thinking about the past can become social-action.


While the earthquake has heightened the stakes for historical preservation, archiving, and documenting memory, a generation of scholars has engaged the politics of the “silencing of the past.” The agenda for the conference, as the title suggests, is to move beyond the silencing of Haitian history or its misrepresentation in international media toward developing new vehicles for Haitian voices and artistic expression.


Other speakers included:


Edna Bonhomme received her bachelor’s degree in biology from Reed College and a master’s degree in public health from Columbia University. She has conducted neuroscience research in Oregon. Additionally, she has conducted social science and public health research in Florida, New York City, and Haiti. She is an activist and wants to study 19th century French science, social movements, and North Africa.


Alex Dupuy, a native of Haiti, is a professor of sociology at Wesleyan University and the author most recently of “The Prophet and Power: Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the International Community, and Haiti.”


Myriam J. A. Chancy, Ph. D., is a Haitian-Canadian writer born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti (Ph. D., Iowa). Her first novel, Spirit of Haiti (London : Mango Publications, 2003), was a finalist in the Best First Book Category, Canada/Caribbean region, of the Commonwealth Prize 2004. Chancy is Professor of English at the University of Cincinnati where she teaches courses in African Diaspora Studies, Caribbean Lit, Postcolonial Literature & Theory, Feminist Theory & Women’s Studies, and Creative Writing (Fiction).  She currently sits on the editorial advisory board of PMLA, the journal of the Modern Language Association.


Diana Lachatanere is the Assistant Director at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture located in Harlem, New York is a research unit of The New York Public Library system. It is recognized as one of the leading institutions focusing exclusively on African-American, African Diaspora, and African experiences. Begun with the collections of Arturo Alfonso Schomburg more than 85 years ago, the Schomburg has collected, preserved, and provided access to materials documenting black life—in America and worldwide.


Marie Lily Cerat is a Haitian, is now an educator in Brooklyn. She writes about growing up in a society without racial prejudice, then facing discrimination when she came to the United States. Cerat was fired from her first job when she told her boss she was from Haiti. She says that after many smaller instances of discrimination since then, it remains a struggle for her to trust white Americans. In the years that Cerat has lived in this country, she says she has never gotten used to Americans’ obsession with race.


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