Beyond the Insular Narrative: Haiti, Her Diaspora, and International Relations from 1958–86

AHA Session 49
Conference on Latin American History 10
Thursday, January 3, 2013: 3:30 PM-5:30 PM
Rhythms Ballroom 2 (Sheraton New Orleans)
Lauren (Robin) Derby, University of California, Los Angeles
Samuel Martínez, University of Connecticut

Session Abstract

This panel reveals new trajectories in understanding Haiti’s role in international politics in the late twentieth century, emphasizing the political ethos of the consecutive Duvalier regimes.  In doing so, it complicates standard histories of human rights, diaspora, exile, and sexuality.  In keeping with the conference’s theme on “Lives, Places, and Stories,” the panel works as a cohesive and complementary entity that moves Haitian history beyond the borders of Hispaniola, homogenous identities, and singular and one-dimensional experiences.  Millery Polyné’s essay gives voice to the Haitian exile community by carefully examining how it articulated its contempt and experience with state-sponsored violence in Haiti as part of an international human rights discourse.  In doing so, he posits how exiled Haitians employed an existing discourse on human rights to defend individual rights. In his essay, Wien Weibert Arthus explores the history of the New York-based station Radio Vonvon (1965-1968) to determine how the U.S. government used voices from the Haitian Diaspora to influence Haitian politics. Additionally, Arthus' paper reveals the role of Haiti in the fight against Communist influence in the Caribbean during the Cold War. Julio Capó, Jr.’s presentation reintroduces the role of (homo)sexuality in establishing U.S. government policies that constructed Haitians as inherent carriers of HIV/AIDS and an undesirable immigrant group.  His work uncovers how the “discovery” of HIV/AIDS in 1981 coincided with both a massive wave of Haitian migrants to Florida and a politicized gay movement in the United States that kept a watchful eye on Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier’s treatment of Haiti’s homosexuals.

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