“Mainstream coverage of the catastrophic earthquake of January 12, 2010, reproduced longstanding stereotypes of Haiti. Aware that this Haiti is a rhetorically and graphically incarcerated one, the feminist anthropologist and performance artist Gina Athena Ulysse embarked on a writing spree that lasted over two years. Her trilingual book (English, Kreyòl, and French) contains thirty pieces and includes a foreword by award-winning author and historian Robin D. G. Kelley.” – From Brooklyn Public Library.
Gina A. Ulysse will read and discuss her work. Don’t miss it!
Why Haiti Needs New Narratives: A Post-Quake Chronicle
Saturday, September 19, 2015 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
Central Library, Dweck Center
WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING ABOUT Ulysse’s new book: Why Haiti Needs New Narratives: A Post-Quake Chronicle
“Ulysse’s clear, powerful writing rips through the stereotypes to reveal a portrait of Haiti in politics and art that will change the way you think about that nation’s culture, and your own.” (Jonathan M. Katz, author of The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster)|
“This is a beautifully written and profoundly important work of engaged anthropology. Gina Ulysse steps bravely into the public domain bringing a nuanced and sophisticated analysis of things Haitian to a large group of general readers as well as to a broad audience of scholars. Publication of this book marks a kind of ‘coming of age’ for anthropological bloggers and public anthropology.” (Paul Stoller, author of Yaya’s Story: The Quest for Well-Being in the World)
“This compilation is the gut-felt testimony of an insider/outsider that resounds like a thunderclap in the desert. Trapped in the alienating context of sterile academia, a neoliberal political economy, populations displaced, shock therapy and general geopolitical shifts, the author uses the gift of polysemy to open horizons. Through thought, action, word, poetry, song . . . flow yet-unbounded prospects.” (Rachel Beauvoir-Dominique, professor, Université d’État d’Haïti)
“Taking us through entangled and liberating possibilities, Gina Ulysse introduces us to Haiti, the kingdom of this world. Embedded in the interstices of words and of aesthetic sensibilities that summon the past into the present, the powerful promise of a people is revealed. Ashe.” (Arlene Torres, coeditor of Blackness in Latin America and the Caribbean)
“Five years after Haiti’s devastating earthquake, Gina Ulysse smashes clichés, defends Vodou, and reminds us of her homeland’s complex history. Her compelling as-it-happened reports and analyses are crucial to our understanding and empathy for the republic and its people.” (Katherine Spillar, executive editor, Ms. magazine)
About the Author
Gina Athena Ulysse was born in Pétion-Ville, Haiti. In 2005, when she became a U.S. citizen, she gave herself the name Athena. She is the middle child of three sisters – who had migrated to the East Coast of the United States in their early teens. Her family has lived somewhere around there ever since.
A feminist artist-anthropologist-activist and a self-proclaimed Post-Zora Interventionist, she earned her Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. She is also a performance artist, poet and multi-media artist. It was during the early years of her graduate career that Ulysse began to seriously actively perform in part to pursue a childhood dream of wanting to be a singer and to ground herself and allow her creative spirit to breathe through this restructuring process that threatened to desensitize her.
Spokenword became her chosen medium. She deploys it to both explore and push the blurred border zones between ethnography and performance. She considers these works “alter(ed)native” forms of ethnography constructed out of what she calls “recycled ethnographic collectibles” (raw bits and pieces that seem too personal or trivial) through which she engages with the visceral that is embedded, yet too often absent, in structural analyses. Her ultimate aim with such works is to access/face and recreate a full and integrated subject without leaving the body behind. An interdisciplinary scholar-artist, Ulysse weaves history, statistics, personal narrative, theory, with Vodou chants to dramatize and address issues of social (in)justice, intersectional identities, spirituality and the dehumanization of Haitians and other marked bodies. With her performance work, she seeks to outline, confront and work through the continuities and discontinuities in the unprocessed horror of colonialism. Or to put it another way, Ulysse explores the complex ways the past functions in the present and is disavowed as both Michel-Rolph Trouillot and Sibylle Fischer have aptly put in Silencing the Past and Modernity Disavowed.
A dynamic performer, described by artist Evan Bissell as “a powerhouse and a whirling storm,” and historian Robin D.G. Kelley as “a one-woman aftershock” Ulysse has performed variations of her one-woman show Because When God is too Busy: Haiti, me and THE WORLD and other works at conferences, in colleges and universities throughout the United States and internationally.
She is currently developing an avant-garde meditation, VooDooDoll What if Haïti were a Woman: On ti Travay sou 21 Pwen or An Alter(ed)native in Something Other than Fiction. (10), the first installation-performance from this work, which was curated by Lucian Gomoll, had its debut at Encuentro in Montreal in 2014. Her latest project, Contemplating Distances – explores the exchange value of black bodies in the Transatlantic slave trade and the 18th century grain shortage in Saint Domingue – was presented at the “Spaces, Scales, and Routes: Region Formation in History and Anthropology conference.”
She is currently Professor of anthropology at Wesleyan University.
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