Anthropologies and Nation Building in Cuba and Haiti (1930-1990)

Directed by

  • Kali Argyriadis (IRD, Université Paris-Diderot, URMIS)
  • Maud Laëthier (IRD, Université Paris-Diderot, URMIS)

Team Members

  • Jhon Picard Byron (Université d’État d’Haïti, LADIREP)
  • Lázara Y. Carrazana (Instituto Cubano de Antropología)
  • Emma Gobin (Université Paris 8, LAVUE)
  • Niurka Núñez González (Instituto Cubano de Investigación Cultural Juan Marinello)

About

The proposal of this research theme is to address the comparative history of social and cultural anthropology in Cuba and Haiti between the 1930s and the 1970s, a pivotal period during which the discipline was consolidated and institutionalized in both countries. (...)

We are particularly interested in the connections between anthropological thought and the process of building national and cultural identities in Haitian and Cuban contexts. While the 19th century and the first decades of the 20th have been the subject of valuable work, that later period still remains to be analysed in several respects.

Initially started in Haiti (as part of the project Ethnology in Haiti: Writing the history of the discipline towards its renewal, JEHAI IRD/FE-UEH) and in Cuba (as part of the project Social Anthropology in Cuba. Reconstructing the past to cement the future, JEAI IRD/ICICIC/ICAN), then in France, within the LMI MESO laboratory), this research gave rise to initial reflections, notably contained in the book Cuba-Haïti : Engager l’anthropologie. Anthologie critique et histoire comparée (1884-1959) (Cuba-Haiti: Engaging Anthropology. Critical Anthology and Comparative History (1884-1959), Argyriadis, Gobin, Laëthier, Núñez González & Byron, 2020).

By focusing on the period from the 1930s to the 1970s, we intend to continue the analysis of the different ways in which ethnologies ’of the self’, ’for the self’ and ’for the Other’ seek to reaffirm a ’national cultural identity’ which legitimises and ultimately institutes certain objects as ’cultural signs’: race, nation, religious practices, folklore, the rural world. These crucial years are marked by singular figures, precursor texts and original debates which are now well documented in terms of the development of the discipline on a national scale, but which remain little understood in terms of their importance in regional and international anthropological debates.

By putting into perspective the studies produced in and on Haiti and Cuba, we aim to shed light on variable processes of circulation of people, ideas, paradigms and concepts. Our goal is to understand how these processes have led to the interplay of influences between these two ’national anthropologies’ and other anthropological traditions, mainly North American and European. These decades were indeed marked by the displacement to France, the United States and Mexico of many Cuban and Haitian intellectuals engaged in the struggle against their respective governments; then, from the 1940s onwards, by the displacement of many European intellectuals to the Americas, for whom Haiti and Cuba were to constitute favoured fields of study.

Our aim is to analyse the emergence of intellectual, institutional, political, sometimes militant, national and international networks, as well as to study the career paths of certain figures through several geographical spaces, disciplinary fields and fields of action (academic, political, artistic, literary or even religious). Their role in the dissemination of anthropological knowledge in Cuba and Haiti is part of the work of redefining national identities. Moreover, the categories of Otherness in the region (including in the United States), deserve special attention. In sum, we will reflect on the peculiar interweaving of anthropological thought and political discourse, as revealed by the Haitian and Cuban cases.

Articles on this topic

Maud Laëthier

Maud Laëthier

Elisabeth Cunin

Kali Argyriadis

Maud Laëthier

Kali Argyriadis

Maud Laëthier

Kali Argyriadis

Maud Laëthier

Marianne Palisse