This essay analyzes elements of the music, nonprofit work, political aspirations, and autobiography of hip-hop star Wyclef Jean in light of performance theory and discourses of Haitian exceptionalism. I argue that Wyclef stages a version of diasporic identity that is propelled by two central tropes of exceptionalism—romance and tragedy. Building on Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s concept of Haitian exceptionalism as a fiction, I use performance theory methodologies to show that Wyclef’s articulation of jaspora (the Kreyòl term for diaspora) operates according to a rigid logic of idealization and degradation. By focusing on the different ways that Wyclef performs and authenticates Haitian identity, my goal is to describe and critique another manifestation of the trope of Haitian exceptionalism that focuses on the troubling terrain of diasporic identity politics.


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pp. 835-852
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