Keynote Address, Twenty-Ninth Annual Haitian Studies Association Conference, November 3, 2017, Xavier University, New Orleans, Louisiana
I take it as part of my work to share some insights on the theme "Haiti: Paradoxes, Contradictions, Intersections in the Making of a People" by speaking to what inspires me today and how my work intersects with Haitian studies and why I believe the arts, performance, matter now more than ever. Let me be clear, I am not here to reflect and review literatures or make any grand contributions that challenge existing archaic or even expanding narratives, any more than I plan to stake any claims on different intellectual histories. The conference program is rich evidence that such work is being taken on by many of you in the room who are dedicated to unsettling fossilized notions about the field, the broader academic and practical worlds that this association inhabits. What I am interested in is "doing the work," as the late Audre Lorde called it: the deeper, thoughtful, and self-reflective conversations that still need to be had because Haitian studies, as it has been and continues to be done here, in the United States, under the umbrella of this association situated in the diaspora, is still developing.
So what I plan to do this morning is offer meditations through performance: not just to comment on why I have turned to this form but to make a case for why Haitian studies must seriously engage other forms beyond the written text. We live in times to eschew the false binary that not only feminizes the arts but also locates it in opposition to the sciences. Our engagement with the arts must go beyond consumption, beyond the notion of arts as a subject to be decoded by "scholars." It is imperative that we think and recognize art practices themselves as scholarship.