Date of Degree

5-2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Anthropology

Advisor

Donald Robotham

Subject Categories

African American Studies | Latin American Languages and Societies | Latin American Studies

Keywords

class; privilege; color; colorism; Elites; Haiti; Inequality; Race and racism

Abstract

Who are the elites in the poorest country of the Western Hemisphere? Do Haiti's elites constitute themselves in a Blackness vs. Whiteness/Mulattoness opposition? Through the investigation of these questions, the central thesis of this ethnography emerges as the material unity in privilege of Haiti's colorist fragments. Noirisme, a fundamentalist strain of Haitian black nationalism that reached hegemony in the dictatorship of François Duvalier in the 1960s, is in marked retreat in contemporary Haiti. Its lingering influence nonetheless continues to foster a black qua black sociality among privileged black nationalists. Mulatto nationalism as political project and public discourse lapsed into irrelevance sometime around the mid-point of the 20th century. Mulâtrisme, the ensemble of presumptively mulatto worldviews, is reduced today to an obsessive measurement and reproduction of approximations of somatic features of whiteness, and the phenomenon arrives at a mulatto qua mulatto sociality. Notwithstanding the political instrumentality of the colorist fragmentation, the fragments recover societal cohesion in the reproduction of privilege, and in colorist practices, over against the interests of the vast monolingual poor Creole-speaking majority. The analysis focuses particularly on the political effect of the fragmentation on a potential liberal politics in the privileged classes, which collapses into incoherence at the boundary of color.

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