“I am headed to Haiti,” said Boyce Davies, a former Florida International University professor who divides her time between New York and South Florida.
“Haiti?” asked Davis, a fellow author and distinguished professor emerita of history of consciousness at University of California Santa Cruz. “I’ve never been.”
And so began the narrative between two scholars that led to Davis, 72, making her first visit to Haiti next week as the headliner of the biggest gathering of writers and scholars on the Caribbean ever to take place in the country.
“This is a historic meeting,” Boyce Davies said about the Caribbean Studies Association’s41st annual conference that takes place Monday through Saturday in Port-au-Prince at theMarriott hotel. “First, CSA has been everywhere in the Caribbean for 40 years and it’s never done Haiti. Given that it’s the first black Republic, there has been a real gap in our ability to say that we’re covering the entire Caribbean.”
Coincidentally, the Association of Caribbean University Research and Institution Librarians (ACURIL) will start its four-day conference on Sunday with 150 participants at the Karibe hotel in Petionville. This is only the second time in that organization’s 46-year history that it is meeting in Haiti, said Elizabeth Pierre-Louis Augustin, who is Haitian and this year’s president.
“As Haitians, we are very proud to host two major regional conferences and we have worked hard to organize and prepare,” said Augustin, director of programming at FOKAL. “We want to convey a positive view of Haiti.”
Both events are happening as Haiti remains mired in a political crisis over its disputed elections, and as the elections body prepares to announce Monday whether it will accept the recommendations of a special verification commission to re-run the first round of the Oct. 25 presidential vote.
“It’s going to be an experience for a lot of people who are used to things that work, and no major political unrests or demonstrations,” said Alex Dupuy, a Haiti-born retired sociology professor from Wesleyan University in Connecticut who is also presenting. “I hope that the week will be relatively peaceful.”
CSA HAS BEEN EVERYWHERE IN THE CARIBBEAN FOR 40 YEARS AND IT’S NEVER DONE HAITI.
Carole Boyce Davies, president of the Caribbean Studies Association Cornell University professor
CSA President Boyce Davies said that despite concerns about the political situation, “the amount of people who responded have exceeded every other conference.”
Like Davis, many of the 650 scholars who are presenting at the conference have never been to Haiti, Boyce Davies said. So in addition to talking about Haiti’s history, she wants scholars this year to see and experience the country, which last year hosted the Caribbean Festival of Arts, commonly known as CARIFESTA, and the 20th Annual Caribbean Multi-National Business Conference.
In all, 701 individuals have registered and the scholars hail from universities across the United States, Latin America, the Caribbean and Australia. Discussion topics include titles such as “The Experiences of Jamaican female workers in the Cayman Islands,” “The Emerging Haitian Diaspora in Brazil,” “Migratory roots and routes of music of the Caribbean diaspora,” and “Beyond Hegemony: Haiti and the Ideology of Occupation from U.S. to UN.”