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In Memoriam: Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Photo courtesy of University of Chicago

Michel-Rolph Trouillot, 62, world-renowned anthropologist and historian, died July 5, 2012 following long struggles to recuperate from an aneurism suffered in 2002. Born in Haiti on November 26, 1949, Trouillot came to the U.S. in 1969, during the worst years of the Duvalier dictatorship. He received a B.A. in Caribbean History and Culture from CUNY (1978). Trouillot published Ti difé boulé sou Istoua Ayiti in 1977, the first non-fiction book about the Haitian Revolution written in Haitian Kreyòl. In 1978 he entered graduate school to study anthropology at The Johns Hopkins University, advised by Sidney W. Mintz and Richard Price, contributing to The Program in Atlantic History, Culture and Society.

Following fieldwork in Dominica from 1980-82, Trouillot obtained his PhD in 1985. He was assistant professor at Duke University from 1983-1987, where he transformed his doctoral dissertation into Peasants and Capital: Dominica in the World Economy (1988). As the first scholarly study on Dominica, Peasants and Capital intervened in debates on the rise of peasants in post-slavery, post-colonial Caribbean societies. Trouillot demonstrated how a banana-producing peasantry was intimately connected to transnational capital, linking ethnographic particularity to global histories.

Working through concepts of state, nation, and political economy, Trouillot returned to analyzing Haiti. He published Les Racines historiques de l’état duvaliéren (1986) and Haiti, State against Nation: The Origins and Legacy of Duvalierism (1990), ground-breaking efforts to understand Haitian civil society, progressive politics, and the state in the wake of the Duvalier dictatorship. Trouillot also returned to Johns Hopkins as associate professor in 1987, then as Krieger/Eisenhower Professor of Anthropology. In 1992, Trouillot became director of The Program in Atlantic History, Culture and Society. He subsequently transformed the institute into the Institute for Global Studies in Culture, Power, and History (1993-98), becoming its founding director.

Steeped in history, political economy, and philosophy,Trouillot was skeptical of what was called the postmodern turn in anthropology. Trouillot’s “Anthropology and the Savage Slot: The Poetics and Politics of Otherness”—published in Recapturing Anthropology (1991)—became one of his most famous essays. While attentive to discourse and genre, Trouillot would claim that what happened within the “Savage Slot” of anthropology was of less consequence than the slot itself, part of a larger discursive field which pre-dated and shaped anthropology’s emergence as an academic discipline. Continue reading

Photo Friday

The 2011 AAA Photo Contest is a showcase of anthropology at its best. Of the 93 photos submitted, AAA members selected their favorites in each of the four categories: Practice, People, Place and Process. You can view the top 20 photos in Anthropology News. Here on the AAA blog, we will feature several of the photos in this blog series, Photo Friday.

Title: No Fate
Photo Courtesy of Alissa Jordan
Contest Category: People
Caption: A female patient considers her future as the first songs ring out for a seven-day magical treatment in rural Haiti. The Oungan prepares remedies for the patient’s present misfortunes just as he helps direct her future using magical bundles. “How much of the future can I change? All of it. Spirits can be convinced to do anything God won’t. So I pray to him, I give food to the Lwa, and sometimes I tell people to go to the hospital.” Delle, a local Mambo, reflects on securing multiple paths to a proper course of treatment. The future, just like any other roadblock to life, can be overcome with the artistry and expertise of the peristil.

Look for details on the 2012 AAA Photo Contest in late April!

Missed last week’s photo? Click here.

4th Annual Cassandra S. Foens, M.D. Lecture begins today

The University of Iowa Lecture Committee will kick off its fall semester lecture series today with a talk by Dr. Paul Farmer (AAA member), a world-wide leader in global health and social justice issues.

The Fourth Annual Cassandra S. Foens, M.D. Lecture, presented in partnership with the Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine Office of Global Programs, will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Main Lounge of the Iowa Memorial Union (IMU). In his speech, titled “Haiti: An Unnatural Disaster,” Farmer will speak about his decades of work in Haiti, giving an analysis of the country before, during and after the 2010 earthquake.

The lecture is free and open to the public, and UI students presenting student identification will receive priority seating at the event.

Click here for more details.

The Haiti Story You Won’t Read

AAA member, Dr. Gina Athena Ulysse shares her opinion on the PBS’ Op-Ed project, Voices. In her piece, The Haiti Story You Won’t Read, Ulysse looks beyond the media’s limelight of the one-year anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti to examine the deeper issues and influences of the nation’s rebuilding efforts.

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