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5858: News from University of Oklahoma (fwd)

From: qret6394 <pharris@ou.edu>

Dear List Members:
 I  have been trying to send this messgae over the past few days but due
to technicalities of getting the "attachment" icon off
of the darn thing it has been delayed. I hope this post makes

I want to take a moment to share with list members some news about the
University of Oklahoma (other than our undefeated Sooner football team)
and what we are doing with Haitian Studies.
Two years ago I made my first trip to Haiti as a doctoral student of
cultural anthropology. My goal was to conduct a pre-dissertation visit
to determine the feasibility for my eventual research project. I  spent
one week in Cap Haitian and another in the rural community of Badjo near

Gonaives. Although I have spent my life traveling the world and living
overseas my trip to Haiti was one of the most profound experiences of my

life. I came back to the University and put together a course entitled
African Religion in the New World, that is a senior undergraduate level
course I teach through the African Studies Program. Since the spring
semester 1999 I have taught six sections of this course which focuses on

Haitian Vodou and Cuban Santeria. Beginning last year I developed
another course entitled The African Diasporic Experience: Haiti that
focuses on the history, political economy, and developmental challenges
facing the nation. Both classes have become so popular that enrollments
close less than two days after they open with approximately 30-35
students per class. Beginning this semester i have combined the group
projects of both classes into what I call "A Taste of  Haiti". The
students in the religion class build the inside of  a Vodou temple,
complete with altar, poto mitan against the backdrop of  the veve. Some
of the students are assigned the role of different Lwa that they
research, prepare narratives and costumes which they act out in the
"temple". Other students obtain food donations from local grocers and
prepare Haitian food to be served after the presentation of the temple
and Lwa. The other class puts together conference size and quality
posters of 5x6' size on various topics relating to Haitian history and
culture. Some of the topics include Maroon societies, the Haitian
Revolution, the US Occupation of Haiti 1915-1934, and so forth. These
posters (seven in all)are placed on display in the same area as the
presentations. The presentation is then open to interested students and
Finally my third class is a study abroad course that will take place
over the Christmas break in which I will take four students to Haiti for

a two week period. We will be staying in the countryside..one week near
Cap Haitian and the other near Gonaives. Students will live among
community members and not in a hotel.
I am very excited about all of these accomplishments and see it as a way

of sharing what I have learned/am learning about Haiti and as a way of
giving something back for all of my wonderful experiences there. We also

have a Web page that I hope you will take a minute to visit, and sign
our guetsbook. We can be reached through the AFAM studies home page at
www.ou.edu/cas/afam and then click on links.
Also we have established an egroup for students interested in talking
about and sharing information about Haiti.I have been a member of
Corbettland for almost a year now and appreciate all the sharing, the
news, and the opinions even though I don't always agree. So that's about

it from here in Soonerland.
Patti K. Harris


 "A picture is worth a thousand words" and I , here at the University
of Oklahoma have used picutres taken in Haiti as one of many tools to
teach students about life ways of her people. There is so much
misinformation/misunderstanding and a general lack of knowledge about
Haiti among most Americans I would think that individuals might actually
support the efforts of those of us who teach, advocate, and invest our
own limited resources in bringing some knowledge and enlightenment to
other Americans. I am not denying the existence of a political-economy
of human suffering and the money that gets made off of sensationalist
representations.....which have been the source of a deeply engrained and
historical  misunderstanding  with regard to such Haitian cultural forms
as Vodou. Yet there are still many of us who use whatever we can find,
pictures included, to make light bulbs go on in the minds of others
that  lecturing alone could never achieve.                                     

Picutres  I use in no way undermines the privacy or dignity of
individuals but rather depict people in their day to day activities in
the countryside. Interestlingly all of the Haitians I have photographed
have eagerly volunteered. My goal is to get students to question their
own basic notions of poverty, to get them to see that there are many
different kinds of poverty not just material kinds, to question
Westernized notions of "wealth", "progress", "civilization", and
"development" and to glimpse the richness, strength, tenacity, and
resilience of the Haitian people. Picutres are indeed worth a thousand
words in getting this worthy task accomplished.
Patti K. Harris