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7264: RE: 7255: Scholarly Study of Vodou - Desmangles responds (fwd)
From: "Desmangles, Leslie" <Leslie.Desmangles@trincoll.edu>
I want to thank both Bob Corbett and Patti Harris for their words of wisdom
concerning the scholarly approach to the study of Haitian Vodou.
Eric Hoffer -- the longshoreman who later turned social philosopher, and one
who observed the formation of the workers' unions in the United States at
the turn of the 20th century -- makes the distinction between what he called
"the men (and I suppose by extension the women also) of words" and the "men
of action" in society. There are those who, as Patti Harris notes, possess a
"natural curiosity about certain phenomena" and seek to describe them within
the context of the cultures that shape them. There are others who engage
themselves swiftly in attempting to deal directly with humankind's grave
predicaments. Hoffer thinks that both types of persons are necessary for the
development of any society. Corbett is correct in noting that there should
be room on this listserve for both and, by extension, I would presume that
there should be room in every society for both.
But Hoffer's distinction should not be seen as always mutually exclusive as
he would have us think, for many great men of words have also been great men
of action. For instance, Dr. Albert Schweitzer who was a great theologian
and a fine medical doctor, had such profound sympathy for the poor and
downtrodden that he gave his entire life in service to them. In the case of
Haiti, the late Dr. Andrew and Gwen Mellon were also living expressions of
the merger of the two.
It's unfortunate that Bebe Pierre-Louis has no admiration "for scholars
instructing doctors, dentists or entrepreneurs on their way to Haiti." I
merely wish that I could convert him to that world that leaves room for both
the men of action and the men of words, as well as the types that
occasionally merge both in one person.
Incidently Bebe, I need to mention that my initial note did not indicate at
all that the group of doctors and dentists who visited Haiti were connected
with Protestant missions. Indeed, there were not. There were a group of
doctors and dentists from the University of Connecticut School of Medicine
and Dentistry (a state school) who worked in Southern Haiti. There was
nothing in my initial note that should have indicated to you that these
professionals were connected with any Christian missions.