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9547: Conference:Haiti and Universal History9547:

From:  Legrace Benson <legrace@twcny.rr.com>

Sent: Sunday, November 11, 2001 5:24 PM
Bob, Some of your list members may be interested in the program described

Presenters Trouillot and Dayan could not make it at the last minute, but
the other participants were excellent. Both the missing presenters
received a good bit of attention, since we had their work in the
pre-workshop reading packet. Dayan sent along additional comments by
email.  Conference site and planning led to the ability to have lively
discussion rather than simply passive listening, so there was the
additional richness of other Cornell faculty and a number of graduate
students. The numerous disciplines represented and the fact that many of
the presenters are working across disciplines made for an exceptionally
stimulating day.  The food was good too! 
Haiti and Universal History: An interdisciplinary Workshop on silence and
Society for the Humanities, Cornell
Susan Buck-Morss, Dept of Government, organizer
Invited participants:
Jossianna Arroyo, Depts of Romance Languages and Literatures, U.Michigan
who led discussion on "Freemasonry and the Word as Technology"; Joan
Dayan, Dept. English, U.Penn, whose Haiti, History, and the Gods was a
basis for discussion together with her e-mail; Sibylle Fischer, Depts of
Romance Languages and Literature, Duke, led discussion of "Liberty and
Rhetoric of State," based upon her studies in the constitutions of Haiti
--interesting to have a view of them as literature!; J. Lorand Matory,
Dept. Anthropology, Harvard, whose paper had to do with "...the Diasporic
Roots of the Yoruba Nation";Walter Mignolo, Depts of Roman Languages,
Literature and Cultural Anthropology, "Local Histories/Global Designs;
Coloniality, Subaltern Knowledges, and Border Thinking"; Marcus Rediker,
Dept. of History, U. Pittsburgh, The Many-Headed Hydra...; and
Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Dept. Anthropology, U, Chicago, Silencing the
Past. Martin Bernal was also present and was a discussant in the session
on radical cosmopolitanism.   Sessions were: I. Silencing the past; 
II. Breaking the Silence; III. Radical Cosmopolitanism.
It would be difficult to summarize such wide-ranging discussions, but the
notion of what "silencing" may entail, what the deliberate and
un-deliberated methods of silencing may be, the results of silencing and
the implications for the present were central throughout; the
discrepancies between discourse and practice, especially with regard to
slavery and liberty; and the numerous positions on the meaning, operation,
and implications of cosmopolitanism. Viewing and discussing the history
and contemporary conditions of Haiti from these several disciplinary and
inter-disciplinary vantage points supported a richly textured discussion.
While some of the papers are works in progress available only for this
ocassion, several other writings are currently available.
These include;
Michel-Rolph Trouillot,Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of
History(Beacon Press, 1995); 
Joan Dayan, Haiti, History and the Gods (U. California, 1995)  and "Paul
Gilroy's Slaves Ships and Routes: The Middle Passage as metaphor,"Research
in African Literature  24, 4 (Winter 1996)
Marcus Rediker and Perter Linebaugh, The Many-Headed Hydra:Sailors,
Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revoltionary Atlantic (Beacon
Press, 2000)
Susan Buck-Morss, "Hegel and Haiti,: (Critical Inquiry 26,4;Summer 2000)
Walter D. Mignolo, Local Histories/Global Designs: Coloniality, Subaltern
Knowledges, and Border Thinking (Princeton U. Press 2000)  and "The Many
Faces of Cosmopolis:Borderthinking and Critical Cosmopolitanism,  Public
Culture 12,3 (2000).
J. Lorand Matory, "The English Professors of Brazil: On the Diasporic
Roots of the Yoruba Nation,"(Society for Comparative Study of Society and
History, 1999
For me there was a special quality for the day since we met in the main
parlour of what had originally been the residence of Cornell's first
president, Andrew Dickson White.  The chairs at the speakers' table have
the phrygian cap carved in a cartouche on the back rests.Someone wondered
why: probable answer is that White, an avid abolitionist, created several
collections now at the heart of  Cornell's rare book library: slavery; the
French revolution; Freemasonry and Witchcraft.  Why do I include
witchcraft? It is in that latter collection that one discovers some of the
original books and graphic symbols by which certain writers of the period
demonized the revolution, others demonized Freemasonry, and still others
demonized abolition. The rhetoric of demonization and the signs are in the
witchcraft section, predating all the others in publication.  White's
parlour was and remains a cosmopolitan space where bringing certain ideas
and images out of silence continues.   
For those interested in pursuing any of the topics, I was impressed with
the presenters' willingness to entertain comment and question from
graduate students and from "outside" academics. They were approachable
folks, and each has something to contribute to on-going conversations in
Haitian studies. 
Legrace Benson
Arts of Haiti Research Project