Tag Archive for Ulysse

‘Because When God is Too Busy’: Ulysse’s Newest Book with Wesleyan Press

9780819577351Wesleyan Professor of Anthropology and Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies Gina Athena Ulysse’s newest publication, Because When God Is Too Busy: Haiti, Me, & The World, (Wesleyan University Press, April 2017), is a coIlection of poems, performance texts, and photographs that explores longing for a sacred and ancestral past—now entangled by Western and postcolonial inheritances. Both a lyrical and meditative work, the publisher calls it “a poetic journey through silence, rebellious rage, love, and the sacred.” In it, Ulysse blurs the lines between genre and medium, as well as the personal and geopolitical.

The work has already garnered attention. Edwidge Danticat, a former MacArthur Fellow and National Book Critics Circle Award recipient, lauds Ulysse as “a force of nature…Fierce, fearless, and passionate, she delights us, shakes us up, educates us, and after reading her poignant and powerful book, she becomes indispensable to us as her amazing work.”

Diana Taylor, Professor of Performance Studies and Spanish at NYU’s Tisch School, writes that “this beautiful set of reflections on being Haitian…goes beyond the disciplinary divides…[to] help us remember our ancestral stories and practices,” and calls the book, “a brave and necessary exploration.”

Ulysse, an artist-anthropologist-activist originally from Pétion-Ville, Haïti, is a frequent blogger, a poet, and author of numerous essays and books, including, most recently, Why Haiti Needs New Narratives: A Post-Quake Chronicle (Wesleyan University Press, 2015). In 2008 she published Downtown Ladies: Informal Commercial Importers, a Haitian Anthropologist and Self-Making in Jamaica with the University of Chicago Press.

Ulysse’s artistic and academic practice also incorporates spokenword, performance art, and installation pieces. Her performance VooDooDoll Or What if Haïti were a Woman: On ti Travay sou 21 Pwen or An Alter(ed)native in Something Other than Fiction debuted at Encuentro in Montreal in 2014.

Ulysse Contributes #BlackLivesMatterSyllabus Article to Online Anthropology Journal

Gina Athena UlysseGina Athena Ulysse, professor of anthropology, recently contributed to the #BlackLivesMatterSyllabus, a new project by The Anthropoliteia, an online anthropology journal. Ulysse also is professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies.

One of the main goals of the project is to “mobilize anthropological work as a pedagogical exercise addressing the confluence of race, policing, and justice.” In this vein, Ulysse uses her entries to analyze the film series “Race: The Power of Illusion.” As part of the Race: Are We So Different? Project created by the American Anthropological Association, the film serves as a teaching tool for Ulysse in her own classroom at Wesleyan. Ulysse enters with the aim of unpacking the notion of “race is a social construct,” by paying attention to “1) the making of this narrative and the rise of academic disciplines; 2) changes in social structure and the language of racial classifications in relation to power; and 3) the multiple meanings/ significations of racial difference concomitant to capital signs.”

Throughout her entry, Ulysse talks of the importance of filling in the partial truths of the U.S. and its relations that students have been taught in history classes for their entire lives. She recounts the numerous times she has heard the exclamations, “I had no idea”; “This wasn’t even a sidebar in my textbook”; “Never thought of all these connections. Oh my God! It is all one big story.” For Ulysse, after years of teaching, she is “only too aware of what it means to make this intervention in their thinking given the body of students that she is in.”

Ulysse’s entry is online here.

President Roth, Ulysse Respond to Recent Black Men Killings, Police Murders

In a July 11 Roth on Wesleyan blog, President Michael Roth responds to two recent killings of black men by police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota, and the murders of five police officers in Texas. In the blog, titled, “On What Matters” Roth shares his own thoughts and the reflections of others that he found meaningful. He writes:

Too often I have written blog posts about tragedies, violence, injustice. From attacks in other parts of the world to devastation right here in the USA, I have expressed sorrow, anger—and often a feeling of solidarity with those who have suffered, are suffering. Readers have pointed out that my compassion, like other forms of attention, is selective. There are plenty of injustices that have gone unremarked in this space, either because of my own ignorance or my judgments about what I should be writing about in this Roth on Wesleyan blog.

I have followed the news reports and commentaries closely over the last week. What horror unfolds before us! The brutal killings by police officers in Minnesota and Louisiana and the vicious murders of police officers in Dallas that followed have underscored how violence can destroy individual lives while shaking communities to the core.

In her latest piece in The Huffington Post, Gina Athena Ulysse, professor of anthropology, professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, responds to the recent killings of black men.

She writes:

My optimism wanes and my patience continues to be tried with each new extra judicial killing, each exoneration. Each one is more confirmation of the deep rootedness of our inequality. We bear the weight of history so unequally. It is written on our bodies and etched in the color of our skin. Human chattel. Property. Slaves. That is the undue burden, the inequity we live with, that simply cannot be undone unconsciously. Its transformation, if that (I am not naïve), requires so much more than will. To bring about a modicum of change we must not only intentionally attempt, but also be determined, to shift. It will not happen par hazard. Because history has seen to it that the exchange, use, and sign value ascribed to Black lives remains unequal to that of Whites. We are differentially positioned and invested.

What story do you tell yourself to assuage the comfort you find in the social luxury of being in an unmarked body. Your silence is your complicity. Where is your outrage as we all bear witness to this moment?

Read more here.

Ulysse’s Essay Says U.S. Foreign Food Aid Policy Undermines Farmers in Haiti

Gina Athena UlysseIn her latest essay on The Huffington PostProfessor of Anthropology Gina Athena Ulysse takes on the matter of U.S. foreign food aid policy vis-a-vis Haiti, which she writes is undermining farmers in the Caribbean nation. She focuses on mamba, the Kreyòl word for peanut butter, which she fondly recalls being made by locals when she was growing up in Haiti.

“To me, mamba is as quintessentially Haitian as basketball is (North) American. Now, it faces risks as another charitable gift of food aid undermines Haitian autonomy by threatening to bench local farmers’ peanuts production, our cultural practices, and even our tastes,” she writes. “This is not our first time. Haiti has been tripped up by the U.S. before.”

Ulysse quotes retired Wesleyan Professor of Sociology Alex Dupuy, who puts this in historical context: “First, the U.S. destroys Haitian agriculture by compelling the then Aristide government to lower tariffs to a level lower than anywhere else in the Caribbean, and then exports its own subsidized agricultural goods (rice, cereals, chickens, etc.) to the country, as former President Clinton acknowledged with crocodile tears. Now, it is dumping its subsidized peanuts on Haiti and undermining the ability of Haitian farmers to increase peanut production. The hypocrisy never stops, and Haiti’s own sycophantic government officials are all too willing to abide them in their destructive policies for the crumbs they get in return.”

Ulysse concludes by urging President Barack Obama to “address this foul play” and “avoid another post-presidential apology that Haiti’s people and fragile economy can actually do without.”

Ulysse also is professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies.

Ulysse: ‘Ode to Haiti’s Neo-Comedians’

Gina Athena UlysseGina Athena Ulysse, professor of anthropology, professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, writes an “Ode to Haiti’s Neo-Comedians” in The Huffington Post about Haiti’s recently cancelled election runoff. The title of her essay refers to Graham Greene’s The Comedians, a book whose description read: “Set in Haiti, amid an atmosphere of brutal force and terror-ridden love, three desperate people work out their strange destinies.”

Ulysse writes:

Relevance of The Comedians is apparent in Haiti’s recently cancelled election runoff that was set for this past Sunday. Indeed, until then, the outgoing president Michel Martelly, a chap with dictatorial tendencies who leads the “Bald Headed Haitian Party”—insisted on proceeding with business as usual. His would-be successor, Jovonel Moïse the so-called leading candidate, is eager to turn Haiti into a “banana republic,” a discursive play on his plantain plantation commerce. The opposition, Jude Celestin, boycotted the event and penned an op-ed disavowing the impending masquerade as a total farce. The masses who continue to suffer were being forced once again to absorb this electoral crisis and participate in a “selection,” as they say in the local parlance. It is hard to discern which is more comic and/or tragic in these instances.

“Surely you jest,” I say to myself in a mocking tone as elders decry, “the country has lost its dignity,” knowing full well that my late grandmother would use expletives.

Equity Task Force Established

A new task force announced by President Michael Roth will explore the establishment of a multicultural/gender/first-generation resource center as part of Wesleyan’s broader effort to improve equity and inclusion on campus.

The task force will be tri-chaired by Gina Ulysse, professor of anthropology, professor of feminist gender and sexuality studies; Antonio Farias, vice president for equity and inclusion and Title IX officer; and Shardonay Pagett ’18. Their initial recommendations are expected to be published in February with final recommendations by May 1.

“It need hardly be said that making our campus more equitable and inclusive is a communal goal and must be a communal effort,” President Roth wrote in a campus-wide email. “In the course of this work we will be challenged to truly listen to differing viewpoints and to learn from them. In 2016 let’s each and every one of us do what we can—be it personal, political or intellectual—to contribute to equity and inclusion at Wesleyan.”

Wesleyan students, staff and faculty can find updates on the task force’s work and related events, including a community dialogue to be held early spring semester, at equity.wesleyan.edu, and direct input to the task force should be addressed to: equitytaskforce@wesleyan.edu.

Farias said the task force will operate in a transparent manner to provide a clear statement of issues the university faces as a community and how a center would address them, as well as explore policy and operational changes needed to sustain the effort. The group also will consider the broader issue of “cultivating belonging.”

“To ‘cultivate belonging’ is about tending to something we care about,” Ulysse said. “It is about being an engaged presence in the process of change making. Everyone can play a part but there must be will and very clear intentions. The current moment demands that institutions face history without taking short cuts. To that end, if we want to be effective, we need to dedicate ourselves more than ever to engaging in a process of cultivating belonging. Cultivation is really hard work that is action oriented. It requires community, intention and is ongoing. There is no end to it.”

Ulysse Writes About ‘Pedagogies of Belonging,’ Public Anthropology

Gina Athena UlysseProfessor of Anthropology Gina Athena Ulysse is the author of two new essays on The Huffington Post.

In “Pedagogies of Belonging,” she writes about her experience working with students of color as they face the realities of structural racism, and she challenges institutions to go beyond rhetoric, to face up to the difficult challenges of moving onto a path of greater belonging.

The essay begins:

There is a conversation Black faculty often have with Black students that we rarely mention in public, let alone in mixed company. The tone of this exchange differs to some extent if the student are U.S. born or from the diaspora. It follows discussions that open their consciousness as they grapple with accepting an inescapable truth — they are Black.

It’s not that they did not know this. But now there is a new realization that emerges as they are bombarded with intellectual evidence in our classrooms that corroborates their everyday reality. Combined with social interactions in institutions not made in their image, the students confront what the late Martinican postcolonial psychiatrist and philosopher Frantz Fanon aptly calls the ‘fact of blackness.’ Their bodies are historically coded and permanently marked with significations that forces them into categories they cannot choose. Acknowledgement of this fact comes with the recognition that they will be denied the unearned, social luxuries afforded to their white peers.

Ulysse also recently wrote an essay, “Paul Stoller’s Public Anthropology Turn” about WesChester University’s Stoller, the first blogger to be awarded the Anthropology of Media Award by the American Anthropological Association (AAA).

Ulysse, who shares with Stoller an interest in bringing anthropology to the public, interviewed Stoller about the significance of this award. He tells her he was inspired to “enter the public sphere out of a sense of duty instilled by his mentors.” Ulysse writes:

Throughout his career, Stoller has tried to follow their path with his work. In the last five years, he has experienced what he calls “blogging bliss” and “blogging bites.” The former, also the title of a new book, reflects a blogger’s elation at knowing a piece of writing hit all the right notes and reached an audience beyond the paucity of readers that rigorously researched academic journals attract. The downside, he noted, is in “the limited scope, nuance and length (850 words), along with a short-life span (24hours), after which a post quickly dissipates into the ether of cyberspace. In short, if you only read a blog you get a sliver of knowledge and that can be problematic.”

To be sure, the discipline and its practitioners have had an ambivalent relationship with public writing. Academic institutions tend to be inherently conservative and anthropology is no exception. Public anthropology is often characterized as “popular,” “light,” and not “serious” and hence not the path to prestigious academic appointments, important research grants, and disciplinary recognition. Still, many will quickly point out that Frantz Boas and Margaret Mead were disseminating our too often coveted knowledge to anyone who would listen back in their day. They were not the only ones, Black scholars such as St. Claire Drake, Katherine Dunham, Zora Neale Hurston and others were also out there interacting with the public. Needless to say, anthropologists have been roaming outside of ivory towers for some time using academic expertise to engage with the public, or at least, in more public fora.

Ulysse Honored with Excellence in Scholarship Award

Pictured at right, Gina Ulysse received the Haitian Studies Association's Excellence in Scholarship award from association board members Régine Jackson and Nadève Menard. (Photo by Gregory Jean-Baptiste)

Pictured at right, Gina Ulysse received the Haitian Studies Association’s Excellence in Scholarship award from association board members Régine Jackson, left, and Nadève Menard. (Photo by Gregory Jean-Baptiste)

Professor of Anthropology Gina Athena Ulysse received the Haitian Studies Association‘s Excellence in Scholarship award during the organizations’ 27th annual conference Oct. 24. The conference centered around the theme “Haiti in the Global Environment: Presence, Representations, Performances” and took place at the Université de Montréal in Québec, Canada. Previous anthropologists awarded this honor include Paul Farmer (2001) and Michel-Rolph Trouillot (2003).

While in Québec, Ulysse presented a talk on “Successfully Individuating Within Academia: Thoughts on Rebel Mentoring and Your Voice” at the Emerging Scholars pre-conference.

Ulysse also will be recognized by her peers at the American Anthropological Association meeting next month for her work as a public anthropologist and ethno-performer.

Ulysse’s Author of Why Haiti Needs New Narratives: A Post-Quake Chronicle

Gina Athena Ulysse

Book by Gina Athena Ulysse.

Gina Athena Ulysse, professor of anthropology, is the author of Why Haiti Needs New Narratives: A Post-Quake Chronicle, published by Wesleyan University Press in 2015.

In this book, Ulysse, a Haitian-American anthropologist and performance artist, makes sense of her homeland in the wake of the 2010 earthquake.

Mainstream news coverage of the catastrophic earthquake of Jan. 12, 2010, reproduced longstanding narratives of Haiti and stereotypes of Haitians. Cognizant that this Haiti, as it exists in the public sphere, is a rhetorically and graphically incarcerated one, Ulysse embarked on a writing spree that lasted more than two years. As an ethnographer and a member of the diaspora, Ulysse delivers a critical cultural analysis of geopolitics and daily life in a series of dispatches, op-eds and articles on post-quake Haiti.

Her complex yet singular aim is to make sense of how the nation and its subjects continue to negotiate sovereignty and being in a world where, according to a Haitian saying, tout moun se moun, men tout moun pa menm (all people are human, but all humans are not the same). This collection contains 30 pieces, most of which were previously published in The Haitian Times, Huffington Post, Ms Magazine, Ms Blog, NACLA and other print and online venues. The book is trilingual (English, Kreyòl and French) and includes a foreword by award-winning author and historian Robin D.G. Kelley.

Ulysse Reflects on Sandra Bland’s Self-Possession, Neo-Black Codes of Conduct

Writing for Africa is a Country, Professor of Anthropology Gina Athena Ulysse reflects on the story of Sandra Bland, an African-American woman who was arrested by a state trooper during a traffic stop in Waller County, Texas and was later found dead in her jail cell. Video footage from a dashboard camera found the trooper had threatened Bland with a Taser after she refused to put out her cigarette and the encounter escalated. Her death was found to be a suicide, though her family has doubts.

Ulysse writes that she identified with Bland, and responded strongly to images and videos of the young woman while she was alive.

There is a radiance that emanated from her, which came from a fierce black woman on a quest of self-discovery with all of its ups and downs, a black woman determined to be of significance in this unjust world, a black woman who, as her mother described was “an activist, sassy, smart, and she knew her rights.” She was using her knowledge and skills to creatively create her life. Sandra Bland was not uppity. That may have been a perception of her by a white officer of the law clearly insecure in his position of authority who had no idea who he is when faced with someone like her. Sandra Bland embodied a rare charismatic self-possession that disrupts social orders. […] This way of being in the world is one for which black women who do not submit continually pay a very high price. Within the social limits of white imagination, complexity is never ours, black women like Sandra Bland, black women like us, are be reducible to four, maybe five, stereotypes at the most.

Ulysse, too, has been pressured many times to “keep my mouth shut, stay in my place, not question my seniors, or watch my comportment too often by white men and women in power.” She writes, “Every time I consider Sandra’s reaction, I identify with it. Her response whatever else you may think of it, was an act of self-possession. Her constitutional rights were being violated and she simply would not stand for it.”

Ulysse concludes:

As black people, we live with the continuities of slavery and the Jim-Crow era when state sanctioned slave codes determined how we expressed fundamental parts of our “partial” personhood. We are being ruled by neo black codes of conduct enforced by social and legal machinery that demand we submit in the presence of white power or else become part of a landfill of hashtags. Sandra Bland refused because she knew her rights.

Ulysse Reflects on Violence Against Blacks in Charleston, Dominican Republic

In a blog post on Africa is a CountryProfessor of Anthropology Gina Athena Ulysse reflects on two horrific stories in the news: the mass deportation of thousands of migrant workers and their families of Haitian background from the Dominican Republic, and the killing of nine people in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.

The “ethnic purging” taking place in the Dominican Republic, writes Ulysse, “is a rejection of a certain kind of Black. Blackness that is too African.”

She continues:

Despite our somatic plurality and the color gradations we encompass, Haiti and Haitians have always been portrayed and understood as that kind of Black. A Blackness of a particular kind that, truth be re-told, radically changed the world. It was an avant-garde Blackness that not only pulled off a successful slave revolution, which caused the disorder of all things colonial, but also brought the sanctity of whiteness into question. The Haitian Revolution disrupted the notion that Freedom (with a capital F) was the sole domain of whites or those close to whiteness. Indeed, the value ascribed to those Black Lives continue to deteriorate. Moreover, those among us who are visibly marked with that Blackness have had to continually dissuade folks that we are not genetically coded to be their property or the help.

Ulysse writes that the attack on the Charleston church is “not unrelated” to the situation in the Dominican Republic. “Being Black, these days, means living in constant state of siege…There are no safe spaces for that Black. Nine people were killed in their place of worship. An act of terrorism that must be named. Their killer sat in a pew for an hour before extinguishing their Black Lives.”

Ulysse Guest Edits Double Issue of Journal e-misferica

Gina Athena UlysseProfessor of Anthropology Gina Athena Ulysse was recently invited to guest edit a double issue of the journal e-misférica on the theme of Caribbean rasanblaj, to which three of her Wesleyan colleagues also contributed.

The journal e-misférica is an online publication of New York University’s Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics, a “collaborative, multilingual and interdisciplinary network of institutions, artists, scholars, and activists throughout the Americas. Working at the intersection of scholarship, artistic expression and politics, the organization explores embodied practice-performance as a vehicle for the creation of new meaning and the transmission of cultural values, memory and identity.”

For several years, Ulysse has been involved with the Hemispheric Institute, where she has been invited to engage her performance practice. When Wesleyan became a member institution, she was elected to the Executive Committee and called attention to what she saw as a lack of representation for the Caribbean in the Institute’s work. Based on her feedback, the e-misférica editors decided it was time to move toward greater focus on the Anglophone and Francophone Caribbean, and to publish a special Caribbean-themed double issue of the journal. Ulysse was invited to be a guest editor.

“When we sat down to talk about the issue, co-editors Jill Lane and Marcial Godoy-Anitava of NYU and I agreed we needed a new lexicon to discuss the Caribbean,” Ulysse explained. “I wanted it to be a Haitian Creole word. I suggested ‘rasanblaj‘ as an organizing principle to think through and talk about the Caribbean.” This new concept clearly resonated with participants and inspired a volume of responses from artists, activists, scholars, and practitioners from the region and its diaspora, which resulted in a double issue. The managing editor Kerry Whigham, Ulysse said, was key to this operation.

In her introduction to the issue, Ulysse defines rasanblaj as a noun meaning “assembly, compilation, enlisting, regrouping (of ideas, things, people, spirits. For example, fè yon rasanblaj, do a gathering, a ceremony, a protest).” Ulysse approached the guest editing job as a performance artist, and wrote her introduction in a lyrical style. “I said, ‘I’m not writing prose! That’s what I do in my day job. Barely. Besides the concept of rasanblaj is about gathering fragments, the scattered, forgotten. It’s about reassessing. So doing this in theory as in praxis was always central to my vision,” she explained.

The editorial team put a call out for papers in five languages: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Creole. (While e-misférica is normally a multilingual publication, Creole was added just for this special issue.) Ulysse specifically solicited contributions from several of her colleagues at Wesleyan. The issue includes book reviews by Matthew Garrett, assistant professor of English, assistant professor of American studies; Katja Kolcio, associate professor of dance, associate professor of environmental studies; and Rashida Shaw, assistant professor of English.

“This was such a team effort and it was a wonderful opportunity to work with my colleagues who share similar interests. I’m proud of the strong Wesleyan representation in this issue,” said Ulysse.