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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Fanm ak Pouvwa: Images of Women in Haitian Sovereignty

  • Author(s): Heppelmann, Eva
  • Advisor(s): Metzger, Sean
  • et al.

This project analyzes the use of nineteenth and twentieth-century images of Haitian women as performances of sovereignty by looking at a varied archive of literary, theatrical, artistic, and political performances. Although frequently assimilated into nationalist and anti-nationalist struggles for liberty, these representations are not always liberating for Haitian women. I examine transtemporal and trinational representations of Haitian Revolutionaries, the play Antigon, the fifteenth century Taino queen Anacaona, and Ertha Pascal-Trouillot’s presidency. My project reads these representations through �douard Glissant’s theory of relation and creolization to unpack ways sovereignty, gender, and race are reconfigured in depictions of women. Addressing the limitations of discourses of ‘exceptionalism’ and ‘primitivism’ that have narrated Haitian history, my work extends scholarship on Haitian nationalism and feminism to combat the repeated exclusion of women from histories of Haiti.

My work draws from multiple theoretical lenses including performance studies, literary theory, postcolonial theory, and gender/feminist theory. I consider the ways narratives of the Haitian revolution over-determine discourses of Haiti, masking the role of the international community and obscuring the contributions of women. The purpose of theorizing sovereignty in relation to images of women is to challenge and disrupt the narrative of sovereignty as inherently masculine. By problematizing the performance of both femininity and sovereignty in cultural performances, this dissertation articulates how gender, nationalism, and globalization inform performances and discourses of Haitian sovereignty.

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