A CALL TO RASANBLAJ: Black Feminist Futures and Ethnographic Aesthetics

The Haitian-American feminist anthropologist, artist and academic Gina Athena Ulysse engages in rasanblaj: a unique feminist and decolonial practice rooted in black aesthetics and the Haitian spiritual and historical experience. This volume attempts to broaden access to contemporary black radical thought and art, especially, to Caribbean genealogies. At the core of the volume is the script of the performance Ulysse presented at the “Decolonizing Hellas” symposium in November 2021, accompanied by a related text on contemporary Haitian art. In an introductory conversation with her, Ulysse reflects on critical questions regarding history and decoloniality, ethnography and art. What does it mean to contest the hegemony of anti-blackness and Eurocentrism in practice? How might dominant historical narratives, but also the very meaning of freedom, transform if we place at the center of our analysis and practice the historical experience, traditions of artistic expression, genealogies of resistance and spirits of Haiti and, more generally, the perspectives opened up by black radical thought?

Published in Greek, the book includes an introduction interview with editor Penelope Papailias, translated by Vangelis Poulios (Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, Athens, Greece).

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Because When God Is Too Busy: Haïti, me & THE WORLD is a lyrically vivid meditative journey that is unapologetic in its determination to name, embrace and reclaim a revolutionary Blackness that has been historically stigmatized and denied. Crafting experiments with “ethnographic collectibles” of word, performative sounds, and imagery to blur genres and the lines between the geopolitical and the personal, this collection is a testament to postcolonial inheritances. Ulysse’s work remixes samples from a range of references as it beckons readers to bear witness to a coming of age as she shifts between time and place and plays with languages to stretch the margins of aesthetics in the academic. These poems, performance texts, and photographs gather fractured memories—longings laced with Vodou chants confronting a past that looms too largely in the present. Because When God Is Too Busy searches for humility while honoring sacred and ancestral imperatives to recognize and salute power beyond Western attachments to reason.

  • 2018 Connecticut Center for the Book Award in Poetry.
  • 2017 Long-listed for a PEN Open Book award.
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Mainstream news coverage of the catastrophic earthquake of January 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, the feminist anthropologist and performance artist Gina Athena Ulysse embarked on a writing spree that lasted over two years. As an ethnographer and a member of the diaspora, Ulysse delivers 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 thirty pieces, most of which were previously published in and on Haitian Times, Huffington Post, Ms Magazine, Ms Blog, NACLA, and other print and online venues. This trilingual book (in English, Kreyòl, and French, translated by Nadève Ménard and Évelyne Trouillot) includes a foreword by award-winning author and historian Robin D.G. Kelley.

  • 2015 Winner of the Haitian Studies Association Excellence in Scholarship Award
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DOWNTOWN LADIES: Informal Commercial Importers, a Haitian Anthropologist and Self-Making in Jamaica (Women in Culture and Society)

The Caribbean “market woman” is ingrained in the popular imagination as the archetype of black womanhood in countries throughout the region. Challenging this stereotype and other outdated images of black women, Downtown Ladies offers a more complex picture by documenting the history of independent international traders—known as informal commercial importers, or ICIs—who travel abroad to import and export a vast array of consumer goods sold in the public markets of Kingston, Jamaica.