Haitians: Migration and Diaspora

Haitians: Migration and Diaspora

Haitians: Migration and Diaspora

Haitians: Migration and Diaspora

Excerpt

In 1981 I was asked by some DePauw University students to serve as faculty adviser for a group planning to work in rural Haiti during the nearly month-long interim term. I accepted the offer for several reasons. I had enjoyed being the faculty adviser for two previous work projects in Guatemala and Jamaica. I had found the experience was educationally valuable for undergraduates, and I could use it to enhance classroom learning during the semester. In addition, the experience of living and working in a radically different environment was intellectually stimulating for me as a social scientist interested in welfare economics. Finally, because such volunteer projects were rare in the early 1980s, I realized the opportunity should not be passed up. It was a chance to see a part of the world I had heard of but knew little or nothing about except from accounts found in newspaper and magazine articles.

And so in 1981 I made my first trip to Haiti and had my first meeting with Haitians. Based on my previous trips to Latin America and the Caribbean I expected this one to be a short-term engagement. Fortunately, this brief episode turned into a long-term relationship with a country and its people, which became the basis for this book.

This relationship developed for two reasons. First, the DePauw students besieged me with thoughtful questions about what they noticed in Haiti and about Haitians. Second, a Haitian Episcopal priest, Père Wectnick Paul, was kind enough to answer all my questions. If the students had not persistently asked me to "profess" about a place and people I knew little and if Père Paul had not been a patient and wise teacher, this book would never have taken form.

The typical response by a professor to important questions is to do academic research. I quickly discovered that few of my economist colleagues were serious students of Haiti and Haitians then -- or now. Most of the early social science literature about the country and its people were doctoral dissertations written by anthropologists, such as Glenn Smucker, with fewer writings by political scientists or sociologists. As a result, my earliest mentors were other social scientists, most of whom were younger than I. Haiti and Haitians provided a research opportunity for an economist who valued the perspective of other social scientists . . .

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