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Smugglers, Migrants, and Demons: Cosmographies of Mobility in the Haitian Caribbean

Jeffrey S. Kahn
UC Davis
Date and Time: 
Monday, November 28, 2016 - 15:30

Department of Anthropology
Main Quad - Building 50
Room 51A (Colloquium Room)


The United States has long targeted Haiti for containment and quarantine. Over the past three decades, such measures have evolved into a framework of intensive extraterritorial maritime policing that has subjected certain forms of Haitian mobility to increasing scrutiny and constraint. Coast Guard patrols in Haitian waters, blocked shipping routes, and potential confinement for migrants at sites like Guantánamo Bay have all become key features of American power projection in the region. Less visible than these sovereign performances, however, are the Haitian cosmologies of circulation, refuge, and wealth that have developed in dynamic tension with the militarization of Caribbean seascapes. This talk examines the spatial narratives and practices that Haitians have used to map a vast moral, ritual, and economic geography in the liquid borderlands that surround their island nation. The vision of a radically free Caribbean that lies at the centerpiece of this precarious world provides a glimpse into Haitian oceanic imaginaries and the frontier dialectics through which they unfold.