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The Haiti ExceptionAnthropology and the Predicaments of Narrative$
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Alessandra Benedicty-Kokken, Jhon Picard Byron, Kaiama L. Glover, Mark Schuller, Mark Schuller, and Jhon Picard Byron

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781781382998

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781781382998.001.0001

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On ‘being Jewish’, on ‘studying Haiti’ … Herskovits, Métraux, Race and Human Rights

On ‘being Jewish’, on ‘studying Haiti’ … Herskovits, Métraux, Race and Human Rights

(p.52) On ‘being Jewish’, on ‘studying Haiti’ … Herskovits, Métraux, Race and Human Rights
The Haiti Exception

Alessandra Benedicty-Kokken

Liverpool University Press

This chapter compares the work and biographies of anthropologists Melville Herskovits and Alfred Métraux, with particular emphasis on their efforts to responsibly politicize their scholarly practice and to ‘de-exceptionalize’ Haiti. After explaining how Haiti and Haitian intellectualism fit into the professional trajectories of Herskovits and Métraux, the chapter examines how they both strived to adapt anthropology to what in the 1940s and 1950s became an important moment for human rights institution-building. It then explores how discourses of race, ‘Jewishness’ and ‘blackness’ in North America and Europe have intersected over the past decades. It shows that Herskovits and Métraux's relationship both to Haiti and to their ‘Jewishness’ is intertwined with a recent history of human rights that has at once racialized and also un-racialized ‘the Jew’. The chapter concludes by drawing on personal experience to reflect on the question of who has the authority to define a culture.

Keywords:   race, Melville Herskovits, Alfred Métraux, Haiti, anthropology, human rights, Jewishness, blackness, culture, intellectualism

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