Impunity, Responsibility and Citizenship
H  A  I  T  I

A three year interdisciplinary seminar organized by The Henri Peyre French Institute

Curator:  Jasmine Narcisse

The seminar Impunity, Responsibility and Citizenship echoes a persistent concern in the Haitian community, shared by scholars of Haiti, regarding the institutionalization and normalization of impunity in Haiti.

Seminar topics cover events from the assassination in 1806 of Dessalines, a heroic figure of the Haitian Revolution and Independence, and first Haitian Head of state, which to date remains judicially uninvestigated, to the present incapacity of Haiti as a nation to prosecute a dictator for well-documented and publicly proclaimed crimes. They include the tacit acceptance of incidents that have been purposefully left unresolved and in the shadows, such as the absence of any serious investigation of the assassination of  the writer Jacques-Stephen Alexis and the journalist Jean Dominique, to only mention two of the most famous.

All these events clearly confirm that this now generally known impunity has continued for over two centuries. Historians, chroniclers and essay-writers evoke them at length, they become the stuff of folklore for a population and civil society numbed by sterility and powerlessness, and are abundantly commented on by international media, to the point of constituting a true calling card for this country, once “the unequaled jewel of the Antilles,” and today the absolute prototype of under-development.

This seminar is first of all recognition, taking into account, of this impunity. It will not merely view it as an object of grievance but will envisage it as vital point of departure for another way of looking at Haitian reality. The latter, perceived even today as the mere corollary of entrenched economic and institutional deficiencies, becomes a full component of the quasi-endemic critical state in which Haiti seems to be mired. The seminar seeks to go beyond such statements. Artists, writers, and scholars are being invited to begin a discussion on the historical roots of this impunity, on its implication in the concepts of state responsibility and civic responsibility within the Haitian context, and on its impact on everyday life and discourse. The seminar thus attempts to establish a correlation between seemingly disjointed historical episodes and the constitution of the Haitian social texture.

Discussions will be held in English, French and Creole.

Ce séminaire organisé par l’Institut français Henri Peyre fait écho à une préoccupation persistante mais néanmoins latente dans la communauté haïtienne et chez les haïtianistes, celle de la récurrence et de l’institutionnalisation de fait d’une impunité de règle en Haïti. De l’assassinat de Dessalines, premier chef d’état haïtien, père et héros de la révolution et de l’indépendance haïtiennes n’ayant fait, même pour la forme, l’objet d’une enquête judiciaire requise, à l’incapacité de la nation de poursuivre en justice un dictateur pour des crimes publiquement attestés et hautement prouvables, en passant par l’acceptation tacite de zones d’ombre élucidables comme de l’absence de toute investigation véritable dans l’assassinat de personnalités emblématiques telles l’écrivain Jacques Stephen Alexis, le journaliste Jean Dominique pour ne citer qu’eux des plus notoires, voilà de toute évidence des faits saillants consacrant sur plus de deux siècles cette impunité pour le moins proverbiale.

Des artistes, écrivains, auteurs et chercheurs sont invités à entamer une discussion sur les tenants historiques de cette impunité, sur son implication sur les concepts de responsabilité d’état et de responsabilité civique dans le contexte haïtien, sur son incidence sur le vécu et le discours communs et de tenter ainsi la corrélation entre des épisodes apparemment isolés historiquement et la constitution du tissu social haïtien.

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