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Dossier : Haïti et l'anthropologie – établi et présenté par Carlo Avierl Célius

Haiti and the anthropological imagination

Haïti et l’imagination anthropologique : Jean Price-Mars, Melville J. Herskovits, Roger Bastide
Gérarde Magloire et Kevin A. Yelvington
p. 127-152


Dans cet article, les auteurs analysent la façon dont il a été rendu compte d’Haïti dans les écrits anthropologiques du xxe siècle en utilisant le concept d’« imagination anthropologique » qu’ils définissent comme un assemblage de représentations et de pratiques au fondement du système conceptuel de l’anthropologie et présent dans les modes de communication au sein de cette discipline. Les auteurs se sont attachés aux travaux de l’ethnologue haïtien, Jean Price-Mars, de l’anthropologue américain Melville J. Herskovits et du sociologue français Roger Bastide, à partir de leur engagement professionnel, social, institutionnel et politique qui les conduit à construire, à travers leurs formulations théoriques, une « Haïti » circonscrite dans le temps. L’article démontre l’influence réciproque que chacun d’entre eux a eu par rapport aux autres, et leur impact dans le développement de l’anthropologie afro-américaine. Les auteurs de l’article ont utilisé une approche dialectique pour d’abord situer et ensuite expliquer la pensée et la production intellectuelle de ces chercheurs.

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1Firmly placing anthropological theorizing within the social formations of which it is a part, but not reducing such theorizing to «contexts» or «milieux», we begin not with the question «What has been the anthropology of Haiti?» but, rather, «What has been the Haiti of anthropology?» We ask how «Haiti» has been used in what we call the «anthropological imagination», which we define as an assemblage of representations and practices in the conceptual system of anthropology and the discipline’s communicative interaction. We are interested, in other words, in reviewing various imaginings of place crosscut by imaginings of history where «Haiti» as a place situated in time appears in the space of theory. We draw on analyses of the construction of place and time in regional traditions in anthropology and demonstrate how Haiti has become a sign of particular anthropological value for both Haitian and foreign scholars utilizing anthropological discourse. Instead of considering Haitian and foreign scholars as separated and isolated from each other and from intellectual and political traditions within and outside of Haiti, we show the areas of mutual influence.

2We direct our inquiry to the ways in which locality and temporality are implicit in anthropological representations of Haiti. In this, we join recent critical investigations of how assumptions of place and time work themselves out in anthropological theory. Regarding place and time, a number of anthropologists and historians of anthropology now argue that particular anthropological theoretical perspectives become attached to particular geographic and cultural locales and that these concepts continue to guide and limit anthropological investigations and even to define what are anthropologically acceptable questions to ask in the first place. This is important because «culture» is assumed to exist somewhere geographically and somewhere in time. Recent appraisals of the anthropological imagination have included critical attention to the ways in which space, place, and culture become isomorphic and hegemonic within the discipline. In this process, particular places are reduced in anthropological accounts to particular and confining concept-metaphors that, in turn, serve to further reduce particular places to simple images. At the same time, these images become ranked and hierarchized on a shifting scale of value with the discipline of anthropology (see Appadurai ed. 1988; Fardon 1990; Gupta & Ferguson 1997). Ideas become «metonymic prisons for particular places» (Appadurai 1988: 40). «Haiti» as an anthropological construct bears an additional burden. With the background of the more general and sustained global forces of colonialism and neo-colonialism, entailing racism and reactions to revolution, Haiti has been characterized by what Trouillot (1990) calls the discourse of Haitian «exceptionalism». That is, it has been depicted as drastically unlike any other place, of being grotesquely unique. Perhaps more than other anthropological locations, Haiti’s image has been overdetermined by politics far beyond (but ultimately connected to) the politics of the academy.

3In pursuing these questions we look at three historical «moments» from the twentieth century centered upon the work of three scholars: the Haitian diplomat, ethnologist, and physician Jean Price-Mars (1876-1969), the American anthropologist Melville J. Herskovits (1895-1963), and the French sociologist and ethnographer Roger Bastide (1898-1974). These are not, of course, the first nor the only scholars – Haitian or foreign – to have written about Haiti in an ethnographic mode, nor are they necessarily the most representative. However, each one in their own way represents an authoritative presence in the development and professionalization (Darnell 1971; cf. Gutwirth 2001) of the anthropology of the Caribbean, where subsequent researchers were and are forced to reckon with their theoretical positions. We feel Price-Mars, Herskovits, and Bastide make a useful contrast because their works differ to some extent in purpose, style, and in the mode of exposition in their writing. In addition, their anthropologies arise from somewhat differing, and yet connected, national traditions, and as scholars they occupy different, but overlapping, historical conjunctions. And, rather than emphasize disconnection or the singularity of their visions and their individuality, we attempt to locate them, albeit too briefly, within wider political and ideological contexts.

Jean Price-Mars and haitian culturalism

Jean Price-Mars at his jubilee in Port-au-Prince, october 1956

Jean Price-Mars at his jubilee in Port-au-Prince, october 1956

© Archives CIDIHCA

4Price-Mars regarded himself an heir to the Haitian intellectual tradition of racial vindication, including and especially Joseph Anténor Firmin (1850-1911), lawyer, diplomat, and anthropologist, the author of the book De l’égalité des races humaines (Firmin 1885) – a scholarly rebuttal to Arthur de Gobineau’s racist theories and an early work in an anthropological mode with an African diaspora perspective (Fluehr-Lobban 2000). Price-Mars regarded Firmin as a predecessor, wrote a biography of Firmin (Price-Mars 1978), and, indeed, there are a number of parallels in their careers. He was born in Grande-Rivière du Nord on October 15, 1876, the son of Eléomont Mars, a successful agriculturalist who was elected to the Chamber of Deputies the year of Price-Mars’s birth. Hannibal Price (1841-1893), a mulatto politician who took up the cause of blacks, and author of the landmark book in Haitian anti-racist thought, De la réhabilitation de la race noire par la République d’Haïti (1900), had been elected president of the Chamber of Deputies. Eléomont Mars chose to honor him by giving the name Price to his son. Price-Mars received a scholarship in 1899 allowing him to enter the Faculté de médecine in Paris, but eventually earned his medical degree 22 years later in Haiti. However, while in Paris he also pursued other studies, notably in the social sciences and humanities at the Sorbonne, the Collège de France and the Musée du Trocadéro. With many political connections, he held positions in the civil service, was a representative and senator, and ran for president; he also represented Haiti abroad in numerous key diplomatic posts throughout his long career.

  • 1  On the importance of the challenge of Le Bon for Price-Mars’s thought, see Shannon (1996: 18), Pri (...)

5Like Firmin, Price-Mars was a black man from the North, but, unlike Firmin, he was a member of the privileged elite. And as with Firmin, Price-Mars wanted to use scholarship to de-mythologize theories and ideologies of racial superiority that served to subjugate large portions of humanity. Three biographical details are worth evoking here. The moment is 1899 in Paris when Price-Mars was in his 20s. He wrote (1954: 4-7) that he was in a dissecting room in medical school, among hundreds of European students, and he is the only black person. One day a discussion on the vexed question of « race » leads Price-Mars to glorify Toussaint Louverture’s genius. But, he is interrupted by a fellow  student, who is French and happens to be exceptionally intelligent, well dressed, with a valet de pied who carries his bag and waits for him outside of the classroom. He told young Price-Mars that Toussaint Louverture was after all nothing more than a French general who had betrayed his duties, and that, besides, Toussaint’s exceptional qualities were but an accident among the masses of gregarious blacks who had not made progress since. Then he continued his logic providing corroborative details on the hierarchy of the human « races ». Even though his classmate was polite and aristocratic in style, Price-Mars felt his words were biting and corrosive. Also while studying in Paris, Price-Mars read with great anticipation Gustave Le Bon’s Les Lois psychologiques de l’évolution des peuples (1894) and discovered, to his bitter disappointment, its racist message. Years later, he obtained a meeting with Le Bon who admitted his judgement might have been hasty, and urged Price-Mars to write a book about Haiti1. And finally, in 1904 he was appointed by the president of Haiti as one of the Haitian representatives to the Louisiana Purchase Centennial Exposition in St Louis, Missouri, in the United States. There he stayed in a segregated hotel, and at the exhibition was ridiculed by a group of Filipino tribesmen who were being displayed in an enclosure. From St Louis, he wrote to Booker T. Washington, whom he had met in Paris the previous year, and asked to visit the Tuskegee Institute. This is the first time he signed his name Price-Mars, to signal the unity of mulatto and black in the Haitian nation. He traveled to Tuskegee in Alabama through the Deep South  alone in order to experience and observe the ignominies of US-style racism (Shannon 1996: 19-20). His American experience, coupled with his discovery of the intellectual and artistic production of American blacks, led Price-Mars to inform Haitians and to urge them to follow the lead of the African American artists of the Harlem Renaissance (Price-Mars 1932a, 1932b, 1932c).

  • 2  For histories of the American occupation, see, for example, Blancpain (1999), Castor (1988) Gailla (...)
  • 3  On the related role of foreign elites in Haiti at the beginning of the twentieth century, see Plum (...)

6Price-Mars came into national prominence with the advent of the long American occupation of Haiti (1915-1934)2. In a publication such as La Vocation de l’élite (1919), he railed against the Haitian elite for allowing such a catastrophe to occur, and attributed the events to the lack of a strong sense of collective self3. Invoking the phrase of Jules de Gaultier (1858-1942), Price-Mars charged the Haitian elite with «bovarysme collectif» and of denying the African origins of Haitian culture; he called for all Haitians to valorize the African heritage – in «race» and in culture – of what he liked to refer to as four-fifths of the population. He saw ethnology and anthropology (broadly conceived) as a means of achieving a patriotic education (Paul 1958-1959). Price-Mars avowedly sought to renovate and redeem Haiti precisely by prescribing the place of « Africa » within the nation. In the manner of German romantic nationalism, Price-Mars looked to history to understand what he saw as the historical processes involved in creating a unique Haitian being and ethnos. He saw these processes comprising «the national» as especially embodied in folklore and in popular beliefs such as Vodou, which he sought to depict as a legitimate, authentic, and authentically Haitian religion. A strategy, in other words, that might be typified as the «nationalization of culture» (Löfgren 1989). All of this involved carefully researching and amassing a wealth of historical data.

  • 4  For an idea of the content and direction of Price-Mars’s course on «Africology», see Price-Mars (1 (...)

7Price-Mars’s institution-building efforts were made in these same directions. In 1922-1923, he co-founded with Haitian historian Horace Pauléus-Sannon (1870-1938) the Société haïtienne d’histoire et de géographie and later became the editor of its journal. Price-Mars co-founded the Institut d’ethnologie in 1941 where he was chairman of «Africology» and sociology and was the Institut’s president until 19474. These institutions were clearly crucial to nationalist elites and their state-building projects after the end of the American occupation (Ramsey 1997, 2002).

Peasant women in the Marbial Valley

Peasant women in the Marbial Valley

© musée du quai Branly

  • 5  Price-Mars (1973: 253). The direct quotes in this article from Ainsi parla l’Oncle are from the 19 (...)
  • 6  For sociological analysis of «indigénisme» by an anthropologist, see Trouillot (1993).

8His work in the first part of the twentieth century was crowned with the publication of his masterwork Ainsi parla l’Oncle. Essais d’ethnographie (1928) which rehearsed the familiar themes of fostering national unity and proposing a break with the powerful colonial identification with French culture. To counter these forces, Price-Mars sought instead to investigate through Haitian history, folklore, and popular religion, the original character of Haitians as a people, «pour en tirer quelque enseignement à la vie et à l’originalité de notre groupement social»5. For this he earned a wide following, especially among the young, educated, rising urban middle class; also, along with the founding of the journals La Trouée and La Revue Indigène (co-founded by Jacques Roumain) in 1927, Price-Mars announced the «indigéniste » literary and artistic movement6 that had inspiration from and connections to the Harlem Renaissance (Cobb 1979; Dash 1981, 1997) and was characterized by an appreciation of «Africa» and things deemed to be «African». At the same time, more overtly political groups such as L’Union patriotique and La Ligue de la jeunesse haïtienne were established by Haitian intellectuals. This ferment affected not only cultural politics, but official policies through the 1940s (Mintz 1974: 287-290).

9One result of the occupation was a series of pseudo-ethnographic travel accounts that served to malign Haiti for American audiences and further justify the Occupation (Gregory 1992). These sensationalistic books, continuing a long tradition of exoticist travel writing about Haiti, were by white writers, some associated with the Harlem Renaissance. They traded in a primitivism eagerly awaited by their publics (e.g., Craige 1933, 1934; Niles 1926; Loederer 1935; Seabrook 1929; Wirkus & Dudley 1931). Writings in this genre were complemented by the first of a long and damaging tradition of «zombie» films (voir Paravisini-Gebert 1997). Price-Mars responded to these misrepresentations. Ainsi parla l’Oncle was followed by Une étape de l’évolution haïtienne (Price-Mars 1929), in which Price-Mars not only catalogued significant Haitian literary, scientific, and political accomplishments and Haitian past glories, but where he also responded directly to the books by Seabrook and Niles – in the latter case more sympathetically. In Haiti, Vodou was more than maligned with words. The Catholic Church had pursued a number of «campagnes anti-superstitieuses» against Vodou over the years, and even after the end of US Occupation the government of Haiti, president Sténio Vincent (1874-1959), enacted legislation against «les pratiques super-stitieuses» in 1935 (see Ramsey 2002).

10An interest in ethnography in Haiti was also stimulated by these developments, and ethnography became designed for cultural politics. In 1929, the «trois D» began to meet – Lorimer Denis (1904-1957), Louis Diaquoi (1907-1932), and François Duvalier (1907-1971) –,were joined by others and became known as the Griots group. Their early work was inspired by and praised Price-Mars. A common theme the Griots developed was an unfortunate biological, hereditary notion of «race», on particular emotional and cultural capabilities attached to particular «races» (e.g., Denis & Duvalier 1936, 1938, 1939; cf. Nicholls 1974, 1985: 48-60).

11Before his death in 1969, the man who was regarded both in his country and abroad as being Haiti’s twentieth century foremost thinker received many honors. He was elected president of the historic First Congress of Black Writers and Artists in Paris in 1956 and the first president of the Société africaine de culture, a cultural organization tied to Unesco. In 1959, the Académie française granted Price-Mars a special award for the literary distinction that characterized the whole of his works, and he was considered by Léopold Sédar Senghor  as a forerunner of Négritude. As Senghor wrote in a testimonial on Price-Mars’s eightieth birthday in 1956:

  • 7  Senghor (1956: 3). For more details on Price-Mars’s life and thought, see Antoine (1981), Cornevin (...)

«Et je lus Ainsi parla l’Oncle d’un trait comme l’eau de la citerne, au soir, après une longue étape dans le désert. J’étais comblé. L’Oncle légitimait les raisons de ma quête, confirmait ce que j’avais pressenti. Car, me contant les trésors de la Négritude qu’il avait découverts sur et dans la terre haïtienne, il m’apprenait à découvrir les mêmes valeurs, mais vierges et plus fortes, sur et dans la terre d’Afrique.»7

12Price-Mars sought, through the examination of history, to show the constituent elements that comprised a distinct Haitian culture. He wanted to show how traditions he considered «African» and «European» could have blended and changed in the process of arriving at the present of Price-Mars’s day. He also wanted to be able to attribute just what practices and customs could be termed cultural « survivances », especially those traceable to Africa, and here he was implicitly borrowing language from the evolutionist anthropologists like E. B. Tylor. The tendency in Price-Mars’s early works to call upon historical facts of Haiti’s colonial past to explain or highlight the ethnic make-up and development of the Haitian people soon became a method in practically all of his works. So central is history to Price-Mars’s method as an ethnologist that we can concur with Hénock Trouillot (1956) that it is difficult to distinguish between the historian and the ethnologist when Price-Mars examines a particular social fact. Indeed, there are two aspects of Price-Mars’s engagement with history: one is the way he used history to inform the ethnography he conducted and his arguments about Haitian culture, and the other is his attention to the place of his own intervention in Haitian historiography. The focus on history anticipated later efforts at combining historical analysis with ethnography. With few models of ethnographic practice at his disposal, Price-Mars’s ethnography consisted of occasional forays by horse up the mountain from his home in the elite Pétionville suburb of Port-au-Prince to Kenscoff, where he treated peasants for their medical complaints, and listened to their tales. He also reportedly observed over hundred Vodou ceremonies (Price-Mars 1973: 178).

13The use of historical and comparative methods to counter study the notion of «race» was by Price-Mars’s time already a prominent trend in the Haitian intellectual tradition (Sélimé 1993-1994: 34). However, in regards to the study of Haitian culture, rethinking Haiti in social historical terms would require a reversal of perspective. The idea that Haiti had developed its own distinctive culture would go against Euro-American discourse on civilization and on primitive peoples without history and without writing. The histories of the black populations of the Caribbean were generally accepted as beginning with colonization and slavery. An alternative view, one that traced the history of the Haitian people back beyond slavery would challenge not only the rest of the world but also the self-perception and world view of Haiti’s westernized upper classes. In mainstream Haitian nationalist ideology, the idea that Haitians were descendants of Africans slaves who led a successful revolution against French armies was a source of national pride and unifying factor, but the subsequent social economic development and present social realities resulting from this remote colonial history were systematically eclipsed (Magloire 1998). Price-Mars was acutely aware of the vital stakes of writing a scientific account of Haiti’s social development over time. For example, in his Une étape de l’évolution haïtienne, Price-Mars questioned the works of the major Haitian historians of the nineteenth century, as well as Sannon, his colleague and friend, for representing the blacks of Haiti as fetishists. Price-Mars felt that the misjudgement of the historians stemmed from following blindly the false opinion of Europeans historians, geographers, and travel writers on African religions (Price-Mars 1929: 128).

Peasants walking along the Gosseline River in the Marbial Valley

Peasants walking along the Gosseline River in the Marbial Valley


14In order to rehabilitate the culture of the Haitian masses, Price-Mars inquired into the religious beliefs of slaves in colonial Saint-Domingue as well as the pre-slavery origins of the Haitian people to unravel the complex problems of ethnicity and psychology that resulted from the acculturation process under slavery and afterwards. This reevaluation therefore also required a reevaluation of African societies which he conducts in several chapters of l’Oncle «pour saisir le sens du lourd préjugé qui pèse sur le nègre» (Price-Mars 1973: 127). Using the most advanced references on Africa available in the early twentieth century, he sought to show the cultural impact of various African societies and ethnic groups in Haiti, and argued that the «Dahoméenne» culture left the most conspicuous mark. He deployed the key conceptual tool of cultural «survivances», a concept central to evolutionist anthropologists and utilized by the pioneering ethnologists of African-derived religions in the Americas such as the Brazilian physician Raymundo Nina Rodrigues and Cuban lawyer Fernando Ortiz, in order to account for the scope and direction of particular aspects of Haitian culture that had «survived» from particular African ones.

15Considering the context of the American occupation of Haiti, it is not surprising that Price-Mars was inclined to study a field that had firmly established the ties between cultural integrity and nationhood. Folklore had been made to serve nationalist movements and it was in this respect that it was applied to the Haitian context by Price-Mars. European bourgeois leaders and intellectuals had constructed arguments using folkloric material to rally people to liberate themselves from a number of previous autocratic regimes (Bendix 1997). It was in a similar spirit that Price-Mars sought to investigate Haitian culture and communicate his findings in a series of conferences held in elite social clubs in Haiti such as the Parisiana to foster national self-understanding after Haiti knelt to American imperial forces in 1915. Price-Mars utilized the study of folklore as a pedagogical and political means to inform the Haitian elite of the importance of integrating the Haitian masses into the national polity. By placing value on folk traditions to define national identity and underscore national unity, Price-Mars, through his scientific authority, acquired important leverage within political debates.

16The rhetoric of authenticity which underlies folklore is both a driving force for Price-Mars’s investigations, «Nous avons longtemps nourri l’ambition de relever aux yeux du peuple haïtien la valeur de son folkore», as well as an antidote against the Haitian elite’s «bovarysme collectif» : «Or nous n’avons de chance d’être nous-mêmes que si nous ne répudions aucune part de l’héritage ancestral» (Price-Mars 1973: 290). The notion of authenticity in folklore is emphasized and strongly tied to the idea that Haiti’s unique culture is valuable because it is something worth offering to humanity:

«N’est-il pas vrai que nous avons, nous aussi, quelque chose à offrir au monde qui ne soit pas une matière frelatée, ou un produit d’imitation […] Rythme des pas à la cadence des épaules et des bras semblable à la propulsion des carènes au rythme des avirons, cadence de la chanson et de la danse, de la joie et de la douleur, héroïsme muet de la patience de l’endurance – tout cela est la loi et l’essence de notre vie Nègre. Pourquoi donc avons-nous besoin de changer notre génie contre celui des autres?» (Price-Mars 1939: 145).

17Price-Mars’s most ambitious aim in Haitian folkloric studies was to investigate the cultural forms that unite Haitian masses and upper classes across great social rifts. This insistence on cultural unity of Haitians is perhaps most patent in a later publication by Price-Mars in which he critiqued the notion of «caste» applied to Haitian society by the Yale sociologist James G. Leyburn  (1941). For Leyburn, caste was the only notion that described the profound economic, religious, cultural, and color divisions between Haiti’s masses and its elite. Price-Mars (1942b) argued to the contrary that the rigidity and hereditary character of the notion of caste does not apply to the Haitian context and offered as counter examples cross-color marriage strategies and the existence of a middle class, with historical roots in slavery. In fact, it is the middle class for Price-Mars that bridged folk and urban cultures under a shared national culture. The following passage captures this vision of an authentic national culture expressed through shared beliefs, legends and songs:

«Si une ronde enfantine qui ne dépare pas les lèvres de la patricienne bouffie d’orgueil nobiliaire se retrouve identique dans la voix émue de tendrese de la paysanne penchée sur son marmot perdu de sommeil, si une légende qui fait frissonner le muscadin farci des plus récentes théories d’art ou de science, fait également tressaillir le tâcheron des ateliers des grandes firmes industrielles; […] si la même croyance amène peu à peu le bourgeois à communier avec son domestique dans la même crainte de l’inconnu, parce que dans sa cour auront été ramassées des choses insolites: maïs grillés, feuilles flétries et autres ingrédients […], si tout cela est puisé dans le reservoir commun des idées, des sentiments, des faits, des gestes qui constituent le patrimoine moral de la communauté haitïenne  […], l’imbécillité des égoïsmes de classe aura beau déclencher des attitudes d’antipathie et des mesures d’ostracisme – rien ne saura empêcher que les contes, légendes, chansons venus de loin ou créés, transformés par nous, soient une partie de nous-mêmes à nous-mêmes révélée comme une extériorisation de notre moi collectif…» (Price-Mars 1973: 254-255).

18Folklore for Price-Mars then offered the possibility of presenting the Haitian masses in a way that brought them « closer to home », so to speak, rather than being culturally as well as socially distanced from the westernized Haitian elites. In the framework of Price-Mars’s folklore, the Haitian masses acquired the status of native figures. They are no longer simply representatives of a stigmatized slave past, but carriers of an original culture shared in many ways with the elite. The Haitian country-dwellers represent, not unlike their European counterparts, an important link with the past and are carriers of age-old customs: «C’est parmi la multitude que nous aurons les chances de trouver le fil des traditions orales venues d’outre-mer» (ibid.: 290). The study of Haitian folklore pioneered by Price-Mars was a means to reconsider this denied past and to show that it plays a similar role across all cultures everywhere:

«Or, le folklore étant l’expression d’un fait humain, notre folklore à nous est la manifestation de croyances et de mœurs qu’on est suceptible de rencontrer selon des modalités diverses n’importe où sur la surface du globe. Par conséquent, il ne saurait y avoir d’indignité ou d’incorrection à en dépister l’existence, à en examiner les avatars, à en révéler les possibi­lités artistiques» (Price-Mars 1952: 16).

19Once the study of Haitian folklore is legitimized as a «tentative d’intégrer la pensée populaire haïtienne dans la discipline d’ethnographie traditionnelle», the centrality of traditional beliefs in these folkloric investigations brings Vodou, once again, to the foreground. That Vodou is at the heart of diverse discursive formations about Haiti led Price-Mars to make it the central subject of his inquiry in Ainsi parla l’Oncle. Again, related to his critique of the Haitian elite, he opposed the interpretation of Haitian physician educator and writer, J. C. Dorsainvil, the author of Vodou et névrose (1931), who viewed Vodou as a «religious and racial psycho-neurosis». While he agreed with Dorsainvil that Haitian Vodou owed its origins to Dahomean culture, Price-Mars disputed the interpretation that trance, possession, and the general state of religious ecstasy in Vodou is a manifestation of a racial hysteria. Instead, he viewed Vodou as a syncretic and legitimate religion, calling upon Durkheimian theory to argue that Vodou is a religion in its own right because it has its own theology (Price-Mars 1973: 82), it orders time and space (ibid.: 233), and possesses its own ethic (ibid.: 82-86). By advancing the novel idea of Vodou as a religion, he inverts views about its existence as an inchoate collection of supersitious beliefs hitherto unworthy of scientific study. Overall, his studies emphasized how Vodou fulfilled the role of social integration, having like other religious beliefs «au premier chef la vertu sociale de nous réunir en communauté» (ibid.: 88).

20Vodou was also central to Price-Mars pioneering efforts to establish that Haitian culture was a syncretism of European and African cultural traditions. Price-Mars speaks of syncretic rite or a «hybrid» Catholicism to designate Vodou and of its « travail d’assimilation » by historical forces at work that gave rise to Haiti’s popular religion:

«Il y a là les vestiges d’une religion antique, les traditions de vieilles pratiques médicales et pharmaceutiques dont la connaissance empirique des plantes est la base précieuse […], les danses et les chants du Vodou, variés et nuancés malgré le caractère étriqué de l’instrumentation et la pauvreté de l’orchestration servent de véhicules à des cérémonies rituelles. […] Qu’un tel complexe soit difficile à débrouiller grâce à la stratification des rites, des coutumes, des habitudes et des interprétations aussi bien géographiques qu’individuelles et collectives – cela va sans dire […] puisqu’il s’agit en fin de compte de culture populaire, de traditions orales, transmises à travers la succession de nombreuses générations […] Je me suis complu pendant longtemps à démêler ce que dans notre culture populaire il y avait eu d’apports français dans la formation de nos contes, de nos chansons, de nos ballades, de nos proverbes et ce que nos traditions africaines avaient retenu des mœurs et des coutumes du vieux continent» (Price-Mars 1952: 10-11).

21These descriptions by Price-Mars, among others, are an early contribution to the central notion of acculturation and its psychological effects developed by anthropologists in the first half of the twentieth century. These contacts were usually forced ones which had developed in the context of slavery, colonization, or other forms of domination. Price-Mars foregrounded the role of the slaves against their white masters within a sociological context; various African ethnic groups gradually forged, through concessions and negotiations among their various cults, religious forms that could generate in collective action. These processes which reveal the agency of the slaves were to continue after independence with the struggles and strategies of the peasants in the  ethnogenetic processes of adapting Vodou against the repressive presence of the Catholic hierarchy in Haiti:

«On commença par chercher non point seulement des analogies rituelles entre les religions, mais à identifier les déités du Vaudou avec les principaux saints de l’Église. On alla jusqu’à prescrire l’obligation d’une même pratique des sacrements des deux cultes pour avoir droit à la faveur des dieux du Vaudou» (Price-Mars 1973: 232).

22However, Price-Mars did more than elaborate on the notion of syncretism by studying African survivals in Haitian culture; he also underscored the idea of cultural creativity. He reflected on the «dynamisme vodouesque», with Vodou forming in constant flux and adaptation:

«Son contenu [celui du Vodou] est plus riche de synthèse psychologique. Il s’est assimilé à d’autres notions, il s’est chargé de principes disparates, il a subi des transformations, s’est soumis à de féconds compromis dans son évolution historique» (ibid.: 229).

23Concluding that:«Je me suis efforcé en outre de démontrer combien nous avons malaxé, pétri, combiné ces divers éléments pour en faire une substance nouvelle qui nous est propre et donne son cachet à notre culture nationale» (Price-Mars 1942b: 11).



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24Price-Mars always had an eye on the reception of representations of « Haïti ». In investigating Vodou through the comparative study of religions, Price-Mars developed a stance that is identifiable as cultural relativism. He drew analogies, parallels, filiations, and derivations between a number of religions and Vodou, focusing on key notions and phenomena such as sacrifice and trance. He countered the old but tenacious myth of Vodou as a cult of human sacrifice, underscoring that this notion derives from the mythical side of Vodou and its associated legends and stories. Price-Mars concedes that the superstitious beliefs in Vodou are prevalent, but that they are not constitutive of the religion, although they have long propagated the powerful myths of human immolation, sorcery and zombis, easily exploited by the foreign press and travelers. Thus he was concerned to assist local and foreign researchers. By all accounts he was a good colleague who was eager to engage and aid students of Haitian life and culture. The American anthropologist George Eaton Simpson recalled how, in the 1930s, he attended a number of informal sessions in Port-au-Prince as well as meetings of various scientific societies where Price-Mars was the central figure among Haitian writers, physicians, politicians, and journalists, and how Simpson met a number of leading Haitian intellectuals through Price-Mars (Simpson 1983: viii; see also Courlander 1990). However, Price-Mars aided and perhaps influenced no other foreign researcher as much as he did Herskovits.

Melville Herskovits in Haiti

25In February, 1928, as a young assistant professor at Northwestern University, Herskovits wrote to Price-Mars in Haiti, saying he had heard « of the interesting publications and studies you have made on the subject of Voodoo in Haiti », telling Price-Mars:

  • 8  Melville J. Herskovits Papers, Northwestern University [hereafter, HPN], Herskovits to Price-Mars, (...)

«I am exceedingly interested in cultural connections between the African and American Negroes and I am planning to spend next summer among the Bush Negroes of Surinam. I should really be grateful were you to send me copies of your publications or references as to where I might find them.»8

  • 9  For biographies of Herskovits and accounts of his work, see Jackson (1986), Simpson (1973) and, mo (...)

26Thus began years of correspondence, the exchange of academic views and publications, and the sharing of personal news. Herskovits came to owe a tremendous debt to Price-Mars, both in terms of his theoretical position as well as for significant logistical support when Herskovits came to do fieldwork in Haiti in the summer of 19349.

27In the early 1920s, with the Harlem Renaissance in full swing, the cosmopolitan and assimilationist Herskovits was optimistic about the power of American cultural patterns to overcome ethnic particularlism: «Seeking to refute the racists’ claim that immigrants and blacks were incapable of assimilating American culture, he argued that assimilation was, in fact, occurring and that it was an inevitable social process» (Jackson 1986: 100-101). He did this in a number of book reviews in popular publications such as The Nation and The New Republic, and through his early professional research. During this time, he met African American philosopher and cultural critic Alain Locke, with whom he had conversations about Boasian anthropology, particularly the concepts of «traits» and «culture-patterns». In 1924, Locke asked Herskovits to contribute an article to a special issue of Survey Graphic magazine he was editing on Harlem entitled «Harlem: Mecca of the New Negro». As a good Boasian, Herskovits sought to dispel any ideas – then current among black intellec-tuals and others – of an innate race-based cultural genius in blacks. In his article on Harlem, he took a community-based approach, arguing that, rather than the distinctiveness of African Americans, what he found in Harlem was evidence that, as other ethnic groups had done, African Americans had acculturated to «white» cultural norms. He said that « it occurred to me that what I was seeing was a community just like any other American community. The same pattern, only a different shade!» (Herskovits 1925a: 676), « Of the African culture, not a trace » (ibid.: 678). Exhibiting a belief in the power of the acculturative process and identifying blacks with other ethnic groups, he showed little patience for claims of black distinctiveness:

  • 10  See also Herskovits 1927.

«That they have absorbed the culture of America is too obvious, almost to be mentioned. They have absorbed it as all great racial and social groups in this country have absorbed it. And they face much the same problems as these groups face» (ibid.)10.

28The Survey Graphic issue was the nucleus of a book published as The New Negro (Locke 1925) which became a definitive statement of and for the Harlem Renaissance and modernism (e.g., Baker 1987; cf. Edwards 2003). Herskovits’s contribution was published as « The Negro’s Americanism » (Herskovits 1925b).

Port-au-Prince Wharf

Port-au-Prince Wharf

© Archives CIDIHCA

29From this point on, however, Herskovits could be seen to exploit the other side of the Boasian dualism (see Stocking 1976) where by the 1920s Boas was expressing his concerns with acculturation and change along with the historically unique culture of each group (e.g., Boas 1920, 1924). In this new emphasis, the familiar Boasian idea was maintained that the geist, or «genius of a people », was what molded borrowed elements to a traditional pattern (see Stocking 1974: 6). The reasons for Herskovits’s apparent change of emphasis are complex, and they involve the central role of Price-Mars. The research in Suriname in 1928 and 1929 with his wife and anthropological partner, Frances S. Herskovits, had a crucial place in Herskovits’s works (see Herskovits 1941: 15; F. Herskovits 1966: vii-viii). The Herskovitses had headed to Suriname intent on searching for and documenting African cultural survivals. Herskovits from that point on began to chart what he saw as African cultural distributions throughout in the Americas from the West African « cultural base line » (Herskovits 1930b). And in this endeavor, he gained considerable assistance from Price-Mars.

  • 11  HPN, Herskovits to Price-Mars, 15 Oct, 1928; see Herskovits & Herskovits 1934, 1936.

30Herskovits corresponded with Price-Mars and the two men exchanged publications; they even met in person briefly when Herskovits’s ship docked at Port-au-Prince in transit between the United States and Suriname in 1928 and 1929. Herskovits, fresh from his few weeks of fieldwork in Suriname among the «Bush Negroes» (descendants of escaped slaves), remarked to Price-Mars that, after reading one of Price-Mars’s publications, he believed that «there are many more correspondences than I thought possible between Haiti and Suriname» and that the «numerous resemblances» he found in Suriname to «Dahomey», that is, Price-Mars’s representation of what Price-Mars deemed to be «Dahomean» culture, would «strengthen your hypothesis of the importance of that point for a knowledge of the origin of the Negro cultures of the New World»11. Herskovits received Ainsi parla l’Oncle shortly after its publication in 1928 and many of the themes of that book informed Herskovits’s subsequent work, such as: that particular New World cultural practices, especially in religion, might be traced to particular regions and ethnic groups within Africa – for Herskovits the «Ashanti» dominated in Suriname and, for Price-Mars, «Dahomey» dominated in Haiti (see Herskovits 1967) – but, at the same time, that these African practices and forms of worship had an underlying similarity, what Price-Mars referred to as «la même base psychologique»; moreover, that research in Africa could inform Afro-America, and vice versa (e.g., Herskovits 1936, 1948a); that conversion to Christianity for the slaves was only a façade that allowed them to continue aboriginal religious practices; that identifiably African cultural practices could endure in the New World (e.g., Herskovits 1937a) – called by ethnologists such as Price-Mars and Ortiz «survivals» (although Herskovits later went on to emphasize African cultural «retentions» and «reinterpretations» [1948b]; cf. Baron 2003) – ; that the facility for cultural adaptation was a particularly African cultural trait (see Herskovits 1948a, 1948b), but that the blending of African and non-African cultural forms certainly occurred under the rubric of religious  syncretism» and «acculturation» more generally ; that the slaves engaged in numerous acts of resistance; that Afro-American folklore and literature could embody survivals (see Herskovits 1943, 1946) ; and that understanding the accomplishments and cultural background of Afro-Americans of the past was crucial to reducing prejudice in the present, and that it was of importance to show the essential humanity and dignity of Afro-Americans.

  • 12  HPN, Price-Mars to Herskovits, Mai 11, 1929.
  • 13  HPN, Herskovits to Price-Mars, 27 Oct. 27, 1932.

31Herskovits and Price-Mars often exchanged letters and opinions – for example, on Seabrook’s The Magic Island (1929), a book on Haitian Vodou which Herskovits reviewed in The Nation, calling it «a work of injustice», another «sensational exploitation of the lives and customs of the Caribbean Negro peoples» (Herskovits 1929: 198) and which Price-Mars had also  criticized strongly in Le Temps, the Port-au-Prince newspaper. In response to one of Herskovits’s letters arranging a meeting when Herskovits’s ship would dock at Port-au-Prince on the way to Suriname, Price-Mars said he would be happy to discuss matters of mutual interest, and «Je serais encore plus heureux si, l’an prochain, vous pouviez prendre le peuple haïtien comme le nouveau champ de vos investigations anthropologiques et biométriques»12. Herskovits was to take up this invitation, but not before he sought to know something of the «cultural base line» with fieldwork in Dahomey in 1931. When he returned and began publishing from his fieldwork, Herskovits wrote to Price-Mars, sending along his article «Some Aspects of Dahomean Ethnology» (1932), saying «I am sure that many of the aspects of the culture described […] will be familiar to you from knowing the customs of the people of the interior of Haiti»13. By 1933, Price-Mars published an extremely complimentary review of Herskovits’s work to date, calling Herskovits’s The Anthropometry of the American Negro (Herskovits 1930a) «l’œuvre capitale qui n’a pas de pareille dans les annales scientifiques» (Price-Mars 1933: 13).

  • 14  HPN, see correspondence between Price-Mars and Herskovits, Jan. 18, Feb. 15, March 16, and May 26, (...)

32By early 1934, Herskovits had arranged to obtain funding himself and Frances for research in Haiti that summer. Price-Mars’s encouragement was to take now a more tangible form. Upon hearing the news, Price-Mars wrote: «Depuis longtemps, vous le savez, j’appelle cette Mission de mes vœux les plus ardents». He offered to help locate a fieldwork site: «Je crois que les régions situées à l’est de Port-au-Prince, dans les plaines et les montagnes, aux environs et au-delà de Pétionville sont d’excellents champs d’études » – rural areas of relative isolation where, presumably, African survivals existed in less adulterated forms. He said: «Personnellement, j’aurai le plus grand plaisir à faciliter vos recherches dans la mesure du possible», and he assured Herskovits, «Croyez que vous serez les bienvenus parmi nous». Herskovits said that he would be «more than glad to follow your suggestions concerning the best locale for work»14. The Herskovitses arrived in Haiti June 11, 1934 and were met at the ship by Price-Mars, a senator at the time, who ushered them through customs and helped them get their film equipment approved. In the next few days they were taken to meet Haitian president Vincent in the National Palace, and they met with officials of the American Legation, military and police officials, had cocktails with locally-based Americans and with elite Haitians, and investigated possible fieldwork sites. They took Price-Mars’s advice that a town like Croix-des-Bouquets would be too close to Port-au-Prince – about a half hour by car – and so they settled on Mirebalais. Herskovits recalled in his field diary that the American Legation arranged for him to meet Major General Clayton Barney Vogel, the US Marine head of the Garde d’Haïti, from whom he received a letter «to the young Lieutenant at Mirebalais which would permit us to work undisturbed». Vogel also arranged with the Minister of Interior for a permit to take photos and motion pictures.

  • 15  Melville J. et Frances S. Herskovits papers, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture [herea (...)
  • 16  HPS, 24 June 1934, p. 9

33The Herskovitses were soon settled in Mirebalais across the street from Lieutenant Blaise, « who responded nicely to the copy of the letter from General Vogel with orders to cooperate ». He took the card of introduction from Price-Mars to Général Léonard Cantave, an important local authority, who also helped to facilitate their research15. Fieldwork for the Herskovitses in Haiti consisted, as it had in Dahomey (see Blier 1989), of employing one or two main informants who would be paid to come to their house and work for a number of hours each day. They were in residence in Mirebalais less than three months, from June 22 until September 1, 1934. While there was an attempt to study daily life in Mirebalais, even work routines, there was an interest in locating Vodou in that daily life. Herskovits was developing the concept of «cultural focus», the «primary concerns of a people» that «illustrate the carryover of aboriginal modes of custom» (Herskovits 1948a: 1). The primary concern for peoples of African descent was religion. He felt that it was in the area of «supernatural sanctions that peoples of African descent manifest the widest range of Africanisms, and the purest» (ibid.: 3). Thus, the Herskovitses also attended a number of Vodou ceremonies accompanied by their informants, often contributing a quantity of clairin, a local rum. Early on in the fieldwork, Herskovits anticipated being able to secure official permission for Vodou practitioners to stage important rites, which were prohibited by occupation authorities16, and, indeed Herskovits did intervene.



© musée du quai Branly

34Herskovits’s major work resulting from the research in Haiti was his book Life in a Haitian Valley (1937b). There, in an apparent attempt to distance himself from the sensationalistic and judgmental pseudo-anthropological writings of a Seabrook or a Wirkus, and to paint himself as the dispassionate professional observer, he emphasized the normality of Vodou practice (Pettinger 1997: 142-147, 150-154). Contrary to Dorsainvil in Vodou et névrose (1931), Herskovits (1937b: 147) asserted that «in terms of the patterns of Haitian religion, possession is not abnormal, but normal; it is set in its cultural mold as are all other phases of conventional living ». Characteristically, he emphasized that Vodou possession was « cultural » in that it reflected known community standards and beliefs, and that Vodou itself was a valid religion, derived «from a background of African theology and ceremonialism» (ibid.: 141), developed through a process of «amalgamation» (ibid.: 271) with Catholicism, the «merging of traditions» that «reflect the psychological unity of Catholic and African elements in vodun worship» (ibid.: 277), the result being «the psychological reconciliation that has been effected between the saints of the Church and the African deities», the achievement of an «adjustment between two conflicting systems» (ibid.: 278).

  • 17  Herskovits (1937b: 295). For students of Haiti, this view was compelling (see Mintz 1964: 46-48; 1 (...)

35Perhaps even more attention was paid to Herskovits’s own attempt to describe and explain what contemporaries might have called «the Haitian personality» which for him would entail the psychological results of acculturation. Herskovits wanted to illustrate psycho­logy as much as culture (e.g., Herskovits 1934, 1967), and he had much invested in the acculturation concept. He was a central actor on the Social Science Research Council’s «Committee on Acculturation» (Redfield, Linton & Herskovits 1936; Herskovits 1937c; cf. Baron 1994b). In this connection, his concept of «l’ambivalence socialisée» (socialized ambivalence) functioned to describe the psychological effects of acculturation. To «understand the instability of attitude and emotional expression found in the Haitian», according to Herskovits «it must be recognized that the two ancestral elements in his civilization have never been completely merged». The Haitian’s «outwardly smoothly functioning life» is in fact «full of inner conflict» so that «he has to raise his defenses in order to make his adjustment within the historical and cultural combination of differing modes of life that constitute his civilization» (1937b: 294-295). He went on to suggest broader implications: «It is entirely possible that this socialized ambivalence underlies much of the political and economic instability of Haiti, so that, arising from a fundamental clash of custom within the culture, it is responsible for the many shifts in allegiance that continually take place, as it is for the change in attitudes in everyday association»17.

  • 18  See articles in Le Nouvelliste, 23 Apr. 1937; 8 May 1937; and 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14 Aug. 1937 (...)
  • 19  See Kate Ramsey’s contribution in this issue (pp. 165-180).

36The idea of socialized ambivalence raised a minor controversy among intellectuals once Herskovits’s book was available in Haiti. Some claimed that that concept characterized Vodou possession (Kébreau 1937), while others like Dorsainvil added their voices, and Price-Mars’s son Louis Mars supported Herskovits’s interpretation in a debate carried on in the front pages of Le Nouvelliste18. Herskovits emphasized the «conditions of control» (1937b: 323-324) that written historical records afforded the analyst of acculturation, presenting them with an «ascertainable past» of the people studied. He stressed the normal functioning of a context of acculturation, and what he saw as the interrelation of African and European cultures whereby, every culture being «a unique historical continuum» (ibid.: 324) (here echoes of Boas’s geistes), there was continued contact between two cultures. In this, he conveniently erased almost all mention of the American occupation and the neocolonial context of his fieldwork. The last of the US military left while Herskovits was conducting fieldwork, and there was much celebration of what was being called the «Second Independence». To illustrate socialized ambivalence Herskovits provided a case of «a man of good education, in the early thirties» who according to Herskovits straddled two cultural worlds (ibid.: 184-188). Reading his fieldwork diary, however, shows that this man was one of his main informants, Léonce Joachim. Indeed, comparing the fieldwork diary to representations of socialized ambivalence in the book, we are struck with the impression that Herskovits’s term, socialized ambivalence, refers to his annoyance with what might be seen as self-assertiveness on the part of the locals, including Joachim and Galbert Constance, his other main informant who had been a caco rebel against the American occupation in an active resistance movement in the Mirebalais area (Yelvington 2002). Herskovits also ignored the legal context where many Vodou rites were prohibited19. Thus, if Haitian peasants showed ambivalence toward Vodou, it is quite possible that this was because they were worried that they would be prosecuted for their practices. Nonetheless at the end of his book, Herskovits even felt confident in applying the results of his Haitian ethnography to the solving of the «Negro Problem» in the United States. He emphasized that the retention of «certain African patterns of behavior and certain African aspects of belief» did not mean that they had not assi­milated «American culture»: «They have, in fact, assimilated it to the degree that their opportunities have permitted » (Herskovits 1937b: 304) and that placed them alongside all the other (European) immigrant groups in the United States.

  • 20  HPN, Price-Mars to Herskovits, March 16, 1937.
  • 21  For Métraux’s work and sojourn in Haiti, see infra C. Laurière’s contribution, pp. 181-208.

37Upon receiving a copy of Life in a Haitian Valley sent by Herskovits, Price-Mars wrote: «Laissez-moi vous féliciter d’avoir apporté une aussi belle contribution à l’étude des problèmes haïtiens. Votre livre est le plus complet qui ait été écrit par un étranger sur la vie haïtienne». He suggested that the Haitian government would be interested in sponsoring a French translation20. In his own book review, Price-Mars wrote in glowing terms, and said that Herskovits was justified in calling socialized ambivalence the tendency for Haitians to worship European culture as superior when their real cultural roots were elsewhere. He said that Haitians owed Herskovits gratitude, and suggested that he be conferred a national award of recognition (Price-Mars 1937: 18-20). Shortly after, Herskovits was, in fact, named Officier de l’Ordre haïtien de l’honneur et du mérite (New York Times, September 18, 1937, p. 100). For Price-Mars, it is apparent that the idea of socialized ambivalence was useful because it conveyed the potentially deleterious results of a synthesis of European and African cultures, and could support his call for Haitians to embrace the «African» aspects of Haitian culture. Herskovits continued to collaborate with Price-Mars, but he never returned to Haiti for more fieldwork. Instead, he concentrated his efforts on managing anthropological impressions of Haiti. After his fieldwork and certainly after the publication of Life in a Haitian Valley, Herskovits became sought out by ethnographers and others planning to travel to Haiti, such as the Americans Simpson, Harold Courlander, ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax, and Haitian anthropologist Suzanne Comhaire-Sylvain. He oversaw, albeit with difficulty, the Haitian fieldwork of Zora Neale Hurston, and of Katherine Dunham. He sent foreign researchers and his students, such as Erika Bourguignon, to see Price-Mars. Herskovits also sent a letter of introduction to Price-Mars for Swiss anthropologist Alfred Métraux and his wife, American anthropologist Rhoda Bubendey Métraux, who both went on to work in Haiti21.

38In all this, Herskovits’s position as a student of Haiti was legitimated by his relationship with Price-Mars. However, while he certainly held Price-Mars in esteem, Herskovits does not seem to have acknowledged him as a theoretician nor as one who profoundly influenced his own thought.

The place of Haiti in Les Amériques Noires: Roger Bastide

39While later in his career Bastide became somewhat critical of the theories of acculturation, syncretism, and reinterpretation that were so central to Herskovits’s works, it is remarkable just how much he accepted so much of Herskovits’s assumptions and even Heskovits’s vocabulary; and, indeed, Bastide in the early years of his study of what he called «les Amériques noires» appears to have endorsed much of the Herskovits program. This is at least partly because by the time Bastide came onto the scene, Herskovits was already firmly in control over many of the institutional mechanisms of Afro-American studies (Yelvington 2004). Even by the time Bastide had gone to Brazil in 1938, Herskovits had already been closely collaborating with such central Brazilian figures as Arthur Ramos and Gilberto Freyre and had developed with them mutually reinforcing theoretical influences. Yet partly because of his different training and research interests, especially his responses to Durkheim, Marx, Freud, Weber, and others, partly because, as a sociologist, he was in a different disciplinary and institutional matrix, and partly because of rather idiosyncratic readings of particular theorists and the selective and often inconsistent application of their theories, Bastide was able to develop a particular vision of « les Amériques noires », especially with respect to the place of Haiti within that vision.

  • 22  HPN, Bastide to Herskovits, 16 March 1940.

40In Bastide’s first two books, Les Problèmes de la vie mystique (1931) and Éléments de sociologie religieuse (1935), the themes of exile, immigration, acculturation, syncretism, and the sociology of religion, already appear. We can trace his influences, albeit not in any straightforward manner nor in a linear fashion, to sociologists Gaston Richard, under whom he studied at the Université de Bordeaux, Georges Gurvitch and Maurice Halbwachs, and at the Collège de sociologie, to ethno­logists of Africa, Marcel Griaule and Michel Leiris, as well as to North American cultural anthropology and, somewhat later, to the Chicago School of sociology, including E. Franklin Frazier. In 1938, he was nominated to replace Claude Lévi-Strauss at the young Universidade de São Paulo, thus beginning a 16-year sojourn. He began to dev-elop not only relationships with major Brazilian intellectuals, artists, and writers, especially the modernist writers, but also to do fieldwork on Afro-Brazilian cults and later on racism in São Paulo. This was at a time of the advent of cultural politics and the flowering of black political movements (Williams 2001; Butler 1998). Bastide became more and more interested in mysticism, dreams, psychosis, and applied an approach derived from psychoanalysis to the study of a sociological object – what he called the «psychiatrie sociale» (Bastide 1941, 1948, 1950 ; cf. Dias Duarte 2000). Because of the Second World War, he delayed a field trip to the northeast of Brazil, seen as the center of more authentic and pure Afro-Brazilian religion, writing to Herskovits that he was concentrating his researches «pour le moment» on the «élément africain acculturalisé» in São Paulo, the industrial city of the South, clearly a second choice22. In early 1944, he was finally able to make a short field trip to the northeast, where he began his investigations into the Candomblé of Bahia (Bastide 1958). In 1951, he became a Candomblé initiate.

  • 23  There are a number of works on Bastide’s extensive œuvre, including the following: Dauty (1985), L (...)

41Brazil at that time was a place of anthropological ferment, and a number of foreign anthropologists were active there, collaborating with Brazilian researchers. These foreigners included Claude Lévi-Strauss and Herskovits, who did fieldwork in Brazil in 1941-1942 and spent time at the University of São Paulo (see Corrêa 1987; Massi [Peixoto] 1989). Bastide entered into a long-term collaboration with Pierre Verger in the 1940s (Lühning 2002), and in 1952 he was part of the Unesco project on  «race» relations in Brésil (Maio 1997), directed by Métraux, whom he hosted in São Paulo (see Bastide & Fernandes 1955). In 1954, he returned permanently to France, taking up a chair at the Sorbonne, and continuing his research and publications. Bastide, Herskovits, Ortiz, Price-Mars, and many others were constantly exchanging publications, attending the same conferences and were involved in other forms of cooperation (see Dianteill 2002; Yelvington 2001). By the time he died in 1974, he had written 1,345 texts, including more than thirty books (Ravelet 1993)23. He never did fieldwork in Haiti, but he did conduct research on Haitians in France (Bastide, Morin, & Raveau 1974).

42Bastide changed his theoretical perspectives a number of times, incorporating the work of various scholars of widely differing theoretical viewpoints, and often adopting inconsistent positions even within the same publication. He entered into a major dialogue with North American anthropology and especially the anthropology of Herskovits. Bastide’s lifelong acceptance of the validity of acculturation as actual processes occurring in the world and his desire to provide acceptable theoretical models to account for their nature is a general current that runs throughout his thought. But Bastide accepted more specific aspects of Herskovits’s anthropology as well. For instance, he used the ideas of African cultural «survivals» and of cultural «focus», as well as the idea that one African civilization (e.g., Dahomey or Yoruba) could be identified as the dominant one in any given Afro-American cultural institution such as the family or religion. Bastide agreed with the validity of Herskovits’s exercise in trying to compare the intensity of «Africanisms» across societal institutions (e.g., family, religion, language) (Herskovits 1945; cf. Bastide 1967: 19-20). From this basis, Bastide added the following ideas. He said that African survivals would depend on the population density of Afro-Americans in particular locales. He recognized that this had to be an approximation because of the lack of statistics on «race» and therefore perhaps inadvertently betrayed an assumption entailing a naturalized notion of «race» and one that was tied closely to «culture». And second, Bastide commented that Herskovits’s scale of intensity needed to be complemented with a chart showing the distribution of dominant African cultures in the Americas in order to obtain «une image géographique à peu près exacte de la distribution des traits culturels africains en Amérique» (Bastide 1967: 20).

43For Bastide, in any given region in the Americas, «il y a une culture africaine dominante» but this dominance had nothing to do with the number of slaves brought from any particular region in Africa or pertaining to any named «nation». «Civilisations» could still be regarded as « africaines » because of «leur participation sans réserve à une culture transportée d’Afrique» (ibid.: 16-17). In Brazil, while there are various Candomblés – Nagô (Yoruba), Gêgê (Dahomean), Angola and Congo – they were all based on the Nagô Candomblé « qui a inspiré à tous les autres leur théologie (à travers un système de correspondance entre les dieux des diverses ethnies), leurs séquences cérémonielles, leurs fêtes fondamentales» (ibid.: 17). Similarly, for Haiti, the various nations were transferred into «mystères» or «étaient devenues des Dieux» – Congo Mayombé, Conga Mandragues, Mandragues Gé-Rouge, Ibo, Caplau, Badagri, Maki, Bambara, Conga. «C’est-à-dire qu’elles ont été prises par le mouvement de syncrétisme, dominé par la religion dahoméenne, et que les diverses cultures ne sont plus que des éléments, intégrés et subordonnés, de la culture Fon» (ibid.). Bastide felt that, in general, in the distribution of dominant cultures from Africa, each of these cultures set the tone for one region in the Americas, the Fon culture dominated not only in Haiti, but in the Maranhão region of northern Brazil. Like Herskovits, Bastide argued that each of these dominant cultures, in particular regions of the Americas, demonstrated the incorporation of other traditions. So that, for example, while among the Bush Negroes of Suriname and French Guyana the Fanti-Ashanti culture was « la plus pure », it had incorporated certain other alien elements, such as the «Vodous dahoméens» and certain Bantu spirits such as the Loango Winti, «mais c’est en tant qu’éléments intégrés à la culture fanti-ashanti» (1967: 19). Thus, we can observe an inter-African syncretism. At the same time, Bastide felt, as did Herskovits, that each African culture in the Americas (e.g, Dahomey, Yoruba, Bantu) displayed different susceptibilities to acculturation and syncretization processes, as did the culture of the colonizing country (Catholic vs Protestant).

44Bastide’s interest in religion fit easily with Herskovits’s idea of cultural focus. If religion was the area of culture in which Afro-Americans chose to concentrate their efforts and imagination, and if these religious practices were where Africanisms were most manifest and strong, this was a happy convergence for Bastide. But Bastide was always concerned to relate cultural institutions and practices like religion to sociological forces and contexts. And here is where Bastide disagreed with Herskovits and cultural anthropology in the development of his concept of «interpénétrations de civilisations».

45With this idea, which he traced in modern sociology to Durkheim, Bastide sought to connect cultural and religious fusion with structural properties and social relationships. With this concept it is made clear that acculturation had to be placed within a global sociolo­gical context (see, e.g., Bastide 1960: 215-216). And even though it was human beings and not civilisations that were in contact, the results were seen in the psychologies of the people under study. For Bastide, this psychology had to be connected to the sociological context.

46At this point, Bastide could now critique and modify North American culturalist concepts such as accultu­ration, syncretism, and reinterpretation as employed by Herskovits by attaching to them an eclectic array of sociological concepts. He was especially interested in the concept of reinterpretation. That is, «the process by which old meanings are ascribed to new elements or by which new values change the cultural significance of old forms» (Herskovits 1948b: 553). In place of reinterpretation, Bastide proposed two distinct types of acculturation, «material», concerned with the contents of cultures in contact, and «formal» because it entailed a change in mentality (Bastide 1960: 535-540). He conceded that the idea of « acculturation» seemed similar to that of «reinterpretation», because under the latter the unit of analysis was the cultural trait. By contrast, he said he was interested in studying the formal level, in «la structure mentale des individus, et par voie de conséquence, de la collectivité» (Bastide 1967: 215).

Vodou ceremony at the crossroad

Vodou ceremony at the crossroad

© Laboratoire d’anthropologie sociale, rights reserved

47This did not mean that Bastide was only concerned to chart out the class position of Afro-Americans. His eclecticism meant he would address certain questions with certain concepts and theoretical apparatus he felt best suited to the task at hand. African cultural survivals existed for him, but not uniformly across the Americas nor from institution to institution. The collective memory and psychological processes can account for some, but not all, of the maintenance of these survivals. Syncretism was not one phenomenon describable under one kind of rubric, but instead operated at a number of levels and through a number of mechanisms. Material and formal acculturation could vary together or separately. At the macro level, Bastide was even led to call some whole societies «communautés africaines» because they were «celles dans lesquelles les modèles africains l’emportent sur la pression du milieu environnant; certes, ces modèles sont obligés de se modifier pour pouvoir s’adapter» (ibid.: 49), while he called others «les communautés nègres» because they were those in which «le noir a dû inventer de nouvelles formes de vie en société, en réponse à son isolement, à son régime de travail, à ses besoins nouveaux » (ibid.). When these communities existed side-by-side, a certain amount of interpenetration took place. But it was institutions of the «communautés nègres» that were adaptive and creative (thus challenging the standard concept of acculturation, according to Bastide).

48Bastide was suspicious of any one theory that could encompass what he saw as a varied reality. He also displayed an awareness of the politics of Afro-American social research, suggesting that one could not neatly divorce a scholar’s theoretical position from the state of their society’s ethnic and class conflict, not to mention their disciplinary affiliations (Bastide 1956: 196-197; 1967: 9-10; 1969a). He came to have an appreciation of the role of scholar-activists like Price-Mars (Bastide 1956, 1969b). It was in  Haiti where the concept of Négritude first took hold, especially manifested in the context of the American occupation, and it was Price-Mars who had led Haitians « à revaloriser leur héritage africain » (Bastide 1967:8). Price-Mars was lauded for breaking with evolutionism and treating Vodou in an objective way. These politics reached the personal, psychological, level of even the most disinterested researcher. For Bastide, the scholar of Les Amériques noires must keep an eye on research conclusions in order to conduct «une autre recherche, parallèle, sur lui-même; une espèce d’“auto-psychanalyse” intellectuelle, […] et cela qu’il soit noir ou qu’il soit blanc » (ibid.: 10). As with Herskovits, left undiscussed for Bastide was the implication that Price-Mars could be a provider of useful information, and could even use his authority to play politics but, in this division of labor, not be seen as a producer of theoretical models worthy of praise. Thus having established a distance between himself and other scholars of the «Amériques noires», suggesting to the reader that any problems in Brazil or France related to his own political positioning had been solved, and that he was aware of the working of his psyche, Bastide could then appear to consider and then proceed to select out certain ethnographic materials and elements in the theoretical arguments of other scholars in a self-conscious refining of his own position.

49In Bastide’s vision of the «Amériques noires», Haiti had a special place. Relying on Price-Mars, Herskovits, and, especially, Alfred Métraux, Bastide saw their work as providing interchangeable and commensurate «data» that could, in a straightforward positivist fashion, be incorporated into a larger comparative framework without logical problems. A discussion of communal labor was used to make the point that African origins, parallel developments on both sides of the Atlantic, and prevailing economic conditions should not be confused. Herskovits analyzed the Haitian combite, a cooperative labor group, as the counterpart to the dókpwê of Dahomey, its existence in Haiti representing «pure retentions of African practice» (Herskovits 1937b: 257). However, Bastide remarked that there were in fact a number of different communal labor organizations, tied to the breakup of the lakou, or extended family compound, into smaller family units. For Bastide, parallel convergence with what was occurring at the same time in colonial Africa did not mean necessarily continuity with African cultural practices. The explanation for the rural Haitian family form could be sought in the same economic processes. But in other places in the Afro-Americas, reinterpretations of African polygamy were to be found and these explained the family form.

50Turning to religion, Bastide placed Haitian Vodou in contradistinction to other Afro-American religions such as Candomblé in Brazil and Santería in Cuba. He called Vodou one of the «religions vivantes» of the Afro-Americas, while he termed Candomblé and Santería «religions en conserve» or «vécues» (Bastide 1967: 137-138). By this, he did not mean that these religions were somehow not «lived» by their adherents. He meant to convey «le caractère farouchement conservateur de la dogmatique comme de la pratique africaine en Amérique». Black culture was subject to «le grignotement incessant» by its environment, and the result was a «minéralisation culturelle», or a kind of defense mechanism against external threats of change (ibid.: 133). The «religions en conserve» were inherently conservative, they did not change with the passage of time and remained tied to the ritual practices and beliefs. When innovations did occur, if they were to take hold, they had to operate in a way compatible with previous practice.

51The contrast was Haitian Vodou. Unlike in Brazil, Haitians achieved their independence and ended slavery at the beginning of the nineteenth century. This broke off relations with Africa, while Brazil maintained them, since slavery only ended there in 1888. Independence for Haiti also meant the disappearance of the white population, and thus of Europeans who might have desired to assimilate the black masses. There were other reasons too, related to economic and demographic forces. According to Bastide, because of the post-Independence land-tenure system, no centralized religious authority was able to emerge, and numerous individual sects were established. The result was a wide variety of local religious practices that, while they all shared the same origin, each sect evolved in its own direction. Vodou was also able during this time to absorb Catholic elements: for example, the prêtres-savannes who knew parts of Catholic prayers and rituals, and were incorporated into Vodou rites. Indeed, for Bastide, syncretism was most meaningful in the «religions vivantes». And finally, calling on a functionalist argument, he said that Vodou became the medium through which peasant society organized itself and that, as such, any change in the agrarian scene would be bound to have an impact on Vodou. Therefore, with the decline of the lakou, Vodou became separated from the control of the large extended family. The large cult centers disappeared and in their place sprung up many autonomous, smaller centers headed by priests with various degrees of training.

52In terms of cosmology, Haitian Vodou has exhibited a number of changes, including an ever-expanding number of lwa (gods) in its pantheons. And not only more loa, but a division of worship into «Rada» and «Petro» sects, the latter said to be almost wholly engaged in sorcery designed to secure some advantage to the supplicant. Similarly, the «African» element in Vodou mythology is said to have disappeared. In terms of practice, Bastide traced changes in the kinds of possession to be seen in Haiti, but said that «les transes mystiques suivent les normes africaines» and that «tout se passe comme si la mémoire motrice était plus cohérente et durable que la mémoire-souvenir» (Bastide 1967: 147). Thus, for instance, in possessing their «horses» (the term for possessed, or «mounted», believers/participants) the lwa Dambellah Oueddo, a snake, wriggles across the ground or wraps himself around a tree, Ogun takes up a warlike expression, and Ezili imitates the act of lovemaking. At the same time, the preparation and initiation of oungan (priests) and mambo (priestesses) is faithful to the African pattern, depending, as it is, according to Bastide, on motor memory.

53Haitian Vodou was clearly both vécu et vivant, and part of this was the utility, for Bastide, of Vodou as a «national» religion :

« Le Vaudou a pu évoluer pour constituer non plus, à proprement parler, une religion africaine, mais bien, maintenant, la religion “nationale” de Haïti, expression moins d’une volonté de “retour à l’Afrique” qu’au contraire, de la communauté paysanne de l’île, dans ce qu’elle a d’original et de spécifique» (ibid.: 144).

54 In Haiti as well the folklore reveals various African influences, even if the tales and legends have been «créolisées». «C’est à Haïti que le syncrétisme est le plus poussé » (ibid.: 165) in all of the Americas. Thus the place of Haiti in Bastide’s work is one of depicting Vodou in a positive light, as based in an authentic and identifiable past, rooted in the rural people, but yet possessing the traits of being adaptable and able to serve as the religious base of a modernizing nation. While Bastide’s perspective was certainly indebted to Herskovits and Price-Mars, among others, the place of Haiti in his anthropology was at the same time, on the whole, quite different. Bastide’s «Haiti» reflected not only his training as a sociologist in a particular French academic and political milieu, but an eclectic blend of North American anthropology and sociology. The competing perspectives of «culture», derived from anthropology, and «society», derived from sociology, account for a view of Haiti that is dynamic, where cultural and social forces are sometimes aligned and sometimes in conflict.

  • 24  Appadurai provides the following examples: hierarchy in India, and its twin, purity/pollution ; ho (...)

55In an early intervention critically examining the theoretical devices within anthropology, Appadurai (1986: 357-358) shows how certain images and anthropological concepts «become metonyms and surrogates for the civilization or society as a whole»24. Elsewhere, he goes on to generalize as to how and why certain anthropological images become bound to, indeed confined to, particular places (Appadurai 1988: 45-46). One reason is that certain images serve to orient the non-specialist reader and summarize the cultural complexity of a particular place. Another reason is that these images are useful in accurately representing something about the place that transcends intra-regional differences and are thus a way to organize debate within the discipline. And, finally, these images exist in order to provide a connection between the concerns of the anthropological specialist and the larger, external discursive contexts. In the examples provided above, we can see how anthropologies of Price-Mars, Herskovits, and Bastide all exhibit these three reasons.

56One crucial result is that «natives» and their cultures are seen as place-bound, as practicing (and sometimes embodying) a bounded culture arising strictly within the given ecology of a particular place. Here the notion of culture as a total way of life not only fixes culture to place, but simultaneously bounds and totalizes culture. As a result, it is difficult to disassociate a general theoretical argument from particular places and, by contrast, once certain images are formed and take on some sense of permanency and are institutionalized (perhaps in area studies centers, perhaps in departments of anthropology), these images preclude other kinds of questions about the geographical places (and cultures) under consideration.

57Further, within these depictions there are assumptions, more or less explicitly stated, about the temporal nature of the phenomena under consideration. However the object under scrutiny is defined in anthropology, whether it be «structure» or «culture», for instance, the temporal assumptions of the object’s status (see Fabian 1983; Thomas 1989) are intimately connected to the contours of theory – which is in turn imbued with constructions of place. To the extent that the contrasting but connected theoretical paradigms discussed in this article – those employed by Price-Mars, Herskovits, and Bastide – include a conscious appeal to the past on the part of the theorists, the more tightly connected and intimately involved will be these connections between space, place, and culture. As we saw, Price-Mars, Herskovits, and Bastide in slightly different ways sought to locate Haiti in time in various ways, from bringing in the concept of African survivals, that is, locating a cultural stream out of place (Africa) and out of time (survival), to acknowledging (Price-Mars) or silencing (Herskovits and Bastide) the effects of neocolonialist politics, for example in the form of the American occupation; or to notions, especially prevalent in Bastide, of agency and cultural creativity – a break, in other words, with the past and making history in the present.

58In some anthropological schemes, it could be that certain places, or certain peoples within certain places, become depicted as having a deep historical being, or of creating history by their innovations or interventions within significant political or social movements. By contrast, they could also be portrayed as being without history (cf. Wolf 1982), or of paradoxically working to ensure that history stands still. It follows that certain groups or strata within one society could be represented as evidencing one kind of historicity, and other groups quite other involvements with history.  Similarly, if the object of investigation is culture, some peoples attached to a particular place can be depicted as culturally saturated, while others can be portrayed as culturally naked. Sometimes, it is the top of the hierarchy that is culturally naked, or transparent, other times the bottom, and at still other times both in that it is possible for both high status and low status groups to possess culture, but just of a different kind and each accruing a different value (Rosaldo 1988).

59In the anthropological imagination of Haiti with its legacy of colonial and neocolonial ethnography, itself a cousin to travel narratives, «Africa», «Vodou» and «Race», among others, have remained key images in the representation of Haiti as a whole. Thus, while the specifics between places in the Caribbean might be distinct, Haiti is no exception but joins in with other places as they achieve various representational statuses in the anthropological imagination. The number of various practices and social relations that are forced under those terms have become synecdoches, standing for «African savagery» as part of a larger colonial discourse on the religions of «primitive» peoples regarded as fetishistic, superstitious, cannibalistic – the ultimate mark of savagery – and this is intimately connected to ideas surrounding the kind of ethnicity known as «race». Hurbon (1988: 301-302), for example, argues that Haiti is an exemplary case in the persistence of the barbarian/civilized paradigm and he insists strongly that cumulative effect of its imaginary charge remained central even after anthropology finally invalidated this paradigm at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Initiate paying her respect to the mambo

Initiate paying her respect to the mambo

© photo Rhoda Métraux, rights reserved

60Of course, as we have seen, there could be movement among paradigms and their systems of representation – the fields of synecdoches (Clifford 1988: 38). At least part of this disciplinary paradigm transformation involved anthropological rhetorical strategies. In typical rhetorical strategies, anthropologists position themselves vis-à-vis other intellectual workers. As we saw, at different times Price-Mars, Herskovits, and Bastide both embraced other works, and also sought to distance themselves from particular researchers and schools of thought.

  • 25  Gerholm & Hannerz (1982); cf. L’Estoile, Neiburg & Sigaud (2000).

61But this is not the complete explanation for the play of the fields of synecdoches. Many if not most considerations of how place, space, and culture are conflated in the anthropological imagination take an idealistic approach, emphasizing traditions of ethnographic writing that exist in the writing practices of anthropologists and might be changed simply by changing the anthropologists’ minds. It is not, furthermore, simply a question of the culture of writing and the writing of culture (Clifford & Marcus 1986). As we have seen in this article, far from being a phenomenon of the world of ideas, the anthropological imagination entails a matrix of institutional, professional, and political structures that cannot be reduced to «ideas» or «discourse». Likewise, the establishment of anthropological paradigms is not solely the prerogative of metropolitan theorizing and political interests, even if it is inspired by these interests in one way or another. Again, Appadurai writes (1988: 46): «The most resilient images linking places and cultural themes […] all capture internal realities in terms that serve the discursive needs of general theory in the metropolis.» However, what we have shown above is that, at least as far as the anthropology of Haiti is concerned, a complex international dialogue and movement of people and ideas – social relationships – account for both metropolitan and local theorizing, often in unpredictable ways. And we think that further investigations into national anthropological traditions25 should look for just these kinds of transnational connections.

62Yet, we do not wish to fetishize place further by providing a view that there is an «authentic» vision of a place, perhaps held by «insiders». Averill (1997: 29-31) speaks of «culture brokers», specialists in shaping outsiders’ views of Haiti, and we have considered the interactions of outsiders and insiders – located in this matrix of institutional, professional, and political structures – in the mutual construction of Haiti in the  anthropolo­gical imagination. Beyond this work of cultural brokerage, Hurbon (1988: 308-309) indicates the difficulty of the Westernized native anthropologist in de-centering his or her gaze. The Haitian anthropologist critiques colonial discourse and attempts to study their own «exotic» society of which they are not fully a part. This observation not only mitigates any suggestion as to the a priori authority of native anthropologies, but it also implores us to critically evaluate the class positions and obligations of local anthropologists, including, in this case, Price-Mars.

63Finally, from the perspective of the history and sociology of social science, our evidence suggests a challenge to the kind of «constructivism» (e.g., Knorr-Cetina 1999; Latour 1991) that focuses upon the internal practices of science, on the conflicts, negotiations, and resolutions between scientists that lead to conceptual orders, facts, and knowledge. Constructivism entails a projectionism, as in Foucault’s perspective where ideas are projected onto institutions which are in turn seen as the result of ideas. These institutions are thought to embody discourses of science, the normal, the sane, the immoral, the insane, and so forth in that science is seen as being the result of the agency of actors in scientific fields. Receiving less attention in this schema are the underlying structures and causal mechanisms that determine the shape and functioning of scientific institutions such as universities and research institutes, scientific associations, funding organizations, and so forth. It is now clear that in the history and philosophy of science we can no longer abide by the purely «internalistic» and «idealistic» approaches that focus exclusively on ideas as scientific paradigms. At the same time, a resort to an «externalism» prioritizing social context runs the risk of reductionism. It is clear from the sum of the cases presented above that « science » is both irreducible to scientific conventions, and it is similarly irreducible to the social-cultural context. Scientific fields are constituted by actors striving for scarce cultural capital and resources, yes, but these fields are complexly determined and are populated by social relations that span across national frontiers and institutions which, at a one level, can be conceived of as a point of dialectical contradictions and mediations – dialectical because institutions are the site of the unity of diverse phenomena and mediations because they act as linkages in various ways to determinate structures. Here we can maintain a concern with multi-level causative mechanisms to explain the shape and nature of the institutions themselves, at the same time as conceiving of particular products such as the fields of synecdoches, the training and initiation programs, the series of publications, and so much more, as having a history and reality of their own. Social scientific ideas do not, therefore, have to be seen as merely the outcome or consequences of conceptual systems within science. The anthropological imagination must be explained, not made to explain. The next step would be to trace the effects of this imagination as they ramify, if they do, through the discipline and beyond. It is down this path we must travel, while understanding science to consist of complex results – such as the Haiti of anthropology, historically.

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Archival Sources

The Melville J. Herskovits Papers, Africana Manuscripts, Number 6, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois [infra HPN].

The Melville J. Herskovits and Frances S. Herskovits Papers, Number MG 261. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library, New York [infra HPS].

Antoine, Jacques C.,  1981, Jean Price-Mars and Haiti. Washington, DC, Three Continents Press.

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1  On the importance of the challenge of Le Bon for Price-Mars’s thought, see Shannon (1996: 18), Price-Mars (1954); Paul (1958-1959: 15).

2  For histories of the American occupation, see, for example, Blancpain (1999), Castor (1988) Gaillard (1981), Millet (1978), Renda (2001), and Schmidt (1971).

3  On the related role of foreign elites in Haiti at the beginning of the twentieth century, see Plummer (1984).

4  For an idea of the content and direction of Price-Mars’s course on «Africology», see Price-Mars (1942a).

5  Price-Mars (1973: 253). The direct quotes in this article from Ainsi parla l’Oncle are from the 1973 edition.

6  For sociological analysis of «indigénisme» by an anthropologist, see Trouillot (1993).

7  Senghor (1956: 3). For more details on Price-Mars’s life and thought, see Antoine (1981), Cornevin (1973), Paultre (1933, 1966), Shannon (1996), H. Trouillot (1956), as well as some of the chapters in Paul & Fouchard (1956). Bibliographies of his works have been compiled by Fouchard (1976-1977) and Hoffmann (1987). Bastien (1960, 1975), Nicholls (1996), Dianteill (2002), and Morse (1996) usefully place Price-Mars within the tradition of Caribbean anthropology and intellectual production. For a critique, see Depestre (1968) where Depestre criticizes Price-Mars for not distancing himself from the Griots and their theories of «race» which fed into François Duvalier’s noiriste politics.

8  Melville J. Herskovits Papers, Northwestern University [hereafter, HPN], Herskovits to Price-Mars, 22 Feb. 1928.

9  For biographies of Herskovits and accounts of his work, see Jackson (1986), Simpson (1973) and, more comprehensively, Baron (1994a) and Gershenhorn (2004). See Merriam (1964) for an obituary that provides a complete list of his publications.

10  See also Herskovits 1927.

11  HPN, Herskovits to Price-Mars, 15 Oct, 1928; see Herskovits & Herskovits 1934, 1936.

12  HPN, Price-Mars to Herskovits, Mai 11, 1929.

13  HPN, Herskovits to Price-Mars, 27 Oct. 27, 1932.

14  HPN, see correspondence between Price-Mars and Herskovits, Jan. 18, Feb. 15, March 16, and May 26, 1934.

15  Melville J. et Frances S. Herskovits papers, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture [hereafter HPS], entries from private diary, June 22, 23, 24, 1934, pp. 1-6, 8, 9; and see HPN, Herskovits to Price-Mars, June 22 and Sept. 26, 1934.

16  HPS, 24 June 1934, p. 9

17  Herskovits (1937b: 295). For students of Haiti, this view was compelling (see Mintz 1964: 46-48; 1977: 76). Herskovits’s student Erika Bourguignon took up the idea in her thesis (1951) and in subsequent publications (1969, 2000).

18  See articles in Le Nouvelliste, 23 Apr. 1937; 8 May 1937; and 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14 Aug. 1937. Cf. Georges-Jacob (1941: 191-202).

19  See Kate Ramsey’s contribution in this issue (pp. 165-180).

20  HPN, Price-Mars to Herskovits, March 16, 1937.

21  For Métraux’s work and sojourn in Haiti, see infra C. Laurière’s contribution, pp. 181-208.

22  HPN, Bastide to Herskovits, 16 March 1940.

23  There are a number of works on Bastide’s extensive œuvre, including the following: Dauty (1985), Laburthe-Tolra (1994), Poirier & Raveau (1976), Ravelet (1978), Ravelet ed (1996), and Reuter (2000). For a complete list of his works, see « Roger Bastide: bibliographie, 1921-1974», Cahiers d’Anthropologie, Special issue, 1978. Bastide’s research on Brazil and the influence of his thought on Brazilian anthropology and sociology is demonstrated by Beylier (1977), Price (1978), Quieroz (1973-1974, 1975, 1983), Simson’s edited book (1986), and especially Fry’s chapter (1986). The best and most comprehensive study is by Peixoto (2000). See also the special issue «In Memoriam de Roger Bastide», Afro-Ásia, 1976, 12, published by the Centro de estudios afro-orientais, Universidade federal da Bahia.

24  Appadurai provides the following examples: hierarchy in India, and its twin, purity/pollution ; honor and shame in circum-Mediterranean; filial piety in China ; Africa as the location of social forms such as the lineage or the segment ; tropical South America and dual organizations and structured mythological discourse ; Melanesia with the manipulation of bodily substances in the management of society and the cosmos; aboriginal Australia as the example of the tension between structural simplicity and classificatory complexity ; Polynesia as the central place for the mechanics of reciprocity, and so forth.

25  Gerholm & Hannerz (1982); cf. L’Estoile, Neiburg & Sigaud (2000).

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Table des illustrations

Titre Jean Price-Mars at his jubilee in Port-au-Prince, october 1956
Crédits © Archives CIDIHCA
Fichier image/jpeg, 256k
Titre Peasant women in the Marbial Valley
Crédits © musée du quai Branly
Fichier image/jpeg, 900k
Titre Peasants walking along the Gosseline River in the Marbial Valley
Crédits © UNESCO
Fichier image/jpeg, 584k
Titre Vèvè
Crédits © Laboratoire d’anthropologie sociale, rights reserved
Fichier image/jpeg, 296k
Titre Port-au-Prince Wharf
Crédits © Archives CIDIHCA
Fichier image/jpeg, 540k
Titre Rain-maker
Crédits © musée du quai Branly
Fichier image/jpeg, 440k
Titre Vodou ceremony at the crossroad
Crédits © Laboratoire d’anthropologie sociale, rights reserved
Fichier image/jpeg, 536k
Titre Initiate paying her respect to the mambo
Crédits © photo Rhoda Métraux, rights reserved
Fichier image/jpeg, 595k
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Gérarde Magloire et Kevin A. Yelvington, « Haiti and the anthropological imagination », Gradhiva [En ligne], 1 | 2005, mis en ligne le 10 décembre 2008, consulté le 26 mars 2017. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/gradhiva.335

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Gérarde Magloire

Institute of French Studies New York University,

Kevin A. Yelvington

Department of Anthropology University of South Florida

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© musée du quai Branly

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