Tera Hunter, adviser
Laurent Dubois, University of Virginia
“Gason Konn Bouke, Men Pa Fanm (Women’s Work Never Ends): Black Women Workers and the United States Occupation of Haiti, 1915-1934” responds to the historiographic need for a study of the nineteen-year U.S. military occupation of Haiti focused squarely on working Haitian women’s lives and labors. I examine how women’s status as workers impacted their daily lives under U.S. rule and informed their strategies for anti-imperial resistance. Additionally, I investigate the ways that African American women and men forged imperfect solidarity with Haitian women workers. This dissertation contributes to a burgeoning body of literature that historicizes Afro- Caribbean women’s work in defense of Black life amid imperial conflicts that have been described almost exclusively in terms of military might and disputes between statesmen. Further, it deepens the diplomatic, military, social, cultural, and intellectual history of U.S. imperial domination in Haiti.
I argue that Haitian women were liberators in Haiti’s Second Independence and formed an indispensable part of the revolutionary undercurrent that made resistance to U.S. rule possible. Their work as laborers, inextricable from their evolving knowledge of race and gender when confronted with white, male occupiers, shaped their contributions to the affective, economic, and political wellbeing of the nation. Using a capacious definition of “labor,” I designate women’s efforts to ensure community survival and garner anti-occupation support as foundational to the development of a broad anti-imperial resistance movement in the early twentieth century Caribbean.
Weaving together a narrative that spans the circum-Caribbean, I uncover a range of pragmatic and careful strategies Haitian women used to navigate minefields of toxic state and patriarchal violence. In so doing, “Gason Konn Bouke, Men Pa Fanm” communicates the dynamism and devastation of Haitian women’s lives in the U.S. Marine Corps’ small wars laboratory and clarifies the connection between race, gender, labor, and U.S. empire in the Caribbean.
A copy of the dissertation will be available for review two weeks before the exam. Questions? Please contact Lee Horinko.
All are welcome and encouraged to attend.