Professor Erin L. Durban’s recent book The Sexual Politics of Empire: Postcolonial Homophobia in Haiti (University of Illinois Press) explores life in contemporary Haiti for same-sex desiring and gender creative people against the backdrop of American imperialism and intervention.
The book won the National Women’s Studies Association-University of Illinois Press First Book Prize and has been positively reviewed by scholars in American studies, anthropology, Black studies, Caribbean studies, feminist studies, French and Francophone studies, Haitian studies, queer studies, religious studies, and performance studies.
As a brief summary: Evangelical Christians and members of the global LGBTQI human rights movement have vied for influence in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake. Each side accuses the other of serving foreign interests. Yet each proposes future foreign interventions on behalf of their respective causes despite the country’s traumatic past with European colonialism and American imperialism. As Professor Durban shows, two discourses dominate discussions of intervention. One maintains imperialist notions of a backward Haiti so riddled with cultural deficiencies that foreign supervision is necessary to overcome Haitians’ resistance to progress. The other sees Haiti as a modern but failed state that exists only through its capacity for violence, including homophobia. In the context of these competing claims, Durban explores the creative ways that same-sex desiring and gender-creative Haitians contend with anti-LGBTQI violence and ongoing foreign intervention.
Professor Durban is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Minnesota affiliated with American Studies; Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies; and RIDGS. They also serve on the leadership team of the Critical Disability Studies Collective.