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The anti-superstition campaign of 1941-42

A dialog on Bob Corbett's Haiti list, November 1996

Date: Mon, 11 Nov 1996 14:15:28 -0800 (PST)
From: Robert Corbett <bcorbett@netcom.com>
Subject: The anti-superstition campaign of 1941-42: Greene's book
Message-ID: <Pine.3.89.9611111410.A2584-0100000@netcom18>

There are some references in WIB to Lescot's anti-Voodoo campaign. His daughter, Eliane, is still alive and lives part time in Haiti (la Boule) - she might be able to provide more details. Many hounfors were destroyed in the SHADA fiasco, but this was separate from Lescot's drive.

Best, Michael Heinl

Date: Sun, 24 Nov 1996 19:16:11 -0800 (PST)
< From: Robert Corbett <bcorbett@netcom.com>
Subject: Anti-superstition recycling: Benson comments
Message-ID: <Pine.3.89.9611241916.A26256-0100000@netcom7>

Date: Sun, 24 Nov 1996 21:43:38 -0500

The campaign against voudou in the forties, often referred to in Haiti simply by the word rejete' was something I could read about in any one of several books on Haitian history/culture, but until a recent visit (October/November 1996) did not arise as a topic of conversation outside discussion specifically dealing with voudou or Christian churches. During this visit, it came up as a tpoc--topic unbidden in about 2/3 of conversations I was having concerning the arts of Haiti. I have as a result of this expereince, an impression that the rejete phenomena of the past are once again in the central or near-central attention of people concerned with and for aspects of Haitian culture. Note, I am not saying there is a new rejte' campaign going on, only that the phenomena associated with the earlier event are a current topic. However, I did hear certain missionaries talk about their concerns to remove the Satanic influences from Haitian culture. The action taken to this end seem to be ad hoc from each of the separate sect congregations, unlike the coodinated efforts of the 40's. Who has some more and better information ?

Date: Sat, 26 Oct 1996 13:48:43 -0700 (PDT)
From: Robert Corbett <bcorbett@netcom.com>
Subject: The anti-superstition campaign of 1941-42
Message-ID: <Pine.3.89.9610261314.A17812-0100000@netcom22>

From Bob Corbett

In THE VORTEX FAMILY by Jean Metellus there is a note on p. 61. I don't know if the note comes from the translator or the author,but I suspect it is Metellus speaking. At any rate, it is a brief definition of this campaign. It reads:

A violent campaign by the Catholic Church again the voodoo religion, which involved the widespread descration of shrines in an attempt to force the peasantry to abandon voodoo practices. It wa tied in the a US government agricultural policy that required the appropriation of peasant land. In this connection, the Bureau of Ethnology (which had been established by leading Haitian and French intellectuals in 1940) was a thron in the side of the Church because its research served to legitimate the voodoo religion as a philosophy.

Anyone know any good sources on the anti-superstitiion campaign in English?

Also, what was this argicultural policy that the U.S. was pushing that needed land? Did the U.S. get this land? Could it have been the rubber projects I wrote about a few days ago? Anyone out there who can help me with this one?

Thanks, Bob Corbett

Date: Sun, 27 Oct 1996 06:30:20 -0800 (PST)
From: Robert Corbett <bcorbett@netcom.com>
Subject: Re: The anti-superstition campaign of 1941-42

The note is apparently by the translator--Metellus does not have a note on the anti-superstition campaign. I don't know about the most extensive treatment of the anti-superstition campaign (in Eng.), but Anne Green's book on THE CATHOLIC CHURCH AND HAITI (which I cannot find on my shelf at this moment, I may have switched the title) might have something, along with the general histories you know (Heinl, Nichols...).

Best, Carrol

Date: Sun, 27 Oct 1996 11:21:47 -0800 (PST)
From: Robert Corbett <bcorbett@netcom.com>
Subject: The anti-superstition campaign of 1941-42: Greene's book

Date: Sun, 27 Oct 1996 10:36:33 -0500 (EST)

Anne Greene (The Catholic Church in Haiti) notes antisuperstition campaign on the following pages:

post-Duvalier, 213

Glenn Inghram
University at Albany
CETL 442-4517
VM 435-4341

Date: Sun, 27 Oct 1996 16:04:16 -0800 (PST)
From: Robert Corbett <bcorbett@netcom.com>
Subject: More on the anti-superstition campaign

Paul's post reminden me of a book from a priest who was inside the campaign, claims to have been one of the instigators of it and is quite proud of that campaign. See:

ADIEU LA TORTUE by Roger Riou, Editions Robert Laffont, Paris, 1974.

Also available in English as: THE ISLAND OF MY LIFE: FROM PETTY CRIME TO PRIESTLY MISSION by Roger Riou. Delacorte Press, NY, 1975

Bob Corbett

Date: Sun, 27 Oct 1996 15:57:52 -0800 (PST)
From: Robert Corbett <bcorbett@netcom.com>
Subject: More anti-superstition citations: From Paul Brodwin

Date: Sun, 27 Oct 1996 16:51:02 -0600 (CST)
From: Paul E Brodwin <brodwin@csd.uwm.edu>

Dear Haiti list members:

In addition to Anne Greene's book, people interested in the Anti-Superstition Campaign of the early 1940's should see Brenda Plummer's Haiti and the United States: The Psychological Moment, which describes the campaign in terms of Lescot's alliance with American and Port-au-Prince bourgeoisie (see pp. 146-147, for example). Indeed, this brief section suggests that economic and land tenure issues were wrapped up in the Anti-Superstition campaign.

People should also look at David Nicholls' From Dessalines to Duvalier which describes the Campaign as well as the oppositional role played by Jacques Roumain at the time.

Francophones should look at Hurbon's small and beautifully illustrated book Les Mysteres du Vaudou (Gallimard 1993) which excerpts some of the actual documents describing the campaign as well as the rather incredible Anti-Vodou catechisms that the Catholic church circulated at the time.

(Actually, Anglophones could also see Hurbon's chapter American Fantasy and Haitian Vodou which covers some of the same ground in shorter space, printed in Consentino, ed. Sacred Arts of Haitian Vodou (UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History) ).

And for people ready to do the real historical research, check out Avant L'Oubli: Christianisme et Paganisme en Haiti et Autres Lieux (Port-au-Prince: Imprimerie Henri Deschamps, 1974) by Elie Lescot himself.

Paul Brodwin
Dept of Anthropology

Date: Mon, 28 Oct 1996 06:26:09 -0800 (PST)
From: Robert Corbett <bcorbett@netcom.com>
Subject: Re: More anti-superstition citations: From Carrol Coates

Date: Mon, 28 Oct 1996 05:45:12 -0500 (EST)
From: carrol f. coates <ccoates@mail.binghamton.edu>

Just a brief note to Paul Brodwin's list: Laennec Hurbon's LES MYSTERES DU VAUDOU has appeared in English translation (exactly the same format and photo/image documentation): VOODOO. SEARCH FOR THE SPIRIT. NY: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1993.

[Bob Corbett adds: I have this book in English, and while the book is extremely beautiful and the text very worthwhile, the book it self is horribly made. I have to treat it like one of my very rare books. If you open it at all to far the binding cracks and the book splits. Too bad that such a great book is so poorly made. I've been thinking about adding a second copy to my library, wrapped in plastic saran wrap, just to preserve it, and then use the copy on my shelf!]