Haitian Studies Association

H.S.A. Book Awards

The Haitian Studies Association’s biennial Haiti Book Prize is awarded to the best single-authored book in Haitian studies in the social sciences, with broad application beyond the academy.

2019 Recipients (HSA Book Prize)

Marlene L. Daut, Baron de Vastey and the Origins of Black Atlantic Humanism (Palgrave MacMillan, 2017)

Focusing on the influential life and works of the Haitian political writer and statesman, Baron de Vastey (1781-1820), in this book Marlene L. Daut examines the legacy of Vastey’s extensive writings as a form of what she calls black Atlantic humanism, a discourse devoted to attacking the enlightenment foundations of colonialism. Daut argues that Vastey, the most important secretary of Haiti’s King Henry Christophe, was a pioneer in a tradition of deconstructing colonial racism and colonial slavery that is much more closely associated with twentieth-century writers like W.E.B. Du Bois, Frantz Fanon, and Aimé Césaire. By expertly forging exciting new historical and theoretical connections among Vastey and these later twentieth-century writers, as well as eighteenth- and nineteenth-century black Atlantic authors, such as Phillis Wheatley, Olaudah Equiano, William Wells Brown, and Harriet Jacobs, Daut proves that any understanding of the genesis of Afro-diasporic thought must include Haiti’s Baron de Vastey.


Patti Marxsen, Jacques Roumain: A Life of Resistance (EducaVision, 2019)

This biography of Haitian public intellectual and writer, Jacques Roumain (1907–1944), explores his brief life within the context of his times—the American Occupation of Haiti, the rise of fascism in Europe, racism in the U.S., and Marxism. An articulate witness and activist, Roumain exposed injustice through poetry, essays, novels, and short fiction. His political thought emerges through these works, several of which are included here in English translation. Though best known in the U.S. as author of Masters of the Dew, Roumain was more than a literary writer. This thorough examination of his life, based on extensive archival research, retraces his formative years in Haiti and Europe, his study of ethnology in Paris, and periods of enforced exile in Europe, Harlem, Cuba, and Mexico. His close relationship with his wife Nicole is illuminated through passages of his letters to her, published here in English for the first time. This engagingly written biography presents the first full picture of this remarkable Haitian to Anglophone readers.


Jeffrey Kahn, Islands of Sovereignty: Haitian Migration and the Borders of Empire (University of Chicago Press, 2018)

In Islands of Sovereignty, anthropologist and legal scholar Jeffrey S. Kahn offers a new interpretation of the transformation of US borders during the late twentieth century and its implications for our understanding of the nation-state as a legal and political form. Kahn takes us on a voyage into the immigration tribunals of South Florida, the Coast Guard vessels patrolling the northern Caribbean, and the camps of Guantánamo Bay—once the world’s largest US-operated migrant detention facility—to explore how litigation concerning the fate of Haitian asylum seekers gave birth to a novel paradigm of offshore oceanic migration policing. Combining ethnography—in Haiti, at Guantánamo, and alongside US migration patrols in the Caribbean—with in-depth archival research, Kahn expounds a nuanced theory of liberal empire’s dynamic tensions and its racialized geographies of securitization. An innovative historical anthropology of the modern legal imagination, Islands of Sovereignty forces us to reconsider the significance of the rise of the current US immigration border and its relation to broader shifts in the legal infrastructure of contemporary nation-states across the globe.

2017 Recipients (Avant Garde Book Prize)

Alex Bellande. Haïti déforestée, paysages remodelés (CIDIHCA, 2015)

Haïti déforestée, paysages remodelés

By challeng​ing one of the most oft-cited clichés about Haiti — that it is ​a treeless desert destroyed by a peasantry that doesn’t know any better​ –​ Alex Bellande develops a critical ​perspective on​ the problem of deforestation in Haiti. According to​ Bellande, “the figures on forest cover give the impression of a “desertified” space, but these are based on hasty approximations without any real scientific basis​.​” ​He sets out to represent the country’s tree cover more accurately, paying close attention to the types of trees​and​the importance of wood products​in the peasant economy. Haïti déforestée begins with the 200-year history of exporting wood as a raw material for the US and European textile, shipbuilding, tanning, furniture and pharmacy industries. Bellande then analyzes, based on recent scientific studies, the extent and composition of current tree cover. Using satellite imaging techniques, Bellande finds that ​ the tree cover is closer to 29%. Filled with valuable information, the book offers a new perspective on the history of deforestation in Haiti and its causes and proposes a more ​ locally and historically -informed ​ approach for efforts ​ aimed at preserving the environment.

​Just as the previous winners of the prize, Alex Bellande’s Haïti déforestée strengthens the field of Haitian Studies.


Honorable Mentions:

Anne Eller. We Dream Together: Dominican Independence, Haiti, and the Fight for Caribbean Freedom (Duke University Press, 2016)

We Dream Together - Anne Eller

In We Dream Together, assistant professor of History at Yale UniversityAnne Eller breaks away from the dominant narratives of conflict between the Dominican Republic and Haiti to trace the complicated history of Dominican emancipation and independence. Eller summons sources that range from trial records and consul reports to poetry and song to show how Haitian and Dominican political roots are deeply entwined. Together, they fostered a common commitment to Caribbean freedom, the abolition of slavery, and popular democracy.

Sean Mills. A Place in the Sun: Haiti, Haitians, and the Remaking of Quebec (McGill-Queens University Press, 2016)

A Place in the Sun demonstrates the ways in which Haitian migrants opened new debates, exposed new tensions, and forever altered Quebec society. Mills, who is  assistant professor of history at the University of Toronto and also the author of The Empire Within: Postcolonial Thought and Political Activism in Sixties Montreal,​ pays attention to the ideas and activities of Haitian taxi drivers, exiled priests, aspiring authors, dissident intellectuals, and feminist activists, which leads to a reconsideration of the historical actors of Quebec intellectual and political life, and challenges the traditional tendency to view migrants as peripheral to Quebec history.

2015 Recipients (Haiti Illumination Book Prize)

Ada Ferrer. Freedom’s Mirror: Cuba and Haiti in the Age of Revolution (Cambridge University Press, 2014)

Matthew Smith. Liberty, Fraternity, Exile: Haiti and Jamaica after Emancipation (University of North Carolina Press, 2014)

2013 Recipients (Haiti Illumination Book Prize)

Kate Ramsey. The Spirits and the Law; Vodou and Power in Haiti (University of Chicago Press, 2011)

Georges Eddy Lucien. Une modernization manqué; Port-au-Prince (1915-1956) (Editions de l’Université d’Etat d’Haiti, 2013)