This work-in-progress uses the archive of Haitian women’s “miscellaneous” and “unavoidable” deaths under the United States occupation (1915-1934) to trace how Haitian exceptionalism is articulated through the banal capture and cataloguing of women’s lives. Taking Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s canonical essay “The Odd and the Ordinary” as a conceptual point of departure, this work-in-progress pivots around the “unavoidable” killing of nineteen year old Extrea Jean Gilles by US military officials to witness Haitian women’s refusal, gest, and invitation to play with their entry into the archive. With a focus on the death space and occupation landscape—roads, bridges, railways—this work reconfigures the historical record of Extrea’s life and the lives that resonate with hers, and intervenes in the presumed teleology of her archive through the practice of offering.
Grace L. Sanders Johnson is Assistant Professor of Africana Studies and GSWS affiliated faculty. She received her Ph.D. in History & Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan where she specialized in Modern Caribbean and Latin American History, Transnational Feminisms, Oral History, and African Diasporic Studies. Grace has been awarded fellowships from the Thomas J. Watson Foundation, the Andrew C. Mellon and Ford Foundations, the Canadian Embassy, and was recently awarded an Emerging Scholar Fellowship from the Haitian Studies Association for her dissertation La Voix des Femmes: Women’s Rights, National Politics, & Black Activism in Port-au-Prince and Montréal, 1934-1986. In addition to her study of twentieth century gender, sexuality, migration, and Haitian women's social and political organizing, Grace is currently collaborating with colleagues in Haiti and throughout the diaspora to establish a Haitian women’s oral history archive.