Conflicting Ambivalence of Haitian Identity-Making in South Florida

  • J. P. Linstroth Nova Southeastern University
  • Alison Hall Nova Southeastern University
  • Mamyrah A. Douge-Prosper Florida International University
  • Patrick T. Hiller Nova Southeastern University
Keywords: Haiti, Haitians, ethnicity, Hispanics, belonging, home, immigration, immigrants, identity, biography


This article discusses constructions of identity, home, and belonging among first and second-generation Haitian-migrants living in South Florida. Conflicting polarities mark the lived experiences of the Haitian interviewees, and as such, migration theories of integration as the "melting pot" or "salad bowl," are rendered useless for understanding immigrant experiences. To another degree, the notion of social hybridity is elaborated upon for its resonance to ontological concepts among Haitian-Americans, especially in regard to the push and pull of living in the United States with remaining sentiments toward Haiti. For many of our Haitian informants the notion of class stratification defined their perceptions of selfhood. So too, our Haitian-American interviewees described their differences from other Afro-descendant experiences as African-Americans, further situating their Haitian-ness as being unique. What is clear from analyzing narratives of these Haitian-Americans is the mutability of their imagining belonging-ness and the polyvalent meanings associated with their ambivalent identities. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0903118


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Author Biographies

J. P. Linstroth, Nova Southeastern University
J. P. LINSTROTH obtained his D.Phil. in social anthropology from the University of Oxford. Most of his research is concerned with understanding ethnic-minority groups, whether Spanish-Basques, Cuban, Haitian, or Guatemalan-Maya immigrants in the US, or urban Amerindians in Brazil. Dr. LINSTROTH was co-awarded an Alexander Von Humboldt Grant (2005-2007) to study immigrant identity in South Florida and has recently been awarded a Fulbright Foreign Scholar Grant (2008-2009) as a visiting professor at the Universidade Federal do Amazonas (UFAM) and for fieldwork amongst urban Amerindians in Manaus, Brazil. LINSTROTH has published several scholarly articles and has two forthcoming books, titled respectively: Marching Against Gender Practice: political imaginings in the Basqueland; and, Violence and Peace Re-Imagined: a new interdisciplinary theory for cognitive anthropology. Currently, he is Assistant Professor of Conflict Resolution and Anthropology at Nova Southeastern University.
Alison Hall, Nova Southeastern University
Alison HALL is doctoral student at the Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Department of Conflict Analysis and Resolution, Nova Southeastern University. Her current research interests include and examination of social, political and psychological factors that are the root cause of generally observed behavioral patterns in Jamaica (violence, aggression, impatience, quid pro quo expectations) as well as the mechanisms/strategies used to cope with chronic trauma amongst populations exposed to structural violence. Included in this are notions of identity, ethnicity and belonging, self-perception, desired individual and national perception. She has been and still is involved with research on identity and belonging within migrant groups in South Florida.
Mamyrah A. Douge-Prosper, Florida International University
Mamyrah A. DOUGE- PROSPER holds a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and Africana Studies from Barnard College, Columbia University and a Master's in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from Nova Southeastern University. Mamyrah currently is doctoral student at the Florida International University in the Department of Global and SocioCultural Studies (formerly Sociology and Anthropology). Her current research interests include gender, sexuality, and race construction and performance in Haiti. She is particularly interested in how these identities intersect in Haitian Vodou culture. She has been and still is involved with research on identity and belonging within migrant groups in South Florida. She is also an organizer with the community organization Take Back the Land.
Patrick T. Hiller, Nova Southeastern University
Patrick T. HILLER holds an M.A. in Human Geography from the Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich, Germany. Patrick currently is a Doctoral Candidate at the Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Department of Conflict Analysis and Resolution, Nova Southeastern University. In his dissertation he explores the processes of identity formation of nonviolent peace activists in the United States. He is a co-investigator of an ongoing international study on ethnicity and sense of belonging among refugee and immigrant populations in the United States and Germany. Following an interdisciplinary approach, his work and research interests encompass conflict resolution, peace studies, ethnicity, human rights, nationalism, social justice, Mexico, Latin America, social/peace movements, identity formation, culture and conflict and migration. He has experience working with NGOs that promote social justice in Mexico.
How to Cite
Linstroth, J. P., Hall, A., Douge-Prosper, M. A., & Hiller, P. T. (2009). Conflicting Ambivalence of Haitian Identity-Making in South Florida. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 10(3).