Conference series examines challenges of rebuilding Haiti

Published: January 18 2011

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A four-part public speaker series on rebuilding Haiti begins Monday at the University of Florida College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The Caleb and Michele Grimes Conference on Liberal Arts and Public Affairs will address how Haiti’s unique historical, geographic, and social features have shaped current crises in the country.

“Haiti’s Challenges: Rebuilding Lives and Nation in the Earthquake’s Aftermath” will explore Haiti’s complex historical legacy and examine various strategies by individuals and groups to build sustainable recovery efforts and improve Haiti’s future. Speakers will examine Haiti’s contentious past and severe environmental threats such as deforestation. They will also look at the political, health, and educational issues that affect how the people of Haiti, nongovernmental organizations, and foreign governments lending aid to Haiti are coping with the effects of the earthquake in a land already facing monumental challenges. Details of these events follow:

Jan. 24, 7:30 p.m., Ustler Atrium, University of Florida
“Why Is Haiti So Poor?”
David Geggus, history professor, University of Florida
Haiti was the Caribbean’s first independent state and the first American nation to abolish slavery, but how many of its current problems can be traced to its colonial and revolutionary past? This talk will give historical background to the country’s present crisis.

Feb. 7, 7:30 p.m., Ustler Atrium, University of Florida
“The Anthropology of Survival in Post-Earthquake Haiti: Institutional Predators, Individual Maneuver”
Gerald Murray, anthropology professor, University of Florida
The Haitian earthquake of January 2010 exacerbated the already stressful economic and social conditions in Haiti. This talk will examine the realities of rebuilding Haiti amidst an environment of corruption and rhetoric.

March 1, 7:30 p.m., Smathers Library Room 1A, University of Florida
“Haiti: Public Health and Structural Change”
Louise Ivers, chief of mission, Partners in Health in Haiti, and Harvard Medical School
Structural issues related to food and water security affect the ability of government and other agencies to provide sound public health interventions. This talk will examine work by Partners in Health to build sustainable mechanisms for health promotion in Haiti.

March 17, 7 to 9 p.m., Smathers Library, Room 1A
“Two-Part Panel Discussion: The Role of Haitian Creole in the School System of Post-Earthquake Haiti”
Michel DeGraff, MIT
Flore Zéphir, University of Missouri-Columbia
Instruction in the Haitian school system is largely conducted in French, a language that excludes almost 90 percent of the population. In the post-earthquake efforts to rebuild Haiti, this talk will advocate reform in the school system, particular to create instruction in Haitian Creole. Moderated by Benjamin Hebblethwaite, UF.

Due to the high level of expertise in Haiti among UF faculty and students, the Grimes Series lectures will be affiliated with a number of additional cultural and speaker events co-organized with Gators United for Haiti.

Jan. 11, 7 p.m., Reitz Student Union Auditorium, University of Florida
Screening of the documentary “Bound by Haiti.”
Followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers, Jon Bougher and Roman Saufiullin.

Jan. 13, 4:30 p.m., Reitz Student Union Room 286
Panel Discussion: “Rebuilding Haiti: Perspectives from the Field,” with audience Q&A.

A panel of UF faculty working in Haiti from five colleges will speak about the challenges of conducting sustainable interventions and how individuals and groups can make difference.

In addition, two art exhibitions will offer additional perspectives on Haiti. The Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere will be displaying the photographic exhibition “Ayiti: Forces of Nature, Forces of Life,” curated by Natalia Marques da Silva, until May 1 in 200 Walker Hall. The Harn Museum of Art will display art related to the Yoruba deity Shango, with objects from Africa and Haiti, in the exhibition “A Sense of Place: African Interiors,” Richardson Gallery, from Jan. 21.

All events are free and open to all. For more information, visit

This fall series is sponsored by Caleb and Michele Grimes Fund (in the CLAS Dean’s Office) and organized by the Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere.


Bonnie Effros,, 352-392-0796

Category:Announcements, InsideUF, Top Stories