College of Art and Design

Document Type



This dissertation is a critical analysis and interpretive reenactment of the psychological and social processes of identity formation of contemporary Haitian artists starting with the 1915-1934 U.S. Occupation to the post-2010-earthquake. In this research, agency traces the disruptive and dramatic experiences of the Haitian people at home and abroad over the last century. The thesis will survey their cultural history from the reciprocal points of view of individual and group identity formation, taking into consideration the ways in which cultural values and archetypes have shifted and/or supported Haitian art-making practices. This document focuses on the available published histories and literary descriptions of the culture and its dominant aspects and experiences.

In this study, I showcase how the artists see their art as a reflection of their existence and their hope in the midst of the historical trauma that catalyzed them into becoming artists. The thesis demonstrates how Vodou is a sort of skeleton key for unlocking the Haitian process of identity formation which continually recreates itself with fresh material in varying historical and geographic contexts. I interpret the history, development and practice of Vodou traditions through descriptions, not only of these artists and their work, but also through descriptions of the Vodou deities who act as participatory metaphors for the psychological process being described.

This thesis introduces the concept of what I identify as the mitan-morphic process which is the simultaneous presence of multiple forms of tradition and progressive cultural beliefs and behavior used to support an expressive response to trauma. This mitan-morphic process will be contextualized through the use of analysis and imagery from the artists presented. The goal of this project is to describe and analyze the process of Haitian art-making as one that requires a confrontation with the fraught history of the island, using Vodou and Haitian Kreyol. I will focus on artistic responses to three different historical eras (1915 U.S. Occupation, the Duvalier regime and the 2010 earthquake) to illustrate the dynamics of the Haitian art-making process.



Committee Chair

Desmond, Michael



Available for download on Friday, March 12, 2027