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In Memoriam, Michel-Rolph Trouillot, 1949-2012

Michel-Rolph TrouillotMichel-Rolph Trouillot–brilliant anthropologist, historian, inspiring thinker–passed away July 2012. Devastating loss for anthropology, history, Haiti, all of us.

This page links to tributes, memorials, and news. A separate page is dedicated to Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s bibliography.

Michel-Rolph Trouillot (1949-2012). Richard Price, American Anthropologist, December 2013
I once heard Rolph give a brilliant lecture about race to a class of aspiring Mormon missionaries to Haiti (at Brigham Young University), delivered spontaneously after the laptop with his prepared paper had been stolen en route. As he spoke passionately about the history of the country, he intermittently called their attention to his expensive shoes, his suit and tie, his watch, eyeglasses, moustache, baldness, and his university titles until, by the end of the hour, he stood before them “absolutely white.” It was a breathtaking lesson on the Haitian construction of race.
Professionally ambitious yet genuinely humble, Rolph Trouillot was passionate about truth yet mordantly and often surprisingly funny. In his all-too-brief time among us, he lived life to the fullest. He changed the way we think, challenging all of us to push the boundaries. He was, as Colin Dayan wrote, “a transformative presence” (2012). As he himself reminded readers (on the back cover of Trouillot 1986), he also wrote songs.

In Memoriam Dr. Michel-Rolph Trouillot (1949-2012), Drexel Woodson and Brackette Williams
Caribbean Studies, 40 (1), enero-junio, 2012, pp. 153-162
Debilitating aneurysms in January 2002 brought Rolph’s multifaceted research projects to an abrupt halt. Although he remained mentally alert and curious about worldly affairs for most of the following decade, he could not complete his most ambitious project, “The West.” The project, ranging from the Renaissance to the present, intended to combine a trenchant critique of European colonialism and Euro-American capitalism with a thorough investigation of possibilities for cultural creativity and constructive political-economic development for peoples too often considered the objects of world history or marginal to its main crosscurrents. An untimely death halted the restless movement of Rolph’s mind, silenced his voice, and stilled his pen. Yet his life and career will stand as models for genuinely multidisciplinary social inquiry as well as politically engaged scholarship for generations to come. On behalf of a grateful discipline, we say mèsi anpil and farewell to Professor Trouillot, understanding why he insisted that “The most lasting product of . . . [my intellectual and political] choices is my first book, Ti dife boule sou istoua Ayiti, a history of the Haitian Revolution of 1791-1804” (Trouillot 1996).

Burning Questions: The Life and Work of Michel-Rolph Trouillot, 1949–2012, Yarimar Bonilla, 31 May 2013
Trouillot’s life and work make it difficult to peg him into a strict category. He was undeniably a “Haitian intellectual,” yet in many ways also an “American anthropologist” and a “public historian.” His writings and teachings will surely continue to influence generations of scholars to come. In 2011, he was awarded Frantz Fanon Lifetime Achievement Award by the Caribbean Philosophical Association in recognition of his academic legacy. The award seems fitting for someone who saw academic work as a vocation rather than as a career.

Remembering Trouillot, Colin Dayan, 18 July 2012
Michel-Rolph Trouillot died on July 5. I am still in shock. A transformative presence in multiple fields—anthropology (his main area), history, political economy, philosophy, and even literature—he redefined the meaning of scholarship. I remember his sustained assault on the celebrated uniqueness of Haiti; his hope long ago that the future of Haiti would be decided in the countryside; and the words, truer today than ever, describing Haiti as “the earliest testing ground for neo-colonialism.”

Michel-Rolph Trouillot: Une citadelle contre les silences de l’histoire, Josué Pr. Dahomey, 01 août 2012
L’œuvre anthropologique de Michel-Rolph Trouillot nous projette dans une traversée du miroir faisant advenir notre conscience de soi historique dans la clarté immédiate, néanmoins par la médiation d’un décryptage de maître.

Hommage de la CNHCU à Michel Rolph Trouillot, 18/07/2012
La Commission nationale haitienne de coopération avec l’UNESCO (CNHCU), qui a appris la mort de l’anthropologue et historien Michel Rolph Trouillot, dans la nuit du 4 au 5 juillet, à Chicago, se prépare à l’honorer. Cet éminent professeur et chercheur laisse derrière lui d’impressionnantes œuvres intellectuelles sur la réalité socio-historique haitienne qui interpellent fortement les consciences, selon la note de la CNHCU.

In Memoriam: Michel-Rolph Trouillot, American Anthropological Association, 16 July 2012
With savage slots and cultural authorities multiplying in our post-civil-rights-colorblind-deaf-to-nuance world, Trouillot’s Silencing the Past and Global Transformations will long offer us means to move beyond “North Atlantic Fictions.” Building on his diligent efforts, out there somewhere, we may yet find the means to get control of, as he put it, “our contemporary arrogance, which overplays the uniqueness of our times,” and “may blind us to the dimensions of what happened before we were born” (2003:29).
Note: Thank you to the American Anthropological Association for posting this, and thanks to AAA President Leith Mullings and Damon Dozier, Director of Public Affairs, for coordinating and publishing. This was collaboratively written, with special credit to Brackette Williams for orienting the theory and phrasings, and to Drexel Woodson for providing crucial information and edits.

A letter to my uncle, In Memoriam: Michel-Rolph Trouillot (1949 – 2012), Shasha, 13 July 2012. A moving personal tribute–with two of Trouillot’s songs!
Uncle where do I start? Is it by telling you that I can still hear your voice as you sing to the sound of your guitar? Or that my heart swells with pride when I think of how you lent your words to Tanbou Libète, Manno Charlemagne, Haiti and its children to make their voices louder?

Au revoir M. Trouillot!, Frantz Duval, 12 juillet 2012
En fait, ce n’est qu’à la mort du professeur Michel-Rolph Trouillot que plus d’un a découvert en lui l’auteur d’un des textes les plus forts et l’un des mieux écrits de toute cette série de pièces de résistance des années dures. . . . Anthropologue, historien, spécialiste des sciences sociales et auteur inspiré, le professeur Trouillot (1949-2012) nous laisse une belle œuvre et une moisson d’idées sur divers sujets.

À la mémoire de Michel Rolph Trouillot, 12 July 2012
Le bureau du Secrétaire d’État à l’alphabétisation a salué avec émotion et respect la mémoire du professeur et anthropologue haïtien, Michel Rolph Trouillot . . . Monsieur Trouillot était considéré comme une grande figure du monde intellectuel en Haïti. Il est l’auteur de plusieurs ouvrages et articles qui ont fait grand écho. Parmi ses œuvres, on retient surtout« ti dife boule sou listwa Dayiti », un best-seller, selon des critiques.

Michel-Rolph Trouillot, scholar of Caribbean history, 1949-2012, William Harms, 10 July 2012
Michel-Rolph Trouillot, a professor of anthropology at UChicago and a leading authority on the dynamics of power across cultural boundaries, died July 5. He was 62. . . . Yarimar Bonilla, PhD’08, a former student of Trouillot and an assistant professor of anthropology at Rutgers University, said, “It’s hard to know how to mark the passing of someone who has so thoroughly transformed your life through both word and deed. Rolph’s work is the gold-standard for me intellectually, but he was also a deep personal inspiration: bold, charismatic, unabashed, unapologetic, and fully engaged with life’s pleasures and ironies. He offered a model of an academic who never compromised on life, love or laughter. I don’t think this was coincidental to the power of his work. His writing does not just inform — it inspires and transforms. He always encouraged his students to find their ‘burning questions’ to follow their passions as this was what would truly sustain them and feed not just their careers but their souls.”

Anthro in the news 07/09/2012
Anthropologyworks featured a lead article from anthropologist Mark Schuller on Haiti, Too Soon for Carnival: Sweeping Haiti’s 400,000 Poor Back Under the Rug and links to news about Michel-Rolph Trouillot at the end.

The Headline I Wish We Were Reading: Anthropology Changed Everything, Jason Antrosio, 8 July 2012
The headline I wish we were reading is how the nation gathered to reflect on Trouillot’s work and legacy: Anthropology Changed Everything.

Le célèbre anthropologue et historien haïtien Michel-Rolph Trouillot est mort, 06 Juillet 2012
Michel-Rolph Trouillot « s’est toujours penché avec intelligence, passion et sensibilité sur les questions sociales haïtiennes et laisse derrière lui une œuvre qui constitue une référence incontournable pour toute réflexion sur les réalités haïtiennes et sur les sciences sociales en général », lit-on dans le communiqué de la Fondation Anne-Marie Morisset.

Michel-Rolph Trouillot destacado antropólogo haitiano, 8 Julio 2012
El Dr. Michel-Rolph Trouillot destacado antropólogo haitiano y Profesor de la Universidad de Chicago falleció el pasado 5 de Julio de 2012. En el 2011 el Dr. Trouillot recibió el premio “Frantz Fanon Lifetime Achievement” el cual es otorgado anualmente por la Asociación de Filósofos del Caribe a destacados intelectuales por su contribución a los estudios y al pensamiento caribeños. . . . Transformaciones Globales. La Antropología y el mundo moderno (2011) contiene “seis ensayos que hacen una lectura crítica de la antropología desde el análisis de su campo temático y sus principales objetos discursivos; los contenidos de los discursos universales creados en el Atlántico Norte y su despliegue en los países periféricos, sobre todo (pero no exclusivamente) en el Caribe; las características de la globalización neoliberal; el tratamiento antropológico del Estado en la modernidad y su adecuación en la era global; el papel de la cultura en la disciplina y la manera como los antropólogos han enfrentado su uso y movilización por actores no académicos; y los lugares creados por la intervención etnográfica, desde el trabajo de campo hasta las locaciones. Esta traducción tiene el propósito de estimular la lectura de uno de los pensadores más osados y originales de la antropología contemporánea”.

Dr. Michel-Rolph Trouillot & Haiti’s Gold Rush, 7 July 2012
The island from which Dr. Michel Rolph Trouillot came is busy being reconstructed. Everyone is figuring out ways to harvest fruit from all the trees that have yet to be planted. While all the super-sizing of Haiti continues without a break, while investors rush to scrape the gold mines clean, let us heed Dr. Trouillot’s words and remember not to silence the past. Let us use the ropes of the past to ring the bell of Haiti’s real future. . . . Rest in perfect peace, Dr. Trouillot. VoicesfromHaiti celebrates your immeasurable contributions to Haiti and the world. We send our sincere condolences to those who have only begun to feel the sting of your passing.

Passing of Esteemed Anthropologist Michel-Rolph Trouillot, 7 July 2012
CHICAGO, IL, USA (defend.ht) – The esteemed anthropologist, Michel-Rolph Trouillot is being mourned by the social science community after passing among family members in Chicago, Illinois, Thursday. Trouillot’s colleagues all over the world regard him as a brilliant anthropologist, a historian, and an inspiring thinker. For Haiti it is a loss for the historic intellectual community and the entire nation. . . . He was a recipient of the Frantz Fanon Lifetime Achievement Prize in 2011. This award is given annually by the Caribbean Philosophical Association in recognition of up to three works in or of special interest to Caribbean thought.

Vibrant hommage de l’Université d’Etat à l’intellectuel Michel-Rolph Trouillot, décédé aux Etats-Unis, 6 juillet 2012
Le rectorat de l’Université d’Etat d’Haïti a exprimé vendredi sa consternation devant la disparition de l’anthropologue et historien de renommée internationale, Michel-Rolph Trouillot, dont il a salué l’énorme contribution au renouvellement des sciences sociales en Haïti. . . . Enfin, soulignant que certains ont « trouvé en lui de nouvelles raisons de croire en la perfectibilité de l’humain et en la régénération d’Haïti », le rectorat a présenté ses sympathies à la famille du disparu, particulièrement à son frère Lyonel Trouillot, l’un des principaux écrivains haïtiens d’aujourd’hui. L’historien Pierre Buteau a également rendu un vibrant hommage à Michel-Rolph Trouillot pour son œuvre considérable et son effort de renouvellement du discours haïtien dans le domaine des sciences sociales et de l’histoire des idées.

Michel-Rolph Trouillot: Power and the Production of History, Zinn Education Project, 6 July 2012
Haitian scholar, professor, and writer Michel-Rolph Trouillot passed away in the early hours of July 5, 2012 at his residence in Chicago. . . . In his memory, we share an excerpt from the preface to Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History: “I grew up in a family where history sat at the dinner table. All his life my father engaged in a number of parallel professional activities, none of which defined him, but most of which were steeped in his love of history.”

Michel-Rolph TrouillotMichel-Rolph Trouillot, 26 novembre 1949 – 5 juillet 2012
Pour marquer le départ d’un grand homme, d’un penseur qui a marqué notre temps et notre monde; pour exprimer notre peine, pour témoigner de l’impact d’une vie sur la notre, nous vous invitons à partager avec nous et avec le monde, des témoignages, des photos, des citations dans la langue de votre choix. Vous pouvez utiliser l’espace des commentaires ou nous envoyer des mails à nadeve.regine@gmail.com pour que nous les ajoutions.

In memoriam: Michel-Rolph Trouillot, John R. Roby, 6 July 2012

Trouillot was known as a scholar of the history of Caribbean people, particularly their emergence from enslavement and the trials they have been subjected to in the process of integration into the increasingly global economy, and of the relationship between power and history. . . . I vividly remember my PhD adviser handing me a copy of his Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History, and how I read it in a clip. The words seemed to burn off the page. It remains, to me, the single most influential book I have read about the way history is produced. . . . Trouillot’s concern in that book is to understand why some narratives of history become more accepted, more canonical, than others. Every account enters the historical record with some of its constituent parts missing: “Silences,” as he calls them, are not oversights of historical archives, but are constitutive of them, due to unequal power among the assemblers and subjects of those archives. When “facts” of history are created, so are silences–the things that are left out, disregarded, minimized. When you consider a historical account, you must recognize it is not an objective assemblage of things that happened, but an account that is shot though with power, and one that has many, many stories behind the story.

Reflection on the Revolution(s) in Haiti – In memory of Michel-Rolph Trouillot, esmat, 6 July 2012
Trouillot’s consideration of how the Haitian revolution was silenced in its present moment (and beyond of course, “ghosts that are best left undisturbed”) by Western recorders compels me to reflect on our own present moment. It is apparent that if you surrender to the historical unconsciousness that dominates our present society’s sense of itself (i.e. “American Exceptionalism”) you are absolved from resisting the present; empty, homogenous time renders resistance futile. In the consciousness of the ‘mainstream’, Occupy Wall Street is a ‘lost cause.’ Nonetheless, other narratives are written and published on blogs, on Twitter, and by independent presses, including this narrative here. The rebellion continues because there is no mystical power that consolidates and erases with totality, and certainly no cabal or conspiracy (though, undoubtedly, an oligarchy), but there is human agency and hope. Trouillot’s book is a powerful indictment of history, but one must not forget the potentially subversive power of history as well. In his narration of the San Domingo Revolution, The Black Jacobins, C.L.R. James did not just write an exquisite history (despite its silences) of Toussaint L’Overture’s struggle, of the Caribbean, of modernity and transnationalism, but also a call for global revolution.

From the Haiti Press Network, Décès de l’éminent intellectuel et universitaire: Michel-Rolph Trouillot:

L’intellectuel, universitaire et parolier haïtien Michel-Rolph Trouillot est décédé dans la nuit du 4 au 5 juillet dans sa résidence à Chicago, a appris HPN de sa sœur, l’écrivaine et poète Evelyne Trouillot. Ce brillant intellectuel et universitaire «s’est toujours penché avec intelligence, passion et sensibilité sur les questions sociales haïtiennes et qui laisse derrière lui une œuvre qui constitue une référence incontournable pour toute réflexion sur les réalités haïtiennes et sur les sciences sociales en général», peut-on lire dans une note de la famille.

Esteemed Haitian Anthropologist Michel-Rolph Trouillot (1949-2012) has passed away, Lisa Paravisini-Gebert, 6 July 2012
Haitian intellectual, professor and writer Michel-Rolph Trouillot passed away in the early hours of July 5th at his residence in Chicago, Haiti Press Network has learned from his sister, writer and poet Evelyne Trouillot. Here is a translation of their report. This brilliant intellectual and academic, HPN reports from a family communication, “always looked with intelligence, passion and sensitivity on Haiti’s social issues and leaves behind a body of work that is an indispensable reference for any discussion of Haitian realities and the social sciences in general.”

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  • [...] Contact « Anthropology Book Update – July 2012 In Memoriam, Michel-Rolph Trouillot, 1949-2012 » [...]

  • [...] some of the anthropological inspirations for Living Anthropologically–Tim Ingold and Michel-Rolph Trouillot–or includes a two-page discussion of Anna Tsing’s Friction: An Ethnography of Global [...]

  • [...] Contact « In Memoriam, Michel-Rolph Trouillot, 1949-2012 [...]

  • [...] In Memoriam, Michel-Rolph Trouillot, 1949-2012 | Anthropology Report on July 7, 2012 at 12:57 pm   [...]

  • [...] Trouillot passed away on 5 July 2012. It’s been gratifying to see over 3000 views for the In Memoriam, Michel-Rolph Trouillot page and connect with new and old friends. But there has been a dearth of English-language [...]

  • [...] passed away a few days ago on July 5, 2012.  Anthropology Report, edited by Jason Antrosio, has a page dedicated to tributes, memorials, and news about his passing.  Another page on the site has a nice bibliography of Trouillot’s work.  Antrosio has [...]

  • [...] many important books about Haiti as well as other publications. For more information, see posts at Anthropology Report and Savage [...]

  • By Whiteness is a project, not a skin tone on July 22, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    [...] Trouillot stressed this theme in his graduate seminars and writings: power and how power is projected must be understood as a process, not as a thing, place, or entity. Seeing power as process means understanding history, contingency, and uncertainty, which means unpacking the monolithic reification that power attempts to project and claims to be. However, this does not make the process unreal or illusory. [Note: This post was written just before Trouillot passed away in July 2012--see In Memoriam, Michel-Rolph Trouillot, 1949-2012.] [...]

  • By The Bongobongo and Open Access on August 1, 2012 at 3:06 am

    [...] in the welcoming committee. –Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Global Transformations (2003:137) [see In Memoriam, Michel-Rolph Trouillot, 1949-2012 for reflections on the brilliant anthropologist who inspires so much of this [...]

  • By Mega web roundup | Somatosphere on August 16, 2012 at 1:31 am

    [...] “In Memoriam, Michel-Rolph Trouillot, 1949-2012” by Anthropology Report [...]

  • [...] Michel-Rolph Trouillot was at the lecture, and had also been examining how the Caribbean could never be neatly categorized into what he called “gatekeeping concepts”–framing devices which limit the range of investigation because they are assumed to be salient throughout the region, locking people in that region into a timeless category: “anthropologists often blocked the full investigation of that complexity by posting ‘gatekeeping concepts’: hierarchy in India, honor-and-shame in the Mediterranean, etc., a maneuver that, in my view, reflected as well the West’s ranking of certain Others” (The Caribbean Region: An Open Frontier in Anthropological Theory 1992:22; Trouillot also mentioned rebellion-and-resistance in the Andes as a gatekeeping concept). As he would later put it in “Adieu Culture”: “There is no reason today to enclose any segment of the world population within a single bounded and integrated culture, except for political quarantine” (Global Transformations 2003:116; see In Memoriam, Michel-Rolph Trouillot, 1949-2012). [...]

  • [...] how those patterns are produced, rejected or acquired. (Global Transformations, 2003:115-116; see In Memoriam, Michel-Rolph Trouillot, 1949-2012) Tagged with: anthropology branding • cultural relativism • culture • education [...]

  • By Loving Anthropology and Living Anthropologically on August 30, 2012 at 1:18 am

    [...] I found anthropology because of the questions it asks, and I appreciate how anthropologists listen and study with people, but what keeps me hopeful and loving anthropology is the empirical documentation of human possibility. This is not simply neutral documentation but a counterpoint to dominant narratives, what Michel-Rolph Trouillot terms anthropology’s “moral optimism.” In an age when neoliberal market discipline has become a religion, at a time when versions of determinism have been gaining ground: We owe it to ourselves and to our interlocutors to say loudly that we have seen alternative visions of humankind–indeed more than any academic discipline–and that we know that this one [neoliberal capitalism] may not be the most respectful of the planet we share, nor indeed the most accurate nor the most practical. We also owe it to ourselves to say that it is not the most beautiful or the most optimistic. (2003:139, in Global Transformations; see In Memoriam, Michel-Rolph Trouillot, 1949-2012) [...]

  • [...] part of Trouillot’s analysis, see below, but this is something that did change, remembering Trouillot’s passing in July. This time I also noted from Matthew Restall’s book, Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest, [...]

  • [...] I copy below the people and papers on the panel, with links to some of their latest books or other activities at the AAA 2012 meetings. I will hope to take notes and provide brief summaries following the panel. It’s an impressive testament to Mintz’s work as a scholar and educator. And as we assemble, feeling also the loss of Michel-Rolph Trouillot. [...]

  • [...] trying to remember exactly how my late mentor Michel-Rolph Trouillot put it–it was something to the effect of trying to change our why questions into how does [...]

  • [...] At the time I was certainly drawing on critiques of capitalism which stressed a need to move beyond criticisms that essentially reproduced ideas of capitalist invincibility. My main sources for this re-thinking have been Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s Global Transformations: Anthropology and the Modern World and Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing’s Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection. Both these books speak of capitalism’s destructive record–but they also speak of new imaginations and desires, of potential and possibility within and alongside capitalism. [Sadly, Trouillot passed away July 2012. See In Memoriam, Michel-Rolph Trouillot, 1949-2012] [...]

  • [...] a special issue call for papers from the Journal of Haitian Studies. For more on Trouillot see In Memoriam, Michel-Rolph Trouillot, 1949-2012 and links to Trouillot [...]

  • [...] or postmodernism or Writing Culture. If anything, mentors like Sidney Mintz and the late Michel-Rolph Trouillot were as likely as anyone to inveigh against political correctness and [...]

  • [...] back to fall 1993 classes with Gillian Feeley-Harnik, Emily Martin, Sidney W. Mintz, and Michel-Rolph Trouillot, and really believing that anthropology and academia had definitively changed. Of course not all [...]

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