POUGHKEEPSIE, NY—Afro-Caribbean religion expert and Vassar alumna Elizabeth McAlister ’85 will deliver the lecture “Singing From the Rubble to the Telethon: Music, Religion, and the Haiti Quake” on Monday, September 27. Free and open to the public, the program will begin at 7:00pm in Sanders Classroom Spitzer Auditorium (room 212).
“My talk will look at the uses of music directly after the January 2010 Haiti earthquake, “ noted McAlister. “I will examine music made by Haitians, for Haitians, close to the epicenter, in the direct aftermath of the quake, as well as music made by Americans for Americans, in telethon performances far away in New York and Los Angeles, weeks after the event.”
“I plan to discuss how Haitians used music, and particularly religious music, self-reflexively, to orient themselves in time and space, as well as to construct a frame of meaning in which to understand and act in the devastated Haitian capital. In addition, I will examine how Wyclef Jean, himself both Haitian and American, played a mediating role through his music and served to orient the Haitian diaspora with his telethon performance, which used Rara music, a style distinctive only to Haiti.”
About Elizabeth McAlister
Elizabeth McAlister is an associate professor in the Religion Department and also teaches in African American Studies and American Studies at Wesleyan University. Her research focuses on Afro-Caribbean religions, Caribbean music, and race theory, with a focus on Haiti. She is author of Rara! Vodou, Power and Performance in Haiti and its Diaspora(University of California Press, 2002), which is an ethnography of a musical, religious, and political festival in Haiti. Her second book, Race, Nation, and Religion in the Americas (Oxford University Press, 2004), is a volume co-edited with Henry Goldschmidt, which theorizes race and religion as linked constructs. McAlister has produced three compilations of Afro-Haitian religious music: Rhythms of Rapture (Smithsonian Folkways), Angels in the Mirror (Ellipsis Arts), andRara, a CD that accompanies her first book. Her current research focuses on relationships and spatial and sonic imaginings shared by American and Haitian evangelicals. Her writing on religion and the Haiti earthquake appeared in and on Forbes, CNN, and Newsweek On Faith. She is currently a member of the Social Science Research Council working group on spirituality, political engagement, and public life.
This lecture is sponsored by the Anthropology Department; the Africana Studies, Environmental Studies, Latin American and Latino/a Studies, and Media Studies Programs; the Music and Religion Departments; and the Office of the Dean of Faculty at Vassar College.
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Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.