Sandie Blaise Follows Haitian Diaspora

Second year graduate student Sandie Blaise is using her experiences with Haitian writers to guide her studies at Duke.

Blaise is a student in the Romance Studies department, focusing on French and Francophone studies.

“I decided to do my PhD here because Duke is among the best schools in the U.S. and has one of the strongest programs in Caribbean Studies, and more especially Haiti,” Blaise said. “I was eager to work with Professors Laurent Dubois and Deborah Jenson, among others. Also, with its emphasis on interdisciplinarity, I thought that Duke was the perfect fit for me.”

Prior to attending Duke, Blaise completed a master’s degree in comparative literary studies. She wrote her master’s thesis on Anglophone postcolonial literature, and now works on Francophone Caribbean literature and studies.

Although she is still taking classes, Blaise said she may focus her dissertation research on Haitian diasporic literature.

“For now, I think that my research is going to be about Haitian writers who left Haiti and now live in Canada, the United States and France, and the issues of migration and exile,” she said. “My topic is on literature, but it’s also on history. I’m interested in the Haitian revolution and how that had consequences later.”

Blaise discovered her interest in Haiti after seeing Haitian writer Edwige Dantiche speak at a conference at Pomona College. She then spent a year living in Montreal, where a large group of Haitian diaspora writers reside.

“I got specifically interested in the Francophone Caribbean and diaspora writers from Haiti after seeing Edwidge Danticat’s conference at Pomona College and spending one year in Quebec, where I got to read many prominent Haitian-Canadians who immigrated in the second part of the 20th century like Dany Laferrière, Marie-Célie Agnant, Gary Klang, Marie Vieux Chauvet,” Blaise said.

Last May, Blaise visited Haiti and traveled around the country for a few weeks. She spent the first part of her trip volunteering with teachers and students at a protestant mission school in the northern part of the country. She then spent a few days in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital city.

“It was a great experience,” she said. “I got to see how they lived in the countryside, and then I spent a few days in the capital city. I could see the role of French and Creole that was really relevant to my studies.”

Blaise added that she hopes to return to Haiti next summer.

In her spare time, Blaise enjoys playing tennis. She said she hopes to become a professor in the United States after graduating from Duke, and will likely specialize in Caribbean literature.