Vodou in Translation: A Roundtable on the English-Language Translation of Vodou (with Patrick Bellegarde-Smith, Kaiama Glover, Carolyn Shread, and Kate Ramsey)

Marlene Daut Discussion

Vodou in Translation: A Roundtable on the English-Language Translation of Vodou


Introduction: Haiti and Matters of Translation

By Siobhan Marie Meï and Nathan H. Dize

It is important to begin by thinking about why translation matters. While translations have always been integral to cultural systems— to the shaping of new ideologies, politics, and philosophies and as a historical form of resistance to cultural hegemony and processes of censorship— translations in Western literary traditions have historically been understood prescriptively, as projects and products largely defined as “linguistic transpositions;” literary recreations derived from an original, “authentic” source.[1] In the field of translation studies these perspectives have shifted greatly, particularly in the past fifty years, as translation is increasingly perceived as  “an ethical, political, and ideological activity, rather than as a mechanical linguistic exercise.”[2] In her 2006 article “Translation: Ethics, Ideology, Action,” Maria Tymoczko draws on the genealogy of translation studies to illustrate the ways in which major world historical events (such as WWII and the Cold War) coupled with the advent of descriptive, cultural, and postcolonial studies in the academy, have permanently shifted the ways in which translations are studied and perceived within cultural systems. Translations are no longer conceived of as merely the products of a transfer of meaning between two linguistic codes, but are now understood to be embedded in ideological and socio-cultural contexts and shaped by the agency, perspectives, and interpretations of translators and their publishing institutions. Thinking critically about translation as a process that is inherently shaped by ideological factors is important because it draws our attention to the story beyond the story— to the grammar of translator agency, to the ideologies that shape institutional exigencies, and to the narratives perpetuated about what the market supposedly demands.

In the context of translations of Haitian literatures into English, an attentiveness to the story of translation is key, particularly given that representations of Haiti in the global theatre remain, to use Gina Athena Ulysse’s phrasing, “rhetorically and symbolically incarcerated”— restricted by the persistence of stereotypes that simultaneously alienate and victimize the nation and its communities.[3] Michel-Rolph Trouillot attributes these stereotypes in part to the production of history itself, in which the social process of history is consistently privileged over narratives about that process. This privileging and subsequent establishment of “historical fact,” becomes possible “because theories of history rarely examine in detail the concrete production of specific narratives.”[4] Trouillot and Ulysse along with numerous other artists, scholars, musicians, educators, and writers have worked and are working to challenge stereotypes through the production and circulation of “specific narratives” of and about Haiti: Ulysse’s trilingual English-Kreyòl-French text, Why Haiti Needs New Narratives, traces her public engagement on the issue of representations of Haiti in the media, poet laureate of Boston, Danielle Legros Georges, has released multiple collections of poetry that negotiate her identity and life in Boston as a Haitian-American, and scholars such as Leslie G. Desmangles Kate Ramsey, Michel DeGraff, Elizabeth McAlister, and Millery Polyné have publicly attended to the problematic spelling of Vodou as “voodoo” in both popular and academic contexts.[5] These are but a few of the interventions that constitute a tradition of engagement with the public in an effort to challenge damaging and restrictive representations of Haiti in North American and European popular media.

On the surface it would seem as if the translation and circulation of Haitian literature, particularly fiction, poetry, and memoir, would be yet another avenue for disrupting received beliefs about Haiti and could serve as a productive mode of circulation for the kinds of “specific narratives” that Ulysse and Trouillot underline as essential to transforming representations of Haiti in the public domain. What’s more, there is evidently a market (albeit a small one) for Haitian literary translations, as the publication and re-publication of Haitian literature from French to English seems to have experienced an increase in the past twenty-five years.[6] Scholars such as Richard Watts have theorized that the increased demand for translated francophone literature emerges from the context of dying university national language programs and a need for these departments to expand their curricula to include not only more English language texts, but stories from a wider range of geographical spaces.[7] We might also add that the growth of the Haitian diaspora in North America, the (relatively) recent celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Haitian Revolution, and the devastation caused by natural events such as Hurricane Matthew and the 2010 earthquake and the subsequent political scandals involving the Clinton Foundation, have also contributed to the stirring of a renewed public awareness of Haiti in the United States––and not to mention the hateful comments towards Haiti and other nations of the African diaspora in the halls of the US government.

This background—the continuation of a visible and multifaceted tradition of challenging problematic representations Haiti on the part of scholars, artists, and educators coupled with an increased awareness of Haiti as a neighboring country and a diasporic community—is essential to keep in mind when considering the publication of translations of Haitian literature in the United States. Literary translators are typically quite sensitive to cultural stereotypes as their work involves not only an excellent understanding of source and target languages, but a familiarity with the source cultures and a willingness to carry out extensive research. The choice thus to perpetuate stereotypes in translated Haitian literatures reveals a collaborative and institutional effort on behalf of the translator, editor(s), and publishing house to maintain the status quo. And it is worth underlining that this is truly an effort—it is conscious and must be performed, crafted, and cultivated.

In response to critics who have referred to the wider Caribbean as translation, Charles Forsdick argues for a need to “Caribbeanize” translation itself, for a self-reflexive field of translation studies and translators who take into account the histories of conquest, colonial relation, and the power of terminology in the Caribbean region.[8] Other scholars have rightfully pointed to how the translation market replicates the “colonial relationship of writers trying to obtain recognition from the metropolis,” where the translation market is located in the colonial center and often in separate language traditions (Marie-José N’Zengou-Tayo and Elizabeth Wilson 75-76).[9] This draws us to the subject of the roundtable below; the translation of Vodou in Haitian literature in the US publishing market, a site where the reading public must “think about Haitians as producers of culture rather than as mere receivers of aid.” After a brief introduction to the topic of translating Vodou as a religious and cultural matter, four scholars of Haitian literature, history and Vodou weigh in on two essential questions: why is Vodou consistently mistranslated in works in English and what is the role of the translator in this affair?


--Siobhan Marie Meï and Nathan H. Dize


Question (Meï and Dize):  The Library of Congress changed the subject heading from "voodooism" to Vodou in 2011, yet it would seem as if Anglophone media such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the BBC as well as some US University publishing houses still largely embrace "voodoo" as the accurate translation of the Haitian religion.As a diverse group of literary scholars, translators, historians, editors, and members of the Vodouisant community, could you comment individually on why the spelling of Vodou in English still seems up for debate in certain scholarly and particularly, literary circles? Is this simply a matter of (mis)translation?


Kaiama L. Glover

We can start with the three Is: inertia, indifference, and ignorance. Operating as an interlocking trio in ostensibly liberal or progressive US-American media outlets, the three Is reflect an overall low-stakes attitude toward Haiti. That is, a baseline and unmistakably racist presumption that getting it right – truly understanding Haiti's historical and cultural realities – doesn't much matter. Although the term "voodoo" has been challenged, and the religion it supposedly references carefully studied and theorized by scholars, the term persists for lack of outcry – or rather, for lack of outcry from folks who matter to the circulation numbers of the Times, WashPo, or the BBC. Let's be clear: "voodoo" is not the translation of "Vodou" into English; it is not simply the 'US American' spelling of Vodou. For Haitians fighting the stigma attached to the Wes Craven version of their spiritual practices, "voodoo" does not have "a nice ring to it," as translator Jeanine Herman insists. It represents a dangerous reification of the stereotypes that allow for the persistent inhumanity with which people in the US think, talk, write about, and treat Haitians. Inhumanity. Let's add that to my list of troubling "Is."


Kate Ramsey

In addressing the question of why “voodoo” persists in English-language publications despite longstanding and repeated calls from practitioners, scholars, and many others to change the reference to “Vodou,” I thought it might be useful to consider the reasons given by major U.S. news organization in recent years for not changing their influential style sheets. In 2012, a group of practitioners and scholars successfully petitioned the U.S. Library of Congress to change its primary Subject Heading for the religion from “Voodooism” to Vodou. We made the case that, a) as many have argued over the years, the term “voodoo” is pejorative; b) general usage in English has been shifting to Vodou; and c) Vodou is the name by which the Haitian government officially recognized the religion in 2003 and that practitioners themselves use.[10] Prior to the Library of Congress’s decision in September 2012 to change its Subject Heading, the group also petitioned major news organizations, including the Associated Press, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal (among others) to change their stylebooks on the same grounds. While we did not receive a response from the editors of the Associated Press Stylebook, considered the most influential style and usage guide in journalism and beyond, the style editors at other newspapers did respond to our petition, in each case declining to shift from “voodoo” to Vodou in their usage guidelines. Paul Martin of The Wall Street Journal noted that their in-house stylebook featured this entry under “voodoo”: “‘The Anglicized voodoo is the default spelling. When the variations vodou, vodun or vodoun are used, lowercase or capitalized, an explanation like ‘the Creole spelling’ or ‘a French spelling’ of voodoo should be provided.’” He further noted that he would consider “tweaking” the entry but thought “a blanket switch to ‘Vodou’ would be unwise, for then a common term or improvised expression like ‘voodoo economics’ would become ‘Vodou economics.’”[11] In reply we noted that such expressions point to the longtime association of the term with fraudulence, spuriousness, and charlatanism and thus should be avoided. They themselves make the case for why references to the religion should follow the name that practitioners use, i.e. Vodou.

The disregard for the name that Vodouizan use in favor of term that they (and many others) consider derogatory is one of the most striking features of continued editorial resistance to changing style guides from “voodoo” to “Vodou.” On September 21, 2012, The New York Times “Public Editor’s Journal” featured a reader’s query about why the newspaper refers to “the Prophet Muhammad.” Philip B. Corbett, Associate Managing Editor for Standards, explained, “We try as much as possible to respect the terms and language used by religious groups,” a response that then-Public Editor Margaret Sullivan characterized as “reasonable.” Of course, the question then becomes why The Times persists in referring to Vodou by a name that practitioners and many others consider denigrating instead of respecting the terminological preference of Vodouizan. Several months prior to this blog exchange, Corbett had let our petitioning group know that after reviewing the materials we sent, consulting with colleagues at The Times, asking their research department to look at the style of other general-interest news organizations, and also discussing the request with his counterpart at the Associated Press, the newspaper did not at that time “plan to change to routinely using ‘Vodou’ or one of the other variations.” He noted that, “[o]ur overall goal in setting style guidelines for The Times is not to lead the way in pressing for a change in general usage. On the contrary, we try as much as possible to reflect settled, recognizable usage among educated readers.”[12]

Here, then, the deference was not to “the terms and language used by religious groups” themselves, but rather to the (presumed) majority of readers for whom “‘Vodou’ remains unfamiliar…and is likely to be distracting or confusing.” As evidence, he noted that “voodoo” was the primary spelling given in the dictionaries he consulted, and that most “general-interest American publications continue to use ‘voodoo.’” The one stylesheet change that The Times did decide to make was to “begin routinely capitalizing ‘Voodoo’ in references to the religious practice.” This seemed less a concession to our petition than a move towards a closer accordance with the AP Stylebook’s entry for “Voodoo,” which reads: “Capitalize when referring specifically to the religion, practiced primarily in Haiti and parts of Africa. Lowercase in other uses, especially when ascribing magical solutions to problems, as in voodoo economics.” Corbett concluded by promising to “reiterate the caution our stylebook already includes by noting that derogatory uses of the word can give needless offense.”[13]

If anything, however, the appearance of such denigrating uses in the pages of the New York Times has only increased since this correspondence in 2012, most particularly in Paul Krugman’s regular columns on the Op-Ed page, the titles of which regularly use “voodoo” references to deride Republican economic policies. Examples since 2015 include “Selective Voodoo” (1/13/15), “Dynamic Voodoo” (9/9/15), “Voodoo Never Dies” (10/2/15), “Varieties of Voodoo” (2/19/16), “Voodoo Gets Even Voodooier” (9/28/17), and “Voodoo Too: The GOP Addiction to Financial Deregulation” (11/26/17). Krugman’s titles and columns repeatedly demonstrate why The Times’ refusal to change its style from “voodoo” to Vodou is indefensible and untenable. A new nadir was reached in September 2015 when Krugman entitled his column on Donald Trump’s candidacy coming under challenge by the conservative Club for Growth “The Hair and the Houngans” (9/16/15). He explained: “And who is the Club for Growth? It’s the enforcer organization for voodoo economics, for the claim, utterly refuted by all available evidence, that tax cuts for the rich generate miraculous growth. (High priests in voudou [sic] are houngans, hence my headline).” In referencing “houngans” as the “high priests” of “voudou” Krugman made clear that his relentless pejorative references to “voodoo” over the years do assume a real-world practice, equated with pretended magic or sorcery and led by charlatans.[14]  Beyond journalistic ignorance and/or laziness, there is likely a profit motive operative in such choices. That is because “voodoo” sells, and imagined in these ways, has long done so. Such references become potentially more lucrative for news organizations in an era of “clickbait,” perhaps going some distance to explain Krugman’s attachment to “voodoo” headlines when castigating supply-side economics.


Carolyn Shread

This question strikes me as a good opportunity to continue work inspired by Loretta Ross’ feminist practice of calling in. After years of work as a human rights and reproductive justice activist, Ross has recently been sharing her wisdom and experience in trying to promote social and cultural change in a workshop entitled “Calling In the Calling Out Culture.” My first concern would be that rather than berating the media, publishing houses and wider public from an insiders’ perspective, we work together to think how we can spread the transformative view of Haitian history and culture that is represented by translating the Haitian Kreyòl term Vodou or French word Vaudou into an English Vodou, rather than the offensive voodoo. In shedding this one word with way too many os, we can move to a more respectful—and knowledgeable—understanding of Haiti in the English-speaking world.

Institutions such as the Library of Congress have an important role in marking the change that is symbolized by this corrected spelling and addition of capitalization that places Vodou on the same footing as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and every other world religion. The newspapers and media outlets listed in your question should know better than to continue to propagate a term they know is offensive. But it is also the role of writers, translators, scholars and practitioners of Vodou to use this re-spelling as an opportunity to call people in to a new and different understanding of the first Black Republic.

While infuriating and disheartening initially, this misspelling is, in this respect, a space of opportunity. Into the four fascinated holes of ignorance—oo oo—we can pour knowledge that displaces prejudices and shows them for what they are, conscious or not: an outdated, self-interested depreciation of a culture by the forces of empire and white supremacy.

However, we can only do so by explaining why Vodou is more accurate – that is, closer to its own, chosen self-definition rather than the distortion imposed from outside. A change of spelling that does not understand what is at stake in this misapprehension, that treats it as a minor typo, fails to appreciate how much history hangs on it, and is not enough.

In calling everyone in, we can show that spelling matters—but only if we take the time to explain why and to show how each individual has the power to make a change that rejects age-old stereotypes and moves towards respecting others.


Patrick Bellegarde-Smith

It is not a matter of mistranslation. It is willful. Perhaps these newspapers have not heard of the change established by the Library of Congress? It may be just that. The New York Times is the newspaper of record for the United States, and it has always been behind all nomenclature change, such as negro, then Negro, miss for ms. It is always late, the last man standing as it were. Yes, Americans are familiar with "voodoo," but they think Hollywood. They know nothing of

Vodou, a national religion in Benin and in Haiti, similar to what is practiced in Cuba, Brazil and elsewhere in the Americas. African religious systems have more than 100 million adherents, but no one seems to care. As more and more whites become adherents, this will change; Vodou will acquire respectability.


Question (Meï and Dize): Thinking in terms of ritual and practice, what is the role of translators in shifting, or perhaps complicating, an anglophone reading public's understanding of Vodou? Drawing from your own experiences how big of a factor is marketing and sales when it comes to making this significant translational decision?


Kaiama L. Glover

Quiet as it's kept, the United States suffers greatly from the burden of its "progress resistant culture," to borrow the contentious phrase used by NYT Op Ed columnist David Brooks to describe Haiti a mere two days after the 2010 earthquake. There are a number of fixed narratives US Americans tend to hold dear—about liberty, justice, and equality here and about inferiority, depravity, and impoverishment elsewhere. There are political and socio-cultural stakes to maintaining these narratives. As such, they are very hard to shake. But that doesn't mean we should stop trying.

When it comes to Haiti, many of us are pretty damn clear that we need new narratives. I see the translator as key player in this enterprise, literally tasked with the responsibility of rendering other cultures legible. As such, we translators have an ethical obligation—not to mention the extraordinary opportunity and privilege—to intervene in the domain of language, with all its attendant baggage. If we are genuinely committed to carrying meaning across linguistic borders, then we must be attentive to the social and political consequences of this process. We must not capitulate to the wrongheaded demands of capital and we must remain faithful to our task—the relentless pursuit of genuine understanding between peoples kept distant from one another by language. And to be frank, I don't think using "Vodou," unglossed and adamant, in the translation of Mars's novel in particular would have made the text opaque to Anglophone readers or in any way hurt book sales. I do think using "voodoo" to translate Haitian culture to an American audience is a deeply unethical choice and must be named as such.


Patrick Bellegarde-Smith

Ethnographers and ethnologists—as distinct perhaps from modern-day anthropologists— have described what they saw, but were unfamiliar with the metaphysics and philosophy that undergirded the religion: what is being portrayed, and "embodied" in the ritual itself. I have found it difficult to explain some "stuff" to a Western audience, hence my overuse in my texts of Haitian Kreyòl and French locutions.


Kate Ramsey

I defer to the colleagues who are themselves translators to assess the extent to which marketing and sales concerns are weighed in the decision to use “voodoo” rather than “Vodou” in Anglophone translations. I do think that translators have an important role to play in the process of revising the Anglophone reading public’s understanding of Vodou. When The New York Times demurred in changing “voodoo” to Vodou on the grounds that the latter term was unfamiliar to its readers, we pointed to documentation showing that, in fact, Anglophone usage has been shifting.[15] However, one could further argue that for readers who are still misinformed about the religion, confronting the terminological unfamiliarity of “Vodou” might be a salutary first step in recognizing the extent of their misconceptions. Dictionary entries represent another important front in this campaign, as numbers of these still give “voodoo” as the primary spelling. The Oxford English Dictionary was responsive to a request in 2013 to address the multiple problems with its entry on “voodoo,” drafted in 1920 and then apparently never revised, which defined this as “a form of religious witchcraft prevalent among Blacks in the West Indies, esp. Haiti, and the southern United States, and ultimately of African origin." However, as of December 2017 there is still no entry for “Vodou” in the OED and the definition of “voodoo” has been changed to, “A form of religion practised among black people in the West Indies, especially Haiti, and the southern United States, and ultimately of African origin. In the past frequently regarded as a form of witchcraft. Vodou is the preferred spelling among those studying the religion.” The online resource notes that the entry has not yet been revised for the OED Third Edition, which is in progress.


Carolyn Shread

“Voodoo” keeps coming back. Even when you think that the arguments have been made, that the critique is clear, the new guidelines and rationale for the spelling of Vodou are in place, bearing the seal of institutional endorsement, you’ll run up against yet another painful, shocking misuse of the term. Just recently, I ran across the disaster documentary Monsieur le Président (2014), directed by Victoria Campbell, which hinges its entire hook on “voodoo” in post-earthquake Haiti.

Whatever I might have said about calling in for my response to question one, I wouldn’t know where to begin in my objections to this film, which, whatever the misguided motivations, strikes me as a voyeuristic misuse of a camera during the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake. But the filmmaker says she started this way:  “Initially I wanted to just film the voodoo ceremonies. I had no intention of making a good Samaritan/earthquake PBS-type story. I wanted to make something experimental -on par with Maya Deren's Haitian "voodoo film work”. For the record, in Deren’s account, The Divine Horsemen: Living Gods of Haiti (1970), she doesn’t do “voodoo film work”: she describes “Voudoun”—capitalized and eschewing the stereotyped spelling.

Portraying Gaston Jean Edy as a hustler who brings medical resources to his devastated neighborhood and organizes its reconstruction, Campbell’s film is galvanized by the filmmaker’s fascination with his role as a “voodoo priest.” When, after three years of relentless work that helped 16,000 people in the Christ Roi neighborhood, the NGO he runs fails, all too predictably Gaston’s betrayal is explained in terms of his possession by “voodoo” spirits – with little reflection on what Campbell herself takes from him and his community in her documentary.

The filmmaker explains that she originally went to Haiti because “My dad called me up and said, “Go down to Haiti and translate for the docs and nurses. Go with your friend Abby who also studied French.” She repeats the story of this genesis frequently, never acknowledging that her French would be of only moderate use in a country that speaks Kreyòl. As someone who found myself interested in Haiti also through the conduit of the French language, I don’t want to be too harsh: there is at least a certain courage and voluntarism in her immediate response to the crisis and her willingness to lend a hand…but years later, despite her avowed interest in the religion, why is she still talking about “voodoo”? Why is this how she markets her film about an NGO? What is she drawing on in her insistence on this term and why, in the four years of making the film, did she not come to question this spelling, and perhaps then too, the access it affords to understanding the situation of Haiti in the world?

In the end, Campbell does not translate anything—and certainly not Vodou. This second question asks about marketing and sales, and I’m afraid that these interests must be the primary explanation for understanding why Victoria Campbell frames Haiti through a “voodoo” lens.




Desmangles, Leslie G. “Replacing the Term ‘Voodoo' with ‘Vodou': A Proposal.” Journal of

            Haitian Studies 18, no. 2 (Fall 2012): 26-27.


Forsdick, Charles. “Translation in the Caribbean, the Caribbean in Translation.” Small Axe 19 (3

            (48) November 2015): 147-162. doi: 10.1215/07990537-3341741.


N’Zengou-Tayo, Marie-José and Elizabeth Wilson. “Translators on a Tight Rope: The

            Challenges of Translating Edwidge Danticat’s Breath, Eyes, Memory and Patrick

            Chamoiseau’s Texaco.” TTR : traduction, terminologie, rédaction 13, no. 2 (2000) : 75–



Ramsey, Kate. “From ‘Voodooism’ to ‘Vodou’: Changing a US Library of Congress Subject

            Heading,” Journal of Haitian Studies 18, no. 2 (2012): 14–15.


Trouillot, Michel-Rolph. Silencing the Past: the Power and Production of History

Boston: Beacon Press, 1997.


Tymoczko, Maria. “Translation: Ethics, Ideology, Action.” The Massachusetts Review 47, no. 3

            (Fall 2016): 442-461.


Ulysse, Gina Athena. Why Haiti Needs New Narratives: a Post-Quake Chronicle, trans. Nadève

            Méanrd and Évelyne Trouillot. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2015.


Vadukul, Alex. “In an East Harlem Park, Valentine or Voodoo?” The New York Times, July 20.



Watts, Richard. Packaging Post/Coloniality: The Manufacture of Literary Identity in the

 Francophone World. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2005.  


Contributer Bios


Patrick Bellegarde-Smith is a Professor Emeritus of African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He has authored, edited and co-edited five books on these subjects, and a large number of articles, notably In The Shadows of Power: Dantes Bellegarde in Haitian Social ThoughtHaiti: The Breached Citadel, and Fragments of Bone: Neo-African Religions in the New World. Bellegarde-Smith is also an oungan asogwe, a priest of Vodou.


Kaiama L. Glover is Associate Professor of French and Africana Studies at Barnard College, Columbia University. She is the author of Haiti Unbound: A Spiralist Challenge to the Postcolonial Canon among other publications, prize-winning translator of three works of Haitian prose fiction, and founding co-editor of sx archipelagos: a small axe journal of digital practice. Her recently completed monograph “Disorderly Women: On Caribbean Community and the Ethics of Self-Regard” is currently under review.

Kate Ramsey is a faculty member in History at the University of Miami. She is the author of The Spirits and the Law: Vodou and Power in Haiti (Chicago, 2011), and co-editor of Transformative Visions: Works by Haitian Artists from the Permanent Collection (Lowe Art Museum, 2015). She is a Board Member of KOSANBA, the scholarly association for the study of Haitian Vodou.


Carolyn Shread is Lecturer of French at Mount Holyoke College and teaches translation at Smith College. Both scholar and translator, her articles address two principal areas of research: translating Marie Vieux-Chauvet’s Les Rapaces into English and French philosopher Catherine Malabou’s concept of plasticity. She collaborates with Haitian publishers LEGS ÉDITION and their journal Legs et littérature.


[1] Maria Tymoczko, “Translation: Ethics, Ideology, Action,”  The Massachusetts Review, vol. 47, no. 3 (Fall., 2016): 442-461.

[2] Ibid., 443.

[3] Gina Athena Ulysse, Why Haiti Needs New Narratives: a Post-Quake Chronicle, trans Nadève Méanrd and Évelyne Trouillot (Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2015), 21.

[4] Trouillot, Michel-Rolph, Silencing the Past: the Power and Production of History

(Boston: Beacon Press, 1997), 22.

[5] See: Leslie G. Desmangles, "Replacing the Term ‘Voodoo' with ‘Vodou': A Proposal,” Journal of Haitian Studies 18, no. 2 (Fall 2012): 26-27 and Kate Ramsey, “From ‘Voodooism’ to ‘Vodou’: Changing a US Library of Congress Subject Heading,” Journal of Haitian Studies, vol. 18, no. 2 (2012), 14–15.

[6] This is based on Siobhan Mei’s research while preparing the bibliography for one of her research areas on paratextual practice in the translation of francophone Caribbean literatures and is complemented by the conclusions of scholars such as Richard Watts. It should also be stated that the market for literary translation in the United States is still very small; roughly 3% of all books published in the United States are works in translation.

[7]See Richard Watts, “Epilogue: Reading and Teaching Francophone Literatures in Translation,” Packaging Post/Coloniality: The Manufacture of Literary Identity in the Francophone World (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2005), 159-174.

[8] Charles Forsdick, “Translation in the Caribbean, the Caribbean in Translation,” Small Axe 19 (3 (48), November 1 2015): 148, doi: 10.1215/07990537-3341741

[9] Marie-José N’Zengou-Tayo, Elizabeth Wilson, “Translators on a Tight Rope: The Challenges of Translating Edwidge Danticat’s Breath, Eyes, Memory and Patrick Chamoiseau’s Texaco,” TTR : traduction, terminologie, rédaction 13, no. 2 (2000) : 75–76.

[10] The signatories were: M. Jacqui Alexander, Andrew Apter, Rachel Beauvoir-Dominique, Patrick Bellegarde-Smith, LeGrace Benson, Donald J. Cosentino, Colin Dayan, Lauren Derby, Leslie G. Desmangles, Laurent Dubois, Gerdès Fleurant, Benjamin Hebblethwaite, Yanique Hume, Laënnec Hurbon, KOSANBA: The Scholarly Association for the Study of Haitian Vodou, Michael Largey, Elizabeth McAlister, Claudine Michel, Alasdair Pettinger, Kate Ramsey, Terry Rey, Karen Richman, Mimi Sheller, Katherine Smith, Gina Athena Ulysse, and Lois Wilcken. For documentation of the materials submitted to the Library of Congress, see the Journal of Haitian Studies 18, no. 2, Special Issue on Vodou and Créolité (Fall 2012), pp. 14-33.

[11] Email communication with Paul Martin, Style Editor, The Wall Street Journal, July 18, 2012.

[12] Email communication with Philip B. Corbett, Associate Managing Editor for Standards, The New York Times, May 18, 2012.

[13] Email communication with Philip B. Corbett, Associate Managing Editor for Standards, The New York Times, May 18, 2012.

[14] The notions of “voodoo” that Krugman relies upon and reinforces in his columns were on display as well in a recent New York Times article that glossed apparent Vodou iconography on an East Harlem park’s wrought iron gate as evidence of “occult activity.” Alex Vadukul, “In an East Harlem Park, Valentine or Voodoo?” The New York Times, July 20. 2017.

[15] We submitted supporting documents recording uses of “Vodou” in a wide range of reference works, as well as in U.S. newspaper, magazine, wire service, and news website articles between 2007-2012 including: Charleston Gazette, Chicago Sun Times, Chicago Tribune, The Christian Science Monitor, Daily News, Miami Herald, The New York Times, San Jose Mercury News, Sun Sentinel (South Florida), The Times-Union (Albany, NY), The Village Voice, The Washington Post, Bloomberg Businessweek, The Economist, In These Times, National Geographic Magazine, The New Republic, Newsweek, The New Yorker, Associated Press, and The Huffington Post.


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Siobhan and I would like to acknowledge two errors made while editing this post. Footnote 3 should read Nadève "Ménard." Second, the follow-up question we pose to the participants should refer to 2011 instead of 2012 for the year that the LoC changed their subject heading from "voodooism" to "Vodou."

We apologize for these errors and they are our own as the editors of the series.

Thank you all for this rich dialogue: translation is indeed key, a part of the broader arsenal of changing narratives, rendering various pasts legible and futures possible. This dialogue is a great resource for helping us think through our practice as scholars of Haiti.