We’re delighted to announce our speaker this year is:
Michel Anne-Frederic DeGraff
Professor of Linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Director of the MIT-HAITI Initiative.
Michel DeGraff is Professor of linguistics at MIT, co-founder and co-director of the MIT-Haiti Initiative and founding member of Akademi Kreyòl Ayisyen. His research contributes to an egalitarian approach to Creole languages and their speakers, as in his native Haiti. His writings also engage intellectual history and critical race theory, especially the links between power-knowledge hierarchies and the (mis)representations and (mis-)uses of Creole languages, Indigenous languages and other non-colonial languages in the Global South and beyond. His work is anchored in a broader agenda for human rights and social justice, with Haiti as one spectacular case of a post-colony where the national language spoken by all (Haitian Creole) is systematically disenfranchised while the (former) colonial language (French) spoken by few is enlisted for élite closure and for political and geo-political domination. This devalorization of Kreyòl in Haiti and other non-colonial languages worldwide, especially in the Global South, is embedded in systematic patterns of hegemony and white supremacy where language and education are enlisted as tools for external and internal colonialism. Michel DeGraff tackles these political challenges as he unveils age-old myths about Creole languages in linguistics and as he engages the MIT-Haiti Initiative in a broad campaign for democratizing access to quality education and for the universal respect of human rights. Through the strategic use of Open Education Resources in Haitian Creole (Kreyòl), Platfòm MIT-Ayiti effectively sets up a model for other communities where language is often used as a pernicious tool for hegemony and exploitation, especially in the context of education and other spheres where knowledge and power are created and transmitted.
(Art Credit: A. Lagman 2022)