aristide at home


Last May I went to see Jean-Bertrand Aristide at his big white house in the suburbs of Port-au-Prince. I’d been there in March, when the former president had been back home only a week, and the place had the feel of a set under construction: workmen in overalls among the mango trees, the smell of new paint, a sputtering tap in the office bathroom. Now the Aristides’ boxes had arrived from Pretoria, where the family spent most of their seven-year exile, and Aristide’s office was dominated by a piece of scientific equipment, positioned – conspicuously, I thought – near the visitors’ couch. Its gleaming monitor was set to ‘on’ and displayed several jagged graphs. A thicket of bright-coloured electrodes dangled from a rack. Aristide explained that it was an electroencephalogram (EEG) machine and that he used it for his research. He had a PhD in African languages from the University of South Africa – his dissertation posited a ‘psycho-theological’ kinship between Zulu and Haitian Creole – and he was continuing his linguistics research, he said, though now from a biological perspective.

more from Pooja Bhatia at the LRB here.