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Ethnographic Study of Stateless Haitians in the Bahamas

Bert LouisBert Louis, associate professor of anthropology and African studies, spent three weeks in New Providence, Bahamas studying statelessness. Louis was able to complete his study due to a Professional Scholarly and Development Award (PSDA) offered through the Office of Research and Engagement.

Statelessness affects an estimated 15 million people worldwide. A stateless individual, by international law, is one who is not considered a citizen in any country, also known as de jure statelessness. De facto statelessness refers to individuals who possess a nationality but that nationality is not the preferred one in the nation-state where they reside. The children of Haitian migrants in the Bahamas are considered to be de facto stateless. Without citizenship, stateless people do not have a country that they can call their own, lack access to basic political and social rights–such as the right to vote, marry, travel and own property, and may also be denied access to employment, educational services, and health care.

As part of the research project, Louis worked with Rights Bahamas and Rise Bahamas, Bahamian non-governmental organizations, to learn more about citizenship, human rights, statelessness, globalization, race, and racism. The PSDA allowed him to work with Bahamian NGOs in order to carry out the first stage of his multi-year project providing relevant first-hand, field-based experience that will enhance his study, particularly regarding courses and outreach activities related to the Department of Anthropology’s research on Disasters, Displacement and Human Rights. Louis’s research will also make a methodological contribution on conducting multi-sited, longitudinal ethnographic research on de facto statelessness that can be employed and modified by other ethnographers as well as work on human rights, citizenship, globalization, and race and racism in the Caribbean. Data from this project will be used to generate the information needed to develop proposals for external funding.

Learn more about ORE’s Professional Scholarly and Development Awards.