VOODOO, ZOMBIES, AND MERMAIDS: U.S. NEWSPAPER COVERAGE OF HAITI*

Authors


  • *

    I would like to thank my adviser, Garth Myers, at the University of Kansas for both inspiration and continual support throughout this study. Special thanks to the Department of Geography at the University of Kansas and Bryant Freeman, director of its Institute for Haitian Studies. I am also indebted to the helpful comments by my anonymous reviewers and to Tim Brock, who reminded me about Wyclef Jean and Shakira's “Hips Don't Lie” duet.

Abstract

ABSTRACT. Newspaper articles in the United States paint a picture of Haiti as a failed state, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. These articles place the blame of the country's problems entirely on Haiti itself, with little regard for the outside forces that also contributed to the country's present-day state. This study is a critical geopolitical analysis of Haitian representation in U.S. newspapers. I empirically examine a year's worth of articles from 2004 written in five major U.S. newspapers. From these articles I analyze both the words used to describe Haiti and the emerging media frames. Critical studies have shown that representation in the media can greatly impact the conventional wisdom surrounding a place and legitimize social inequalities. By understanding the images used to describe Haiti, I hope to develop a means of rethinking popular perceptions of the country. I argue that only then can the problems of Haiti be more effectively addressed and a new dialogue created, one that encompasses the entire story of this Caribbean country.

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