HAR is pleased to announce one of the latest releases from BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology: an article, in French, on the contributions of Haitian writer René Depestre to Cuban anthropology.
Argyriadis, Kali, 2022. “Réné Depestre à Cuba: un ‘faire savoir’ anthropologique”, in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.
Haitian poet and novelist René Depestre (1926– ) is also known for his Marxist reflections on color, his critique of the concept of Négritude (Blackness) being considered a major contribution to Caribbean anthropological debates. In 1945, he was one of the founders of the newspaper La Ruche, which opposed the ruling elite associated with President Élie Lescot and eventually contributed to triggering the 1946 revolution in Haiti. Depestre lived in France, where he met numerous influential literary and political figures from diverse European, Latin American, Caribbean and African backgrounds but was eventually expelled from the country. He then began a journey that took him from Czechoslovakia to Chile, then to Brazil and back to France, before returning to Haiti in 1957. An opponent of the new regime of François Duvalier and a critic of his “noiriste” theories, Depestre moved to Cuba in March 1959 and lived there for almost twenty years. In addition to his literary production, he published numerous anthropological essays in Havana. Based on an interview with Depestre in 2015, this article analyses his writings and those of his contemporaries in the first two decades of the Revolución Cubana, while looking in detail at his contributions to the renewal of Cuban anthropology. By following Depestre’s views on topics such as decolonization and pan-Africanism, Argyriadis unveils both the political debates of the time and the turbulent transformations of anthropology in Cuba, a discipline that first highlighted the African element of Cuban national identity but later gave way to a Soviet-style rural ethnography. Depestre returned to France and worked at UNESCO. A key figure within a vast international network of visionary intellectuals and artists, he promoted dialogue between worlds separated by language, history or geopolitical affiliations. According to Argyriadis, this unique figure in the history of anthropology was “expelled from both sides of the Iron Curtain.”