Jean Price-Mars

Jean Price-Mars (1876 - 1969) was a Haitian writer. Born in Grande Rivière du Nord, Price-Mars obtained a degree in medicine and worked as a diplomat. Some of his most notable works are the book "Ainsi Parla l'Oncle" (1928), which was translated into English as "So spoke the Uncle", "La Vocation de l'Elite" (1919), "La République d'Haïti et la République Dominicaine" (1953), and "De Saint-Domingue à Haïti" (1957).

His writings championed the Negritude movement in Haiti, which "uncovered" and embraced the African roots of Haitian society. He defended vodou as an actual religion complete with "deities, a priesthood, a theology, and morality." He argued against the prevailing conceptualizations which rejected all non-white, non-Western elements of the cultures of the Americas. For this he contrasts the African embracement of a cultural identity imported from Africa through slavery, while the neighboring Dominican Republic prided itself for adapting the culture of Spain. For him, this attitude was mostly determined when he witnessed the active resistance to the 1915 to 1934 United States occupation of Haiti by the campesinos. He also witnessed the elite's abandonment of the tradition that had freed the country from colonial control, and attacked them for their "inability to promote the welfare of the Haitian masses". He questioned the conduct of the elites in relation to the Haitian masses, and denounced the economic exploitation to which these masses were subjected. He also comes to question their involvement with the political problems being experienced with the Dominican Republic.

He coined the term "collective Bovarism" to describe the elite in identifying themselves with elements of European ancestry while denouncing any ties to their African legacy. He arrived at this conclusion when he realized that the elite were composed almost exclusively by people of mixed blood, who embraced their "whiteness, while the rest of the majority shared much of the same features. His disdain for the elites spread beyond the racial purity of "Bovarism". It also spread to their economic and political influence implied by their status. He understood that their power base in the state system relied heavily on the taxation of crops. Thus he denounced the taxation of the chief export, coffee, grown by the campesinos who came to the country's defense when the elites abandoned it to protect their own interests.

He also attacked the elites' role in education of the country. The elite justified their position and control as those whose responsibility it was to civilize the masses. However for Price-Mars, to educate is to civilize. Therefore, he gives considerable attention to educational programs. He examined the "intellectual tools" available in Haiti and challenges the elite for their responsibility by virtue of their position and cultural formation in the western mold to promote such progress among the masses.

He ultimately came to embrace slavery as the source of the Haitian identity and culture. The culture and religion formed among the slaves which they used to rebel against the Europeans became the building blocks for a Haitian nation. Unfortunately, the elites, who had political and economic control began to pursue a policy of self-interest and racism that had the effect of "creating two nations within one nation". However, when the campesinos came to the Haitian defense against US occupation, it became clear where the heart of the nation truly lie. It was Jean Price-Mars who then championed the cause to embrace the African roots on which the country is founded and repel those who would try to suppress or denounce those integral parts of Haitian culture.

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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Price-Mars —   [pris mars], Jean, haitianischer Ethnologe, Schriftsteller und Politiker, * Grande Rivière du Nord (bei Cap Haïtien) 15. 10. 1876, ✝ Pétionville (bei Port au Prince) 1. 3. 1969; Studium der Medizin, Diplomat und Senator; Begründer des… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Price-Mars — (Jean) (1876 1970) médecin et écrivain haïtien. Dans Ainsi parla l oncle (1928), il demanda à ses compatriotes d approfondir leur origine africaine. Citons aussi Silhouettes de nègres et de négrophiles (1960) …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Price Mars, Jean — ▪ Haitian physician and diplomat born Oct. 15, 1876, Grande Rivière du Nord, Haiti died March 2, 1969, Port au Prince, Haiti       Haitian physician, public official, diplomat, ethnologist, and historian of his country s sociological and… …   Universalium

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