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Herbeck publishes in French on Haitian social interactions

headshot of Jason Herbeck
Jason Herbeck, Professor and Chair of World Languages, College of Arts and Sciences

Jason Herbeck, Department of World Languages chair and professor of French, published his article “Point de rencontres: Une étude de passages ‘infrahumains’ dans le Rond-point d’Évelyne Trouillot” (“Meeting Points: A Study of ‘Infrahuman’ Passages in The Rotary by Évelyne Trouillot”) in the journal Romance Notes.

Herbeck examines the literal and figurative significance of the eponymous rotary (or round-about) as a means of understanding the conversely precarious trajectory of social interactions in present-day Haiti.

On a fundamental level, rotaries are meant to ease gridlock by maintaining the flow of circulation and, in so doing, prevent the worst type of accidents – namely those that occur in head-on collisions. By illustrating how this civil engineering design resembles the dynamics of contemporary Haitian society, whereby members of different – and most often upper – social classes attempt to avoid interaction with one another, Herbeck then turns his attention to the unintended yet arguably inevitable impact of this individually and socially engineered segregation.

As demonstrated in The Rotary, the deliberate avoidance of class disparities in present-day Haiti leads to increased tension that renders the eventual points of contact of the country’s population considerably more dangerous when they take place. In this regard, Herbeck argues that, against the backdrop of Haiti’s current social and political upheaval, Trouillot’s novel visibly wavers in terms of the author’s characteristically optimistic stance with respect to the human condition, and that Trouillot is voicing the dire need to pay more careful attention to all those who contribute to a vital social fabric that is beginning to wear thin.