Gina Athena Ulysse is currently Professor of anthropology at Wesleyan University. She was born in Pétion-Ville, Haiti. In 2005, when she became a U.S. citizen, she gave herself the name Athena. She is the middle child of three sisters – who had migrated to the East Coast of the United States in their early teens. Her family has lived somewhere around there ever since.
She earned her Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. It was during the early years of her graduate career that Ulysse began to seriously actively perform in part to pursue a childhood dream of wanting to be a singer and to ground herself and allow her creative spirit to breathe through this restructuring process that threatened to desensitize her.
Spokenword became her chosen medium then. She deploys it to both explore and push the blurred border zones between ethnography and performance. She considers these works “alter(ed)native” forms of ethnography constructed out of what she calls “recycled ethnographic collectibles” (raw bits and pieces that seem too personal or trivial) through which she engages with the visceral that is embedded, yet too often absent, in structural analyses. Her ultimate aim with such works is to access/face and recreate a full and integrated subject without leaving the body behind. An interdisciplinary scholar-artist, Ulysse weaves history, statistics, personal narrative, theory, with Vodou chants to dramatize and address issues of social (in)justice, intersectional identities, spirituality and the dehumanization of Haitians and other marked bodies. With her performance work, she seeks to outline, confront and work through the continuities and discontinuities in the unprocessed
horror of colonialism. Or to put it another way, Ulysse explores the complex
ways the past functions in the present and is disavowed as both Michel-Rolph Trouillot and Sibylle Fischer have aptly put in Silencing the Past and Modernity Disavowed. In recent years, she has learned to release her attachment to narrative.
Her many projects include an avant-garde meditation, VooDooDoll What if Haïti were a Woman: On ti Travay sou 21 Pwen or An Alter(ed)native in Something Other than Fiction. (10), the first installation-performance from this work, which was curated by Lucian Gomoll, had its debut at Encuentro in Montreal in 2014. Her latest work, Contemplating Distances – explores the exchange value of black bodies in the Transatlantic slave trade and the 18th century grain shortage in Saint Domingue – was presented at the "Spaces, Scales, and Routes: Region Formation in History and Anthropology conference."
Gina Athena Ulysse
The Black Atlantic Lamp, 2004
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