“Just to Stay Alive”: HIV Positive Haitian Refugees and Living Death at Guantánamo by Naomi Paik

as part of the New Faculty Colloquium

Tue, November 29, 2011 | GEB 4.214

3:30 PM - 6:00 PM

“Just to Stay Alive”: HIV Positive Haitian Refugees and Living Death at Guantánamo

 This talk is a legal and cultural analysis of Haitian Centers Council v. Sale, a federal lawsuit brought against the U.S. state on behalf of nearly 300 HIV positive Haitian refugees imprisoned in a U.S.-operated refugee camp at Guantánamo Bay from 1991-1994.  While situating this camp in histories of U.S. imperialism in the Caribbean, racial discourses linking Haitians and AIDS, and U.S. exclusion of Haitian refugees, it centers its analysis on a cultural reading of the legal archive of refugee testimonies.  By reading these forms of evidence—like affidavits, depositions, and personal letters—as both story-telling and truth-telling, I examine how the refugees grappled with their rightless condition, enduring a minimal existence in a camp between life and death.


A. Naomi Paik is Assistant Professor of American studies and Asian American studies at the University of Texas at Austin.  She earned her Ph.D. in American studies from Yale University and held the Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellowship in Asian American studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.  Her research and teaching interests include Asian American and comparative ethnic studies; U.S. imperialisms; social and cultural approaches to legal studies; transnational feminism; carceral spaces; and labor, race, and migration.Her manuscript, Rightlessness: Testimonies from the Camp in Narratives of U.S. Culture and Law, reads testimonial narratives of subjects rendered rightless by the U.S. state through their imprisonment in camps in a comparative study of Japanese American internees, HIV positive Haitian refugees detained at Guantánamo in the 1990s, and “enemy combatants” currently imprisoned at Guantánamo.

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