Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department

Humanities and Cultural Studies

Major Professor

Kersuze Simeon-Jones, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Reiter Bernd, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Alex Lenoble, Ph.D.


Boomerang effect, Linguistic hierarchization, Neo-colonial elitism, Symbolic Violence


Language is a very complex matter in Haiti. One of the most pressing issues related to language in Haiti is the aspect of violence. The violence that exists through linguistic means in Haiti today has for its basis the same mechanism that existed during the colonial era in Haiti. The same western concept of colonial social dualities, and unequal distribution of esteemed associates to African and European cultures are still at the forefront of linguistic violence. The only difference being that those ideas of colonial superiority, which informed those recurring acts of violence, are now self-imposed.

In Haiti, the nature and effects of linguistic violence are both unique and complex. Linguistic violence occurs within an array of mechanisms that blur the property of real violence between victims and perpetrators. The utilization of languages, as an instrument of violence, camouflaged class inequality, colorism, institutional corruption, and other aspects that dent the possibility of positive Haitian development and liberation.

Looking at the peculiarity of language in Haiti, this thesis argued two points. First, language is politicized, and language politics is an elitist instrument for power. Second, linguistic instrumentalization becomes violent, and linguistic violence occurs within three invisible mechanisms that sustain power for the elite sector of the population. Those mechanisms are the symbolic, the collective, and the structural aspects of language. These spurious properties of language allow classes, color complexion, and other means of discrimination to operate covertly.

It is within that framework of linguistic complexity and intersectionality that this thesis seeks to place language and violence in Haiti. By taking into account the historical context of language pluralism in Haiti, I argue that language, aside from its primary purpose of communication, has had and is still having damaging effects on Haitian society when it comes to the ulterior objectives and motives it has been used for since the start of colonial adventurism in Haiti by the ruling class.