Georges Woke Up Laughing

Long-Distance Nationalism and the Search for Home

Georges Woke Up Laughing

American Encounters/Global Interactions

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Book Pages: 352 Illustrations: 30 b&w photos Published: November 2001

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Caribbean Studies, Sociology > Migration Studies

Combining history, autobiography, and ethnography, Georges Woke Up Laughing provides a portrait of the Haitian experience of migration to the United States that illuminates the phenomenon of long-distance nationalism, the voicelessness of certain citizens, and the impotency of government in an increasingly globalized world. By presenting lively ruminations on his life as a Haitian immigrant, Georges Eugene Fouron—along with Nina Glick Schiller, whose own family history stems from Poland and Russia—captures the daily struggles for survival that bind together those who emigrate and those who stay behind.
According to a long-standing myth, once emigrants leave their homelands—particularly if they emigrate to the United States—they sever old nationalistic ties, assimilate, and happily live the American dream. In fact, many migrants remain intimately and integrally tied to their ancestral homeland, sometimes even after they become legal citizens of another country. In Georges Woke Up Laughing the authors reveal the realities and dilemmas that underlie the efforts of long-distance nationalists to redefine citizenship, race, nationality, and political loyalty. Through discussions of the history and economics that link the United States with countries around the world, Glick Schiller and Fouron highlight the forces that shape emigrants’ experiences of government and citizenship and create a transborder citizenry. Arguing that governments of many countries today have almost no power to implement policies that will assist their citizens, the authors provide insights into the ongoing sociological, anthropological, and political effects of globalization.
Georges Woke up Laughing will entertain and inform those who are concerned about the rights of people and the power of their governments within the globalizing economy.

“In my dream I was young and in Haiti with my friends, laughing, joking, and having a wonderful time. I was walking down the main street of my hometown of Aux Cayes. The sun was shining, the streets were clean, and the port was bustling with ships. At first I was laughing because of the feeling of happiness that stayed with me, even after I woke up. I tried to explain my wonderful dream to my wife, Rolande. Then I laughed again but this time not from joy. I had been dreaming of a Haiti that never was.”—from Georges Woke Up Laughing


“Part biography, part autobiography, part conversation and dialogue between two good friends and academic colleagues, this is old-fashioned ethnography and good storytelling undergirded by strong doses of theorizing regarding home, nation, nation-state, nationalism, citizenship, immigration, diasporas, borders, transborders, transnationals, subalterns, and racism—all wrapped around a new paradigm called ‘long distance nationalism.’ . . . All levels and collections.” — E. Hu-DeHart , Choice

“Written to be accessible to those outside academia, this work lays out some of the key issues in transnational migrations, while at the same time offering an insightful analysis of globalization and its effects on notions of nation, race, and belonging.” — Virginia Quarterly Review

"Georges Woke Up Laughing provides a richly textured, compelling account of Haitian transnational migration. . . . This book makes a major contribution. . . . Like all good research, this study also raises many questions as well as answers. . . . We learn a great deal about how migrants and those who stay behind think about themselves, what they do about it, and how the state shapes these dynamics." — Peggy Levitt , American Journal of Sociology

"Georges Woke Up Laughing is a tour de force of contemporary ethnographic and anthropological practice." — Mike Evans , Journal of International Migration and Integration

"[A] fascinating read. . . . I . . . highly recommend this work to anyone working on or interested in immigrant/globalization/transnational/diaspora issues. For folklorists especially, this is a great example of how the use of ethnography and folklore can make a complicated topic so much more engaging." — A. Jade Alburo, Ethnologies

"[T]his fascinating study offers revealing insights into the world of Haitian Americans." — Lester P. Lee Jr., Journal of American Ethnic History

"[T]his powerful study is welcome and pathbreaking." — Laura A. Lewis , American Ethnologist

"Glick Schiller and Fouron provide inspired renderings of the complexities of the contemporary period and its historical antecedents. Their ethnographically rich accounts challenge those theorists who claim that states are becoming increasingly irrelevant in today's world. . . . [An] extremely nuanced account of the ways that both nationalist projects and transnational circulations are embodied and realized through race, class, and gender." — Deborah A. Thomas , Identities

“Nina Glick Schiller and Georges Eugene Fouron do a masterful job of describing the full spectrum of factors shaping the experience of migration, ranging from utopian dreams of the home country to the hard reality that some states are only apparent states. This is a work of inspired ethnographic research, stunning scholarship, and creative grace and energy.” — Karen McCarthy Brown, author of Mama Lola: A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Nina Glick Schiller is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of New Hampshire.

Georges Eugene Fouron is Associate Professor of Education at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

1. “At First I Was Laughing” 1

2. Long-Distance Nationalism Defined 17

3. Delivering the Commission: The Return of the Native 36

4. “Without Them, I Would Not Be Here”: Transnational Kinship 58

5. “The Blood Remains Haitian”: Race, Nation, and Belonging in the Transmigrant Experience 92

6. “She Tried to Reclaim Me”: Gendered Long-Distance Nationalism 130

7. The Generation of Identity: The Long-Distance Nationalism of the Second Generation 155

8. “The Responsible State”: Dialogues of a Transborder Citizenry 178

9. The Apparent State: Sovereignty and the State of U.S.-Haitian Relations 208

10. Long-Distance Nationalism as a Debate: Shared Symbols and Disparate Messages 238

11. The Other Side of the Two-Way Street: Long-Distance Nationalism as a Subaltern Agenda 258

Notes 275

Bibliography 298

Index 314
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2791-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2781-3
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