NEH and MLA Recognize Associate Professor of Spanish Mariana Past

mariana past poses outside

Photo by Dan Loh.

With a fellowship grant and an honorable mention, national organizations highlight scholarly edition and translation work

Associate Professor of Spanish Mariana Past was recently honored by two national bodies—the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Modern Library Association—for published and forthcoming translation work.

The NEH granted Past a $55,000 fellowship, funding her upcoming project tackling the trilingual translation (English, Spanish, Kreyol) of Unbroken Nostalgia: An Annotated Translation of the Haitian-Cuban Poetry by Hilario Batista. The MLA presented Past and co-translator Benjamin Hebblethwaite, of the University of Florida, with a Lois Roth Award honorable mention for their English translation of Michael-Rolph Trouillot’s Stirring the Pot of Haitian History, published by Liverpool University Press.

Past first became familiar with Trouillot's work during graduate school, and she was surprised to learn that his first book had never been translated. So, back in 2012, she decided to bring the work to an English-speaking audience. In the process, she enlisted her Dana Research Assistant, Christopher Brokus '15 (anthropology, French & francophone studies), to contribute to the project.

“The unavailability in English of Trouillot’s earliest work has long represented a gap in both Haitian and Caribbean studies,” Past says, noting that she has the same goal for both of her translation projects. “My hope is that readers will come away with new insights about Haiti, Haitians, Vodou and the vibrant Kreyòl language, along with their fundamental contributions to New World culture and history.”

Like Stirring the Pot, Batista’s work explores race, color and class and issues of maintaining one’s culture, particularly through the Haitian lens. Past met the poet in 2018 at the Caribbean Studies Association conference in Havana and has taught his work at Dickinson. The translation of a collection of his poetry seemed like the perfect extension of her admiration of his work.

“I found his poetry collection in Kreyòl, and Spanish, compelling because it sheds needed light on the experience of Haitians who migrated to Cuba in the 20th century,” Past says, adding that the project, aided by Hannah Tomblin '25, another Dana Research Assistant, represents a new foray for her into digital humanities/open-access publishing. “Collectively, they have maintained their spiritual and linguistic traditions, resisting deeply entrenched patterns of discrimination and internalized racism.”


Published April 7, 2023