Undergraduates in the Archives – Hebblethwaite 3
3What has been your best experience or greatest success?
Assistant Professor, Department of Languages, Literature & Culture – University of Florida
PI, The Vodou Archive
¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 The positive responses I received from publishers reinforced my sense that this project would be viable. In addition to this standard measure of academic success, the project itself was very successful as an intellectual and practical collaboration. The undergraduate collaborators worked vigorously and productively, helping to quickly advance the project. Vodou religion itself is a communal phenomenon. Likewise, I want the book and The Vodou Archive to express the unity of our collaboration as a means of ensuring accuracy through multiple voices and perspectives. Plus, as someone who was not raised within Vodou religion, I sensed that my scholarship on Haitian religion and its primary language, Haitian Creole, would benefit from extensive refereeing from a wide variety of informants: from oungan (priests), manbo (priestesses), bòkò (diviners), ounsi (initiates), scholars of all stripes, students in my classes, and the students directly involved in the project. As sharp intellectuals in their own right, these students participated in a triangular working methodology (my students, Vodou practitioners, and me) that helped ensure quality. They lent their talents to correcting, fashioning, and polishing the final product. The book and The Vodou Archive are the direct result of sharing texts and ideas through cooperative study, writing, and editing. As several students have native command of Haitian Creole, they were able to bring their deep knowledge and instincts of the language to the tasks I assigned them. Overall, it is the friendship and collegiality of working with people from all walks of life, and the experience of discovery, that has made, and continues to make, this project a great success for me. Writing and editing for academics is often a solitary activity. Working with undergraduate research assistants transformed the experience into a textual conversation about the nature and design of Vodou religion.