Patrick Sylvain

Assistant Professor

Professor Sylvain, is a Haitian-American poet, writer, social and literary critic, and photographer who has published widely on Haiti and Haitian diaspora culture, politics, language, and religion. He is the author of several poetry books in English and Haitian, and his poems have been nominated for the prestigious Pushcart Prize. He is published in several anthologies, academic journals, books, magazines and reviews including: African American Review, Agni, American Poetry Review, Callaloo, Chicago Quarterly Review, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, Transition, and The Caribbean Writer. His poetry chapbook, Underworlds, was published by Central Square Press in 2018, and he was a featured poet on Benjamin Boone's Poetry and Jazz CD The Poets are Gathering (Oct 2020). His most recent bilingual poetry collection, Unfinished Dreams /Rèv San Bout, will be published by JEBCA Editions in April 2023. Dr. Sylvain is the lead author of the recently released Education Across Borders: Immigration, Race, and Identity in the Classroom published by Beacon Press (February 22, 2022), and has received several awards, among them the Harvard University Derek Bok Center Award for Teaching Excellence.

Dr. Sylvain's main research interest centers on colonial, decolonial and postcolonial subjects in North America and the Caribbean, with a particular focus on the disciplines of literature, political anthropology and religion. In his scholarship, Dr. Sylvain has engaged topics/fields relating to metaphor, political discourse, structural violence, literary criticism, colonial/decolonial/postcolonial theories, critical political theory, political anthropology, critical race theory, diasporic studies, poetry and philosophy, island and zombie theories, critical pedagogies and the politics of language, as well as second language acquisition. As a literary scholar, Dr. Sylvain's penchant is toward global and transnational literature.


  • PhD, Brandeis University (English)
  • MFA, Boston University (Poetry)
  • Ed.M, Harvard University (Language & Literacy)
  • BA, University of Massachusetts-Boston (Political Science and Social Psychology)

Area of Expertise

Global and Transnational Literature; Postcolonial and Decolonial Theories; Caribbean, African-American and Francophone Literature; Critical Race Theory; Zombie Theory; Island Theory; African Diasporic Religions; Haitian History and Revolution; Literacy Studies; Film Theory; Poetry and Philosophy; Poetics; Contemporary Poetry; Political Anthropology


  • Intro to 21st-Century Global Fiction
  • Human Rights and Global Literature
  • Leading With Letters
  • Gender & Power Dynamics in Caribbean Women Literature
  • Boston: Memory, Beauty, & Noir

Research/Special Projects

My current book project, "Haiti and Being: Vodoun, Zombies and the Plantation Continuum," examines Black beingness through metaphoric signification of the zombie figure of Haitian Vodoun. While literary studies of the zombie have understood the figure as the ultimate metaphor of non-being and the liminal threshold between life and death, the decolonizing potential of the Zombie figure, especially within the tradition of Haitian Vodoun, is not well explored. Drawing on Black Atlantic studies, postcolonial and decolonial theories, Black feminist theory, phenomenology and dialectical materialism, I read the Western amalgamation of the Haitian peasantry as a collective of primitives through metaphors of the "demonic" zombie alongside the resistance works of critical Haitian and non-Haitian writers and filmmakers.

My second academic book project, "Haiti: Scorched Pearl of the Antilles," will interrogate—through historical, anthropological, literary, and political approaches—how administrative ineptitude of the political class in relationship to neo-colonial control of the territory has created the abjectness of the Haitian population. Specifically, this book explores the underdevelopment of Haiti in three epochal frames; first, as a former colonial territory; second, as a singular independent nation amongst colonial territories; and third, as a nation in constant quagmire at the hands of foreign military interventions.

Selected Publications

Peer Reviewed Articles

"Haiti's Structural Vulnerability at the Juncture of Ineptitude." JIOS.(Forthcoming, 2023)

"Dominican Racism and the Contestation of Citizenship." SAIS: Europe Journal of Global Affairs, July 2022

"Introduction to Josué Azor," Aperture. [Future Gender]. Winter 2017. 88-91

"Textual Pleasures and Violent Memories in Edwidge Danticat Farming of Bones." International Journal of Language and Literature. November 2014 (Vol. 2, No. 3), 1-19

"Blood in Hispaniola: Citizenship, Sovereignty and Exclusion." West African Research Association. Boston University, Spring Newsletter 2014: 8-9.

"Darwish's Essentialist Poetics in a State of Siege." Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge. Fall 2009 (VII): 137-150.

"Heterodoxical Haiti and Structural Violence." Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge. Summer 2007 (V): 331-340.

"Death & Apathy at the Crossroads." Calabash: A Journal of Caribbean Arts and Letters. Fall 2002: 142-52.

Book Chapters

"Neo-Plantation Realism in Edwidge Danticat's The Farming of Bones." In The Otherness Triangle: Haiti the Dominican Republic and the U.S. Eds. Henry Frank Carey, Karen Richman. (Forthcoming 2023)

"Haitian versus Creole: Politics of Language and Identity." In The Interrogating Gaze: Resistance, Transformation & Decolonizing Praxis. Editor, Jemadari Kamara. (Forthcoming 2023)

"The Macoutization of Haitian Politics." In Politics and Power in Haiti. Ed. Paul Sutton and Kate Quinn. New York: Palgrave McMillan, 2013. 65-89.

"The Violence of Executive Silence," The Idea of Haiti: Rethinking Crisis and Development. Ed. Millery Polyné. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2013. 87-109.

"Martelly's Election: Shades of Populism and Authoritarian Rule." In Tectonic Shifts: Haiti Since the Earthquake. Ed. Mark Schuller. Virginia: Kumarian Press, 2012. 204-208.

"Haiti: Malversive State and Teetering Nation" in Fixing Haiti: MINUSTAH and Beyond. Ed. Jorge Heine and Andrew Thompson. Japan: CIGI Press, 2011. 78-96.

"Gastronomical Metaphors: Their Sexual and Socio-Political Contexts in the Haitian Culture." In LATIN AMERICAN STUDIES: Critiques of Contemporary Cinema, Literatures, Politics and Revolution. Ed. David Gallagher. Paolo Alto, CA: Academica Press, 2011. 201-225.

"Adieu Miles and Goodbye Democracy." The Butterfly's Way: Voices from the Haitian Dyaspora in the United States. Ed. Edwidge Danticat. New York, NY: SOHO, 2001. 193-200.

Book Reviews

"Everything Inside," by Edwidge Danticat, Journal of Haitian Studies. Vol. 26, No 1, Spring ‘20. 147-151

"The Dear Remote Nearness of You," by Danielle Legros Georges, Journal of Haitian Studies. Vol. 25, No 2, Fall 2019. 301-305

"Haiti Glass," by Lenelle Moïse, Journal of Haitian Studies. Vol. 23, No 1, Spring 2017. 170-173

"A Review of Haiti: Trapped in the Outer Periphery," by Robert Fatton Jr., NWIG Review of Books 89-3 and 4, Issue No 2, 2015.

"A Review of Red and Black in Haiti: Radicalism, Conflict, and Political Change," 1934-1957, by Matthew J. Smith, Center for Strategic and Multicultural Studies Magazine, November 2014.

"A Review of Haiti: Trapped in the Outer Periphery," by Robert Fatton Jr., Journal of Haitian Studies. Fall/Winter 2014.

"A Review of Haiti After the Quake," by Paul Farmer, et al. ReVista, Spring 2012. 70-71.

Scholarly and Creative Works-in-Progress

Unfinished Dreams / Rèv San Bout. Poetry, bilingual. (JEBCA Editions), Forthcoming, April 2023

Education Across Borders: Immigration, Race, Identity in the Classroom. (Beacon Press) February 22, 2022

Framing Haitian Discursivity: Metaphors, Poetics, and Eros (Under Review, University Press of Florida).

Short Stories

"Yasmin's Collapsed World." Anchor Magazine, Issue 3 (Spring 2015). 28-29.

"Angeline's Fragments." The Caribbean Writer, Vol.25, (2011). 198-202.

"Solino." The Caribbean Writer, Vol. 25, (2011). 202-205. (Haitian version in Vol. 25, (2011). 518-525).

"Odette" in Haiti Noir. Ed. Edwidge Danticat. Akashic Press, 2011. 19-26.

Professional Affiliations & Memberships

  • James Baldwin's Legacy, founding member_2019
  • American Comparative Literature Association, 2010
  • American Studies Association, 2010
  • Caribbean Philosophical Association, 2019
  • Caribbean Studies Association, 2010
  • Haitian Studies Association, 1994
  • The Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States, 2017


Awards and Fellowships

  • Gilmore-Valenze Dissertation Prize, Brandeis University, 2020
  • PUSHCART NOMINATIONS: 2016, 2018, 2019
  • Evan Frankel Fellow, Brandeis University, 2019
  • Shirle Dorothy Robbins Creative Writing Prize Fellow, Brandeis University, 2016
  • Robert Pinsky Global Scholar, Senegal, Summer 2014
  • Fund for Teachers, Singapore, August 2007
  • Selected for The Best of Callaloo: A Special 25th Anniversary Issue, 2001
  • James Bryant Conant Fellow, Harvard University, 1996-1998
  • Grant for poetry from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Finalist, 1996

Teaching Awards

  • Teaching Excellence Award, Derek Bok Center Harvard University, Cambridge, MA: Spring 2013, Fall 2012, Spring 2011, Spring 2010, Fall 2007

Patrick Sylvain in the News

Professor Sheldon George, Professor Homi K. Bhabha, and Assistant Professor Patrick Sylvain

Professor Homi K. Bhabha Delivers 2024 Robert M. Gay Memorial Lecture

Professor Homi K. Bhabha, the Anne F. Rothenberg Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University, was this year’s featured speaker for the Robert M. Gay Memorial Lecture. In his conversation with Simmons faculty and students, Bhabha emphasized the importance of dialogue with people from different backgrounds and points of view on their terms.

A basic map of Haiti

Assistant Professor Patrick Sylvain Offers Insights into Crisis in Haiti

After armed groups overran Port-au-Prince, thereby displacing thousands of residents and hindering access to food, Haiti’s government declared a state of emergency on March 4, 2024. According to Sylvain, Haiti must cultivate strong leadership to overcome the current crisis.

Shout-outs from Students and Alums

Tessa Culhane ’24

Writing Speculative Fiction and Leading from Within

An interview with Tessa Culhane ’24 What are the most impactful things you have done over the last four years? In the last four years, I graduated from Cape Cod Community College with my Associate’s in Business Administration, and will...