Professor of Anthropology
Joined Connecticut College: 2001
Licence d'histoire de l'art et d'archéologie, Université la Sorbonne - Paris I
Licence d'ethnologie, Université Paris VII
Diplôme d'anthropologie historique de L'Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS)
Doctorat d'anthropologie de l'EHESS
• Migration and border reinforcement • Anthropology of gardens and landscape • Health inequalities • Areas of interest: Haiti, Sint Maarten, Guadeloupe, European overseas territories
Catherine Benoit’s research projects have developed in two directions. First, she explores the emergence and construction of individual and collective identities in the Caribbean in relation to the bodily experience of space and nature. Second, she examines immigration issues and border reinforcement in the Caribbean.
In her work on the experience of space and nature in the Caribbean, Benoit has been looking at how dooryard gardens define Creole worldviews and self. In her book Corps, jardins, mémoires - Anthropologie du corps et de l’espace à la Guadeloupe (Body, Gardens, Memory: Anthropology of the Body and Space in Guadeloupe) published in French, she argues that the garden constitutes one of the numerous shells of the body. Its organization and the way it is experienced define Creole world views, which are in no way assimilated into French culture as it was usually understood. She is pursuing this understanding of Creole cultures with a hermeneutic approach to the study of space and nature in the African diaspora in the Caribbean, South America, and the U.S. since the 16th century by looking at the emergence of gardens among enslaved African populations and their current development as heritage sites.
Benoit has been studying health inequalities in a Caribbean transnational immigration context and in Haiti. This interest in transnationalism emerged from her study of medical pluralism in the therapy management of immigrant patients living with AIDS or sickle-cell disease in the bi-national French/Dutch island of St. Martin and in Guadeloupe (AIDS being the primary transmitted disease and sickle-cell the primary genetic disease in the Caribbean). This research led her to investigate not only the patients’ healing strategies in St. Martin, Guadeloupe, and their country of origin such as Haiti, but also the nature of European geopolitics in the Caribbean region.
In March 2011, Benoit organized the first US edition of a research film festival titled "Culture, Diaspora, Citizenship in the African Diaspora," initiated since 2008 by The Slavery, Memory and Citizenship research network (The Harriet Tubman Institute/York University, CELAT/Université Laval, CIRESC/CNRS, LABHOI/Universidade Federal Fluminense).
Benoit has been a post-doctoral fellow at the African American Studies Department, University of California, Berkeley; Dumbarton Oaks, Harvard University; and at the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition, at Yale University. She is the recipient of grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the French Ministry of Culture, Agence nationale de recherche sur le Sida, Fondation pour la recherche médicale, and UNESCO.
Benoit's recent publications include:
- 2009 "La Caraïbe ou l'impensé de l'anthropologie française," in Anthropologie, hégémonies et périphéries, M. Daveluy & J.-L Dorais (eds), Montréal (Canada), Editions Liber: 25-42
- 2008 "St. Martin Change of Political Status: Inscribing Borders and Immigration Laws onto Geographical Space," New West Indian Guide, (82) 3/4: 211-235.
- 2007 Guest editor with Raymond Massé (Université de Laval) for a special issue of "Anthropology in Action": "The Location of Culture and Politics in Caribbeanist and Latin Americanist Medical Anthropology," 14 (3).
- 2007 "The Politics of Vodou: AIDS, Access to Health Care and the Use of Culture in Haiti," Anthropology in Action, (14) 3: 59-68.
- 2007 "Gardens in the African Diaspora: Forging a Creole Identity in the Caribbean and the US," in Gardens and Cultural Change: A Pan-American Perspective, Conan, M. and J. Quilter (eds), Dumbarton Oaks, Washington D.C & Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA: 29-46.
- 2007 "Silent Performances in Guadeloupean Dooryard Gardens or the Creolization of the Self and the Environment," in Performance and Appropriation: Profane Rituals in Gardens and Landscapes, M. Conan (ed.), Dumbarton Oaks, Washington D.C & Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA: 117-130.