Russian philosopher and novelist, Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s 1864 Notes from the Underground (believed to be the first existentialist novel) confronts the human experience and practice of giving meaning to one’s life through an unnamed narrator, generally referred to as the Underground Man. Noted as the inspiration behind African American scholar and novelist Ralph Ellison’s 1952 Invisible Man, Ellison’s unnamed protagonist also confronts the meaning of his existence, but in a world that renders him socially invisible. Both characters embody the plight of “the every wo/man,” the faceless person who struggles to make sense of the chaos that surrounds her and reconcile the Self that emerges.

The Tenth Department

Haiti — the first Black republic to form out of a successful slave rebellion and the second independent nation state to construct itself in the Western Hemisphere — is divided into nine geographical departments. The tenth department, conceptualized by Haiti’s former President Bertrand Aristide, is an extra-territorial unit of the republic or simply, the Diaspora. Haitians in the Diaspora remain tied to the island and cultivate their ties vis-à-vis a transnational identity. Even for those who were born elsewhere and have never traveled to Haiti, they engage in diasporic citizenship through their own long distance nationalism.

Notes from the Tenth Department

NFTD is an archival space for articles written by Tania L. Balan-Gaubert. Tania’s work attempts to engage the human experience through the lens of Black identity, transnational diasporic citizenship and womanhood. She specifically addresses the intersections of race and racism, politics, history, popular culture and the arts as a means to make the topics therein more visible.

Tania is a Haitian American native of Chicago. She received her master’s degree in African American Studies from Columbia University and currently resides in Brooklyn.