Prof. Michel DeGraff

Professor / Founder & Director, MIT Linguistics & Philosophy / MIT-Haiti Initiative

United States

Michel DeGraff, born in Haiti, is Professor of Linguistics at MIT, founder and director of the MIT-Haiti Initiative and one of the founding members of the Akademi Kreyòl Ayisyen (Haitian Creole Academy) in Haiti.

His research in linguistics has shown that Creole languages are structurally and developmentally on a par with non-Creole languages, notwithstanding age-old “Creole Exceptionalism” dogmas and practices that, in effect, treat Creole languages and their speakers as lesser. In DeGraff’s analyses, “Creole Exceptionalism” is a banal consequence of (neo-)colonial power/knowledge systems—similar to those that fuel broader currents of racism, sexism and classism in the Caribbean and beyond.

The MIT-Haiti Initiative has developed a productive framework for the use of Kreyòl, interactive pedagogy and educational technology as three essential tools for quality education, sustainable development, social justice and dignified citizenship for all in Haiti. This framework is a model for disenfranchised communities in neo-colonies throughout the world (some 40% of the world’s population) that still lack access to education in their home language.

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