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The Idea of Haiti

Rethinking Crisis and Development

Millery Polyné

Publication Year: 2013

After Haiti was struck by a devastating earthquake on January 12, 2010, aid workers and offers of support poured in from around the world. Tellingly, though, news reports on the catastrophe and relief efforts frequently included a pejorative description of the country that outsiders were determined to rebuild: the troubled island nation, a nation plagued by political violence. There was much talk of inventing a “new” Haiti, which would presumably mimic Western modes of development and thus mitigate political instability and crisis.

As contributors to this wide-ranging book reveal, Haiti has long been marginalized as an embodiment of alterity, as the other, and the idea of a new Haiti is actually nothing new. An investigation of the notion of newness through the lenses of history and literature, urban planning, religion, and governance, The Idea of Haiti illuminates the politics and the narratives of Haiti’s past and present. The essays, which grow from original research and in-depth interviews, examine how race, class, and national development inform the policies that envision re-creating the country.

Together the contributors address important questions: How will the present narratives of deviance affect international relief and rebuilding efforts? What do Haitians themselves think about Haiti, old and new? What are the potential complications and weakness of aid strategies during these trying times? And what do we mean by crisis in Haiti?

Contributors: Yveline Alexis, Rutgers U; Wein Weibert Arthus, State U of Haiti; Greg Beckett, Bowdoin College; Alex Dupuy, Wesleyan U; Harley F. Etienne, U of Michigan; Robert Fatton Jr., U of Virginia; Sibylle Fischer, New York U; Elizabeth McAlister, Wesleyan U; Nick Nesbitt, Princeton U; Karen Richman, U of Notre Dame; Mark Schuller, York College (CUNY); Patrick Sylvain, Brown U; Évelyne Trouillot, State U of Haiti; Tatiana Wah, Columbia U.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xxxviii

I. Revolisyon/Kriz (Revolution/Crisis)

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1. Haiti, the Monstrous Anomaly

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pp. 3-26

The creation on January 1, 1804, of the first decolonized republic to havebanned slavery, universally and immediately, should rightfully haveshamed and terrified the neighboring Atlantic states, founded as they wereupon the economic system of plantation slavery. If Haiti was perceived after1804 by the slaveholding powers as a terrifying monstrosity, its revolutionand subsequent independence systematically and repeatedly ridiculed, belit-...

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2. Rethinking the Haitian Crisis

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pp. 27-50

Is it possible to speak of Haiti without speaking of crisis? After all, thecountry seems mired in crises: deep poverty, environmental degradation,weak political institutions, disasters, catastrophes. Even a cursory reading ofthe scholarly material shows widespread agreement that crisis is a normal—that is, regular and recurring—aspect of the country’s social, political, andeconomic institutions. For some, crisis is not just a regular feature of Haitian...

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3. Remembering Charlemagne Péralte and His Defense of Haiti’s Revolution

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pp. 51-66

The United States government illegally occupied the sovereign nation ofHaiti from 1915 to 1934. While U.S. presidents and marines promotedthis act as an intervention and a humanitarian gesture toward their neighbor,Haitian nationalists such as Charlemagne Péralte interpreted the U.S. pres-ence as a war of conquest. For Péralte, the idea of an occupied Haiti was anaffront to the nation’s sovereignty. Thus, in his efforts to protect the nation,...

II. Moun/Demounization (Person/Dehumanization)

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4. Haiti

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pp. 69-86

Coming home from work one day in 2006, I found my two-year-old sondrawing furiously on a pile of used office paper. “Look, Mami,” he said.Barely obscured by the childish squiggles, there was the grainy black-and-white photograph of a male corpse on a muddy road, sullied, naked, with nohead. There were other photos spread across the floor. I gathered the sheetsof paper and took them away, with my son looking at me uncomprehendingly....

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5. The Violence of Executive Silence

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pp. 87-110

Allan Stoekl’s contribution is crucial to the understanding of the Frenchintellectuals who contended with, supported, or collaborated withNazi Germany, then later agonizingly demonstrated their torments and con-tradictions through text during and after World War II. Stoekl’s text, Agoniesof the Intellectual is of importance to my work as a social critic because it dealswith the power of language and thought, especially the ways in which the...

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6. Religion at the Epicenter

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pp. 111-132

The earthquake of January 12, 2010, devastated Haiti’s Léogâne Plainand the capital at its eastern edge, breaking buildings and crushing bod-ies unable to dodge unearthly torrents of concrete blocks and cloudbursts ofwhite dust. Whereas an assessment of the material and biological impacts ofthe seismic tremors may be undertaken without prior personal familiaritywith the subjects of concern, understanding the effects of the earthquake...

III. Èd (Aid)

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7. The Alliance for Progress

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pp. 135-164

The earthquake of January 12, 2010, generated unprecedented interna-tional mobilization for Haiti. Three months after this disaster, 150countries and international organizations participated at the InternationalDonor’s Conference towards a New Future for Haiti, which took place atthe U.N. headquarters in New York. They pledged to grant Haiti assistance ofu0024.o5.3 billion in 18 months. However, more than a year later, Port-au-Prince was...

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8. Urban Planning and the Rebuilding of Port-au-Prince

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pp. 165-180

In the fall of 2011, a meeting of Haitian government officials, communityleaders, foreign diplomats, and representatives from the international non-governmental organization (INGO) community was held at a Pétionvillehotel. After one panel, several attendees came to the microphone to expresstheir anger about the extent to which Americans seemed to be leading thereconstruction efforts. They shouted about a lack of coordination among...

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9. Cholera and the Camps

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pp. 181-202

After Haiti’s devastating earthquake, the international community re - sponded with a generous outpouring of aid. According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy,1 $1.3 billion was contributed by private U.S. citizens to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) within six months, $1 billion by March 1. Furthermore, at a March 31, 2010, U.N. conference, donors...

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10. From Slave Revoltto a Blood Pact with Satan

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pp. 203-242

The deadly earthquake that shook the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince and its environs on January 12, 2010, killed an estimated 300,000 people, making it the worst disaster in the history of the Americas. The next day, television evangelist Pat Robertson, while hosting his news talk show...

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11. Twenty-First-Century Haiti—A New Normal?

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pp. 243-268

Afew weeks after the January 12 earthquake and for most of the year of 2010–11, common mantras among politicians, strategists, and donors have been to “build back better” or to establish “a new Haiti.” How would you or have you been unpacking these phrases? What does “a new Haiti” mean to you? Who or what are the forces that are informing those aspirations? ...


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pp. 269-272


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pp. 273-292

E-ISBN-13: 9781452939599
E-ISBN-10: 1452939594
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816681327

Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 2013