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Reading List January 12, 2019

Haiti, Disaster, and Revolution

Suffering in Haiti is a manmade, not a natural, disaster.

Today marks the ninth anniversary of Haiti’s devastating earthquake in which 160,000 people lost their lives. Since then, in October of 2016, Hurricane Matthew further traumatized Haiti, killing hundreds of people, leaving 1.4 million in need of humanitarian assistance, and sparking fears of a cholera outbreak.

But these catastrophes were not solely “natural,” for, as Junot Díaz reminds us, “they are always made possible by a series of often-invisible societal choices.” Whether it was Haiti’s early history as a French colony, or the 40 percent of Haiti’s income that U.S. officials siphoned away, the world has “done its part in demolishing Haiti” and implicated more than just those being drowned or buried in rubble.

—Rosie Gillies

by Junot Díaz

What does an earthquake reveal about our neoliberal age? Junot Díaz shows us how to read the ruins of the earthquake, and how to think about our implication in natural disasters.

• • •

LEOGANE, Haiti (Jan. 26, 2010) A Marine assigned to Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine regiment hands humanitarian ration at an aid distribution site in Leogane, Haiti. The Marines established a humanitarian aid receiving area at a missionary compound for Haitian earthquake victims. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Bobbie A. Curtis/Released)

“Civilizing Haiti”
by Colin Dayan

Media reports about Haiti speak of death and decay, whereas humanitarians routinely call for compassion. Such representations ignore the island’s history and the intervention and exploitation that have defined the Haitian political experience.

• • •

Outsourcing Haiti
by Jake Johnston

Billions of dollars in international aid rolled in to Haiti after the earthquake. But little of that money went towards rebuilding the ravaged country, pointing to a crisis in foreign aid.

• • •

The Secret History of the Haitian Earthquake
by Colin Dayan

Colin Dayan interviews journalist Jonathan M. Katz about his book The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster.

• • •

Whitewashing Haiti’s History
by Sidney M. Mintz

“The Haitian liberation shook the empire of the whip to the core. The inescapable truth is that ‘the world’ never forgave Haiti for its revolution, because the slaves freed themselves.”

• • •

Return to Haiti
by Colin Dayan

“While reconstruction lags, old prisons in Haiti are being refurbished, and new private prisons are going up. It took about one month after the earthquake for the U.S.-based GEO Group to receive a contract in Haiti for ‘guard services.’”

• • •

Remembering Haiti
by Sidney W. Mintz

“The terrible disaster that has engulfed Haiti becomes yet more disturbing as its power and destructiveness are laid bare. The occasional dreadful tremors still hang, Damoclean, over everyone.”

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