Thursday, March 15, 2012

Guest Author Posting By Mark Schuller and Pablo Morales: The Inside Scoop into Haiti After the Earthquake

To date, half a million Haitians displaced by the 2010 earthquake still live in camps, and at least half the rubble from destroyed buildings and infrastructure remains to be cleared. Much of the money pledged for reconstruction has yet to be spent, and the exclusion of Haitians from decision-making means there is little transparency and accountability around existing relief and reconstruction programs. Meanwhile, the United Nations has refused to admit that it is responsible for a cholera outbreak that has killed over 7,000 Haitians. And on the political front, the United States undermined Haitian democracy in March 2011 by supporting flawed elections in Haiti and used threats to overturn the results.

On Saturday, March 17, the editors and two contributors to Tectonic Shifts: Haiti Since the Earthquake will hold a panel at the Left Forum in New York that will address these problems. Titled “Accountability in Post-earthquake Haiti: Reconstruction Failures and the UN’s Cholera Problem,” the panel will feature presentations from Melinda Miles of the Let Haiti Live project at the TransAfrica Forum, Manolia Charlotin of the Boston Haitian Reporter, Alex Main of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, and CUNY professor and Tectonic Shifts co-editor Mark Schuller. It will be moderated by Tectonic Shifts co-editor Pablo Morales.

The presentations will include new research as well as draw upon the chapters in Tectonic Shifts that deal with the politics of the reconstruction process. Like the book, the panel will concentrate on putting the earthquake and its aftermath in its historical and political context—even before the earthquake, the Haitian people and their economy had been devastated by foreign intervention and neoliberal economic policies imposed by the United States and other powers. As the editors note in the introduction, “Understanding the disaster means understanding not only the tectonic fault lines running beneath Haiti but also the deep economic, political, social, and
historical cleavages within and surrounding the country.”

What people see and how they understand the earthquake and its aftermath are largely determined by where they stand, their point of view. The story of Haiti’s earthquake has been told and retold in tens of thousands of blog entries, news stories, YouTube videos, and at least 10 English-language books. Given the inequalities that marginalize Haiti, particularly the poor majority, the points of view presented to date are dominated by white, foreign do-gooders, either volunteer missions or professional humanitarians. Their stories necessarily celebrate their good intentions and minimize and even denigrate the contribution of Haitians, while also often failing to fully and accurately report the many difficulties that too many Haitians still face.

Tectonic Shifts aims to fill this gap. Bringing together 46 individually and collectively authored pieces. Tectonic Shifts addresses the various levels of the emerging disaster that tend to get overlooked, ignored, or suppressed. Half of the contributors herein are Haitians—scholars, journalists, and activists— who were living in Haiti before, during, and after the earthquake. The three sections that make up the book focus, respectively, on the geopolitical structures that Haiti is a part of, the on-the-ground realities following the earthquake, and the social movements that have emerged since the disaster.

Upcoming events:

Coppin State University book lecture and signing- Baltimore, MD, March 28th

SFAA Book Launch and Kumarian Press booth signing - Baltimore, MD, March 28th

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