Current Institutional Affiliation
Doctoral Candidate, University of California / Berkeley

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2014
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Geography, University of California / Berkeley
Promised Land, Contested Space: Canaan and the Geography of Reconstruction in Post-Earthquake Haiti

The earthquake that leveled Port-au-Prince and much of Southern Haiti in January 2010 set in motion a massive international emergency response. Humanitarian and development organizations flooded into the country, already host to a large UN peacekeeping mission and the world's highest per capita presence of NGOs. In the almost four years since, the failures and shortcomings of the official reconstruction project have been widely reported. This study moves to destabilize conventional state- and NGO-centric accounts of reconstruction. Instead, it turns to Canaan, an emergent city at the edge of Port-au-Prince, as a theater in which dynamics both related to and disavowed by the official project converge to produce a remarkable new geography of reconstruction. With a population of roughly one hundred thousand, Canaan is a sprawling new addition to the urban periphery, built without international or state assistance, and in large measure without NGO presence. This study explores how Canaan emerged, and why it has been ignored by the official reconstruction project. To do so, I conceptualize post-earthquake reconstruction as a moment of historical conjuncture, in which dynamics unleashed by the earthquake converge with longer histories of migration, urbanization, state-making and foreign intervention. I argue that Canaan transgresses the official reconstruction project's available spatial categories – IDP sites, tent camps, transitional shelters, relocation settlements, permanent housing – and links a historically salient politics of land and rent to the humanitarian category of internal displacement. In doing so, it offers a powerful counterpoint to the ahistorical and "anti-political" humanitarianism of official reconstruction.