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Tectonic Shifts: Haiti After the Earthquake Paperback – 1 Jan 2012

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The full impact of the January 12, 2010 earthquake on Haiti s society is yet to be felt as the people continue to organize themselves to raise their country from its ashes. This book reminds us not only of Haiti s potential, but the resiliency of its people to move forward in the midst of the worst disaster that could have fallen on them. The editors have done a great of job of bringing together national and international scholars to help us understand not only how Haiti was destroyed before the earthquake but also what can be done to rebuild it. This is a must read book for everyone who is trying to understand why a 7.0 earthquake on a Richter scale destroyed a whole nation while one that was stronger a few weeks after in Chile barely made a dent on the society.

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Amazon.com: 1 review
What to Learn from the 2010 Haiti Earthquake. 6 Dec 2013
By Govert W. Schuller - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Reading the many case studies, on-the-ground reports and historical briefings about the impact and context of the earthquake which hit Haiti on January 12, 2010, is a very informative experience. Instead of conceptual ponderings about disasters--necessary as they are to to get a more multidimensional grip on the very complex events disasters are--many of the contributions in Tectonic Shifts: Haiti Since the Earthquake bring the reader into closer contact with the experiences, perspectives and struggles of those on the ground effected. Those are welcome perspectives weening the reader away from identifying with the logistics and problems of delivering aid to victims, to the view of the recipients and how the aid, or absence thereof, effected them, both positive as well as negative.
The first part of the book presents sixteen papers addressing a multitude of entry points into the build up of Haiti's vulnerability to disasters. The focus is on the "Geopolitical Structures" which have developed during Haiti's 500-year long social and economic history within the context of western expansion since 1492. The summary of the story is that Haiti, especially since its hard-fought independence in 1804, was never allowed or helped to decently develop as a nation. It was burdened by debt and frequent incursions by the USA to keep it subservient to the demands of the international economy. As was the case with Katrina, the disaster laid bare the underdeveloped socio-economic reality of Haiti. The important question after the earthquake was succinctly posed by veteran disaster scholar Anthony Oliver-Smith:
If we view the death and destruction of the Haitian earthquake as due in part to economically and socially inscribed practices and the capital and commodity flows that created and sustained them nationally and internationally, the challenge of reconstruction lies not just in rebuilding Haiti but in changing its marginal place within the world system (Oliver-Smith in Tectonic Shifts, 22)
Did the international community listen to Oliver-Smith and the many others who saw the necessity to come up with a master plan to address the vulnerability of Haiti’s society and develop and implement long-term plans to decrease the vulnerability? The contribution by Yolette Etienne, who works for Oxfam in Haiti, answers the question in the negative. Her article, "Haiti and Catastrophes: Lessons Not Learned", posited also the need for "new models that will challenge the centralization, exclusion, polarization, financial speculation, and the extreme dependence that characterized Haiti during the last 50 years" (Etienne in Tectonic Shifts, 29). Unfortunately she had to conclude that, instead of developing such new models, the international community proposed and implemented aid policies which actually weakened civil society.
The analysis of the reason why the international community of humanitarians did not, and maybe cannot, help in a radical restructuring of Haiti, or any other unfortunate LDC struck by a disaster, is clearly addressed by Charles Vorbe, professor of political science and law at the State University of Haiti. He endeavors to demystify the phenomenon of humanitarian aid and uncover its underlying logic. He sees that since the end of the Cold War much of humanitarian aid has become for certain states an additional instrument to conduct foreign policy, which by name is humanitarian, but is in essence a variation of colonialism called "humanitarian neocolonialism". The logic is that NGOs are more and more pushed into secondary roles in giving humanitarian aid and that governments, often guided by their not necessarily humanitarian foreign policy priorities, are increasingly taking the lead. Vorbe observes that,
However honest many NGO activists might be, and whatever the sincerity of their humanitarian commitment, the implicit role of the overwhelming majority of the "nongovernmental" organizations is to reinforce existing systems of domination and exploitation (Vorbe in Tectonic Shifts, 61; referencing to Robert Charvin, a French legal scholar).
All in all it looks like that the aftermath of the earthquake is another chapter of the spread and impact of disaster capitalism as originally exposed by Naomi Klein. Though exposed, the big question is if this quite robust dynamic can be reduced, transformed, abolished, or subverted. Or are we forced to see the system play itself out into an ultimate disaster by which it falls apart by itself?
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