Who Owns Haiti? People, Power, and Sovereignty.


Maguire, Robert, and Scott Freeman, eds. Who Owns Haiti?: People, Power, and Sovereignty. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2017.

How did a state that in 1791 embodied the dreams and hopes of many enslaved Africans in the New World become a charity case synonymous with social pathologies such as poverty, violence, corruption, disease, and hunger? Most of the conventional narratives blame Haitians and their leaders for these predicaments. In Who Owns Haiti?: People, Power, and Sovereignty, the authors featured in this volume challenge these narratives and place the blame on the external actors who have persistently interfered in Haitian affairs. The book argues that since the Haitian revolution, Haiti has been a contested space and Haiti's ownership "has continually been a matter of struggle and flux" (3).

The ten essays in the book, which cover the period from 2004 to 2014, emerged from a symposium held at George Washington University to answer the question posed in the book's title. This decade is significant because in addition to the devastating 2010 earthquake, the United Nations Stabilization Mission (MINUSTAH) was established in 2004 after the removal of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The permanent presence of MINUSTAH is a challenge to Haitian sovereignty and continues the pattern of external actors undermining Haiti's independence. After the Haitian Revolution, both France and the United States refused to recognize Haiti's independence. Haiti had to buy its recognition from France through reparation payments that heavily mortgaged the new nation to French financial institutions.

In the introductory chapter, Scott Freeman and Robert Maguire note that the US occupation of Haiti from 1915 to 1934 was "the most unconcealed example of a breach of Haiti's sovereignty" (4). In the period the book covers, different external forces, such as the US government, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and American evangelical groups are scrambling for the ownership of Haiti. These groups have attempted to hijack the politics, religion, and socioeconomic systems of Haiti, causing many Haitians to call their country the "Republic of NGOs" (93).

After the 2010 earthquake, these NGOs exercised great hegemonic power over Haiti. Maguire notes in his essay that about 93 percent of the billions of dollars that were pledged by institutions for Haitian relief and reconstruction remained in the hands of American groups he calls...

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