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Democratic Insecurities

Democratic Insecurities: Violence, Trauma, and Intervention in Haiti

Erica Caple James
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: 1
Pages: 384
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  • Book Info
    Democratic Insecurities
    Book Description:

    Democratic Insecuritiesfocuses on the ethics of military and humanitarian intervention in Haiti during and after Haiti's 1991 coup. In this remarkable ethnography of violence, Erica Caple James explores the traumas of Haitian victims whose experiences were denied by U.S. officials and recognized only selectively by other humanitarian providers. Using vivid first-person accounts from women survivors, James raises important new questions about humanitarian aid, structural violence, and political insecurity. She discusses the politics of postconflict assistance to Haiti and the challenges of promoting democracy, human rights, and justice in societies that experience chronic insecurity. Similarly, she finds that efforts to promote political development and psychosocial rehabilitation may fail because of competition, strife, and corruption among the individuals and institutions that implement such initiatives.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94791-7
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  6. Preface
    (pp. xix-xxiv)
  7. Introduction: Democracy, Insecurity, and the Commodification of Suffering
    (pp. 1-38)

    In this book I trace the links between military and humanitarian interventions in contemporary Haiti and the nation’s ongoing struggles to consolidate democracy and combat insecurity. I first chronicle the historic roots and practices of terror apparatuses and then describe how the coup regime targeted Haitian pro–democracy activists with cruel forms of domination during the 1991–94 period of de facto rule. I recount how members of the coup apparatus used sexual and gender violence as tools of repression to terrorize the poor pro-democracy sector. I also describe the disordered subjectivities that such traumatic experiences produced in women and...

  8. CHAPTER 1 The Terror Apparatus
    (pp. 39-80)

    One of the most troubling images of Haitian history and culture is that of endemic violence, in particular, sexual violence.¹ It is impossible to understand the development of the political economy of trauma in Haiti without relating it to this long–standing image and its historical evolution. During the 1991–94 coup years, the de facto regime employed sexual and gendered violence to repress the pro-democracy movement.² Rape, including gang rape, and even forced incest were among the forms of torture used strategically to damage and control not only individuals but also families and larger communities.

    Analyzing the many forms...

  9. CHAPTER 2 The Aid Apparatus and the Politics of Victimization
    (pp. 81-131)

    Human rights, humanitarian, development, and other advocacy organizations and institutions use similar strategies to generate the political will and material support for interventions across and within national borders. Both nongovernmental human rights advocates and humanitarian relief organizations identify and publish accounts of calamities across the globe to generate a sense of urgency in consumers of these materials. By raising awareness of emergencies, these interveners desire to provoke individual, institutional, and governmental responses to curtail abuses, mitigate disaster, and restore or build security. When successful, reports of crises across and within borders pressure nongovernmental and governmental actors in the international community...

  10. CHAPTER 3 Routines of Rupture and Spaces of (In)Security
    (pp. 132-177)

    Viktim experience psychosocial trauma while grappling with the heightened state of social risk that ensekirite creates. Living with Haiti’s ensekirite worsens traumatic suffering, especially for viktim who do not have social and institutional forms of support. For many viktim, continuous traumatic stressors, what I call routines of rupture (James 2008), exacerbate psychosocial suffering. These are multiple ongoing disruptions to daily life rather than single traumatic events after which there is a “post–,” as suggested by the conventional notion of posttraumatic stress disorder. The experience of ensekirite has political, economic, legal, social, and spiritual dimensions. Ensekirite reflects the degree of...

  11. CHAPTER 4 Double Binds in Audit Cultures
    (pp. 178-222)

    The Human Rights Fund no longer exists. During its brief tenure in Haiti, it occupied the liminal space between the U.S. government and the Government of Haiti, between victims of human rights abuses and perpetrators, and between the transnational media and “local” arbiters of truth and knowledge. Given its nodal position in the aid apparatus, the Fund was an intermediary vehicle through which the messiness of social experience—inequalities of power, poverty, violence, victimization, and ensekirite—could be rationally assessed, calculated, and managed. In its malleability, impermanence, and mobility, the institution was characteristic of humanitarian assemblages. It was a vehicle...

  12. CHAPTER 5 Bureaucraft, Accusations, and the Social Life of Aid
    (pp. 223-269)

    In fall 1998 I interviewed Phillippe Jonassaint, a beneficiary of the Human Rights Fund victim Assistance and Rehabilitation Program and a participant in one of its therapy groups. While lamenting the challenges of finding employment and rebuilding his life after victimization, Phillippe observed, “We can speak, but we can’t eat.” His frustration about hunger in Haiti arose from the reality of ensekirite. Although there might be “democracy,” along with, in theory, the ability to speak freely that democracy ensures, there was little “security.” His words also evoked a political slogan often repeated within the Haitian prodemocracy sector: “Lapè nan tèt,...

  13. CHAPTER 6 Sovereign Rule, Ensekirite, and Death
    (pp. 270-286)

    In early 1999 a series of incidents occurred that indicated how negative dimensions of bureaucraft—the pattern of rumors, gossip, and accusations of occult activity lodged against agencies and agents in the humanitarian and development aid apparatus—could culminate in violence. The events described in this chapter occurred against a backdrop of waves of political and economic insecurity in Haiti and increasing tension in the victim advocacy assemblage. As had occurred during earlier crises described in this book, contests over resources and political power were waged in the print and visual media, as well as in social space. The disputes...

  14. CHAPTER 7 The Tyranny of the Gift
    (pp. 287-296)

    The practices and accusations of bureaucraft, like those of witchcraft, reflect moral contests about identity, sociopolitical power, and the disparate distribution and consumption of economic resources, especially under conditions of ensekirite. They also demonstrate the “irrationalities” that remain embedded in bureaucratic practices. Moral disputes about power continue to be regulated in informal, personal ways, even as they arise within institutions that promote efficient, transparent, and productive technologies of political and social engineering. Thus bureaucraft discourses and practices are means by which actors operating in the compassion economy articulate ambivalences about institutional and individual identities and interventions. While bureaucraft could be...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 297-311)
  16. Glossary
    (pp. 312-314)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 315-334)
  18. Index
    (pp. 335-357)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 358-360)