And We Will Be Devoured: The Social and Material Construction of Urban Disaster in Haiti

  • Monday, February 4, 2019 • 3:00 pm
  • Danforth University Center, Room 234

In this talk, Dr. Payton analyzes the political causes and social impact of urbanization patterns in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in the 1970s. Drawing from archival and cartographic sources, she shows how the chronic flooding that now regularly occurs in the city’s low income neighborhoods had its origins in an elite driven construction boom that disrupted the city’s fragile watershed. This micro history provides an opportunity to theorize how political and economic vulnerabilities in Haiti, exacerbated by the Duvalier dictatorship (1957-1986), generated physical structures and social geographies of inequality that would come to define the city. Dr. Payton also shows how issues of risk and exposure to environmental hazards in Port-au-Prince fit within a wider set of questions about the meaning of freedom and equality in post-colonial and post-emancipation contexts.

Dr. Claire Antone Payton is a historian of the Caribbean and Latin America, with a focus on Haiti. Currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Woodson Institute for African American and African Studies at the University of Virginia, Dr. Payton completed her Ph.D. at Duke University in 2018. In 2016, she was awarded a Fulbright Hayes Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellowship her research in Port-au-Prince. Her current project is a new political, social, and environmental history of urbanization in the modern Caribbean. She is also the creator of the Haiti Memory Project, a collection of first person testimonies from survivors of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Her scholarship has appeared in The Oral History Review and NACLA Report on the Americas.

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