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.
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