Unit 3 Destination Discussion - Haiti

Advance Preparation: Members of the group should read Chapter Two of The Big Truck That Went By. After you have done so, please also read this chapter from Katelyn Leader’s MPhil thesis that describes the work of UUSC’s partner in Haiti, MPP. Your group leader should provide a laptop or other means for the group to watch together the short video that furthers the discussion for this section.


What did you learn from reading the overview of Haiti’s history in Chapter Two?

  • What most surprised you in reading this chapter? Were there elements of the historic and more recent US role in Haiti that were not known to you?
  • What would you now identify, if asked, as the root causes of persistent poverty and political instability in Haiti?
  • Has your answer to this question been altered or confirmed by Katz’s book?

In a 2005 interview with Bill Moyers on PBS’s Wide Angle, the former U.S. Special Envoy to Haiti, James Dobbins, attributes the endemic social problems in the country to the “gross neglect” of Haiti by the United States and its resulting isolation from the outside world. Please watch the 9 minute video here.

  • In Dobbins’ explanation of Haiti’s social and economic difficulties, what jumps out at you as an explanation or world view counter to the one Katz presents?
  • What are the main threads of alternative narrative of the history of the U.S. and Haiti (and of the fundamental problems involved in that relationship) offered by Katz and by Dobbins?

Events like the 2010 earthquake are often described as “natural disasters,” implying that they occur for reasons beyond the scope of human agency. Katz lays out an argument in this chapter, however, that U.S. policies, especially the free trade policies imposed on the Aristide government that lowered tariffs on Haitian rice, were among the factors that made the earthquake so destructive.

  • How would you frame his argument for this claim in your own words?
  • Do you find yourself in agreement or disagreement with Katz on these points? What feelings arise for you as you consider these issues in the dynamic between our own country and Haiti?
  • Do you think Katz is missing something or leaving important elements out in this argument?

Turning now to the MPhil Thesis, was there anything in it that you could understand better as a result of the reading from Katz for this week?

  • Why would “repeasantization” and the movement back to the countryside be seen as important concepts or focus areas for social justice in Haiti’s post-disaster context?
  • How do you understand “repeasantization” better in light of the history we learned from Chapter Two of The Big Truck?

In what way do “repeasantization,” food sovereignty, and the rest of MPP’s agenda differ from the model of development pushed by US policies?

  • What are some of the other ways you can identify in which MPP is responding to the particular problems in Haiti that Katz describes?


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