Fault Lines: Perspectives on Haiti's Earthquake

The earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010, will forever be remembered as one of the world’s deadliest disasters. For 30 seconds the earth shook and reduced a nation—already struggling with the historical weight of slavery, underdevelopment, imperialism, and intense internal divisions—to rubble. One in seven people were suddenly rendered homeless, while more than 300,000 lost their lives, according to official estimates. Haiti dominated the airwaves and cyberspace for weeks, bombarding world citizens with words and images at once contradictory, controversial, consuming, and ultimately confusing: The earthquake seemed to have as many meanings as people with access to a blog. In this Report, we aim to sort out critical perspectives on the disaster. As each of the articles herein show, understanding the disaster means understanding not only the tectonic fault lines running beneath Haiti but also the deep economic, political, social, and historical cleavages within and surrounding the country.


Taking Note


Steve Ellner
As Chávez completes 11 and a half years in office, his government faces challenges unmatched since 2002 and 2003, when the opposition used disruptive tactics in an attempt to remove him from office. The fervent rhetoric from both Chavistas and the opposition, meanwhile, has intensified the nation’s polarization, belying the complexity of the issues at stake.


Alex Dupuy
In the 1980s, the Haitian economy was subordinated within global capitalism through a dual strategy centered on assembly plants in the cities and laissez-faire agricultural policies. Today this strategy is back in the form of a “reconstruction” plan.
Anthony Oliver-Smith
Disasters are not accidents or acts of God. They are deeply rooted in the histories of the societies in which they occur. Haiti’s earthquake may be thought of as a disaster 500 years in the making.
Mark Schuller
The privatized, top-down approach to aid delivery in the camps for displaced Haitians has made possible all manner of abuse and coercion. Haitian activists are responding by demanding their human rights, even as they challenge dominant conceptions of those rights.
Gina Athena Ulysse
The representations of Haiti and Haitians that appeared in mainstream news coverage of the disaster reproduced narratives and stereotypes dating to at least the 19th century. Today, understanding the continuity of these representations matters more than ever.
Beverly Bell
Grassroots Haitian movements for social justice have set themselves a formidable task: not only addressing the ongoing humanitarian crisis, but also challenging the reconstruction effort to include their leadership and avoid reproducing the conditions that helped make the earthquake so disastrous.


The Ecuador Reader: History, Culture, Politics, edited by Carlos de la Torre and Steve Striffler; Indians and Leftists in the Making of Ecuador’s Modern Indigenous Movements, by Marc Becker; Gender, Indian, Nation: The Contradictions of Making Ecuador, 1830–1925, by Erin O’Connor,
Keith Bolender
“Cuban Perspectives on Cuban Socialism,” Socialism and Democracy 24, no. 1 (March 2010), 181 pp., $15, sdonline.org
Grace Livingstone
South of the Border, a documentary film by Oliver Stone (Cinema Libre Studio, 2009, 78 mins.), southoftheborderdoc.com

Tracking the Economy

James Martín Cypher
The year 2009 was arguably the worst year of economic downturn in Mexico since the onset of the Great Depression of the 1930s. The downturn came with great forewarning, had anyone in the political and economic elite been willing to take a serious look.