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Democratic Insecurities: Violence, Trauma, and Intervention in Haiti

by Erica James University of California Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 384 pages
AU$48.99 NZ$52.17
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Democratic Insecurities focuses 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.

List of Abbreviations
List of Illustrations

Introduction: Democracy, Insecurity, and the Commodification of Suffering

1. The Terror Apparatus
2. The Aid Apparatus and the Politics of Victimization
3. Routines of Rupture and Spaces of (In)Security
4. Double Binds in Audit Cultures
5. Bureaucraft, Accusations, and the Social Life of Aid
6. Sovereign Rule, Ensekirite, and Death
7. The Tyranny of the Gift


Highly recommended. . . by highlighting the vivi first-person accounts of female survivors, the author raises important questions about humanitarian aid, structural violence, and political insecurity, while simultaneously outlining some of the ethical quandaries arising from the uses and abuses of power. Choice Her account is both brave and unsettling. . . . Not only instructive for anthropologists . . . but also for humanitarian aid providers who momentarily work or are planning to work in Haiti. Hanna Kienzler Somatosphere is one of the most important books on the country published in years. . . . It radiates intelligence and understanding. Journal Of Sociology and Social Welfare
Erica Caple James is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.