Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry

, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 153–159

Neomodern Insecurity in Haiti and the Politics of Asylum

Circumstantial Delivery

DOI: 10.1007/s11013-008-9125-z

Cite this article as:
James, E.C. Cult Med Psychiatry (2009) 33: 153. doi:10.1007/s11013-008-9125-z


The term ‘asylum’ has a dual connotation that generates opposing but related forms of intervention: providing sanctuary and protection vs. imposing confinement and quarantine. The proliferation of “neomodern insecurity”—intrastate violence and the specter of transnational terrorism, arising within many postcolonial, postauthoritarian and postsocialist states—generates intervention practices that reflect the dual connotations of asylum. In fragile states like Haiti, national insecurity (ensekirite) often results in the flight of traumatized populations across and within national borders. For these individuals, ‘asylum’ connotes the attainment of political recognition and inclusion outside Haiti’s space of ensekirite. Ironically, these vulnerable persons may be viewed as threats to the nations they seek to enter. In so-called secure states like the United States, the threat of insecurity often engenders interventions to contain, manage and rehabilitate states of disorder, as well as their disordered subjects. By chronicling the case of a young Haitian refugee who sought asylum in the United States, was detained and then repatriated after manifesting the disordered signs of insecurity, I argue that the Haitian trope of ensekirite captures and prefigures the subjective experience of neomodernity, one for which there is no asylum.



Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.MIT Anthropology ProgramCambridgeUSA