Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry

, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 127-149

First online:

The Political Economy of ‘Trauma’ in Haiti in the Democratic Era of Insecurity

  • Erica Caple JamesAffiliated withAnthropology Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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This article explores the challenges that emerge at the intersection of economies of compassion and terror: local, national, and international forms of humanitarian assistance; security practices in insecure social and institutional environments; questions of victimization and global reparations; and quests for justice, as revealed through an analysis of political violence and humanitarian interventions in Haiti during and after the 1991–94 coup period. Each domain is constrained by politics and history but can engender “occult economies” that challenge the intended consequences of restitution policies at international, national, and local levels of exchange. ‘Trauma’ and discourses about traumatic suffering are the hinge around which these economies pivot, generating new forms of political subjectivity for Haitian activists.

bio-politics Haiti humanitarian assistance trauma violence