Even before the earthquake of January 2010, and new commitments of billions of dollars in aid, international humanitarian and development organizations had been involved in Haiti for decades. Yet for all their important work in ameliorating cyclical crises, both man-made and natural, little has been done to address systemic and structural dislocations in the country. As a result, Haiti remains a weak state with little infrastructure or effective governing capacity, its people reliant more on the “Republic of NGOs” than on governmental institutions. New administrations bring with them fresh problems, while hunger, deforestation, and gender-based violence appear to be intractable. Without understanding the legacies—historical, social, and cultural—of past interventions, it is difficult to see how post-earthquake aid will attain more long-lasting and sustainable results.
Humanities in Humanitarianism: The Haiti Project is a course being offered jointly to NCCU and Duke students who are interested in exploring the present humanitarian crisis and looking for innovative ways to move forward, paying close attention to Haitian voices. The course is a year-long seminar that will examine past humanitarian interventions. But, more than theory, a major component of the course will be to organize and run a policy symposium (hosted by the Haiti Laboratory) that brings together Haitian and international aid workers, activists, funders, government and nongovernmental representatives. The goal of the symposium is to create an honest dialogue to get people thinking about best practices for sustainable Haitian-led redevelopment.
The course will meet Wednesdays from 3-5:30, alternating between the Haiti Laboratory at Duke and NCCU. It is intended as a full-year course, and students are expected to commit to taking the two-semester sequence which will culminate in the Spring conference Humanitarianism in Haiti: Visions and Practice (April 11-12, 2013). Click “Course Blog” link above to see the conference website, including videos of all panel discussions.