Haiti’s 200-Year Ménage-à-Trois: Globalization, The State, and Civil Society

In this article, I explore the limits of dominant historiographies of Haiti to examine and challenge binary frameworks within discourses of globalization and civil society. I employ a comparative, longue durée world-systems approach, discussing Haiti’s history and contemporary situation through long-term fieldwork, oral history, and published materials on Haiti’s history. Conversations with different groups of Haitian people helped me identify, analyze, and categorize two dominant historiographies.

Two major tropes argue that Haiti’s trajectory is a result of either global / international forces or actions of a predatory state. I argue that theoretical constructs implicit in dominant historiographies elide a complete understanding of Haiti, rendering sets of actors invisible, and produce and perpetuate a set of mutually unintelligible binaries.

A complete understanding of Haiti’s history requires a tripartite framework, tracking and theorizing participation of three general sets of actors: foreign powers, the state, and Haiti’s people. Furthermore, while Haiti is a particularly dramatic example, binary logics within theories of globalization and civil society need to be replaced with a tripartite framework. This article provides a model for other scholars interested in a rich understanding of globalization and civil society, presenting a calculus that allows for a conversation between these theoretical constructs.

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