Experiencing Displacement and Statelessness: Forced Migrants in Anse-à-Pitres, Haiti

In 2013, the Dominican state ruled to uphold a 2010 constitutional amendment that stripped thousands of Dominicans of Haitian origin of their citizenship and forced them to leave the country during summer 2015. About 2,200 of these people became displaced in Anse-à-Pitres, where most took up residence in temporary camps. I use the term forced migrants or displaced persons interchangeably to refer to these people. Many endure challenges in meeting their daily survival needs in Haiti, a country with extreme poverty, considerable political instability, and still in the process of rebuilding itself from the devastating earthquake of 2010. Drawing on fourteen months of ethnographic field- work in Anse-à-Pitres, I examine how these displaced people, in the face of statelessness and amid their precarious social and economic conditions, create survival strategies by drawing upon everyday labor mobility and informal economic activities within and across their communities. Furthermore, I demonstrate that the involvement of these displaced people in community life through socio-economic practices attests to a sense of belonging and produces a form of substantive citizenship in their absence of legal citizenship. This kind of substantive citizenship is also shaped by the ability of the displaced people to re- define life goals, participate in local meetings with the local state and organizations on the ground, and challenge systems of power that seek to impose their choices upon them. In this dissertation, I argue against construing the displaced people as hopeless by focusing on the forms of power and agency that they exercise in and over their lives, which make them agents of their self-development.

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The Other Earthquake: Janil Lwijis, Student Social Movements, and the Politics of Memory in Haiti

This dissertation develops a political ecology of suburban peasants to describe the lives of Haitian farmers residing in a neighborhood on the margins of Port-au-Prince. The category of suburban peasants has been well described for Chinese small-scale farmers but has yet to be applied elsewhere as an analytic category. Using participant observation, semi-structured interviews, and in-depth, key informant interviews, an ethnographic account is provided of changes in agricultural practices made by Haitian peasants as a result of environmental changes that impact their ability to make a living in contemporary Haiti. Farmers’ primary concerns are related to an increased need for agrochemicals because of declining soil fertility, but increased fertilizer prices make this a significant barrier to their economic activities. In addition, the influx of non-Haitians into the neighborhood has resulted in less available land to farm. In many cases worldwide, these two challenges have led to out-migration patterns, either within-country rural-urban migration or to another country altogether. Yet, in the study site this is not happening. The changes in agricultural practices that the Dounet peasants have made, like changing to wage-based labor and occupational multiplicity, have also created greater poverty, in which they are more vulnerable to the risks associated with environmental change while at the same time rendered immobile in the face of future extreme environmental events. This study uses the suburban peasant concept to explore how environmental changes simultaneously intersect with urbanization processes like the enclosure of land and changes in rural land use.

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Ou Ayisyen? The Making of a Haitian Diasporic Community in Chicago, 1933-2010

This dissertation investigates the formation of the Haitian diaspora in Chicago over the twentieth century. Through original oral history interviews with key community leaders, analysis of Chicago-based newspapers, and previously unexamined organizational records, this is the first comprehensive study to look at the Haitian diaspora in Chicago. Chicago’s Haitian diaspora is different from the more recognized and studied Haitian diasporic communities in New York and Miami and other African diasporic communities for three reasons. First, Jean Baptiste Point DuSable, a fur trader believed to have been from Haiti, founded the city around 1780 which highlights the initial formation of Chicago as a diasporic space. Black women led the movement in Chicago to commemorate DuSable as the founder of the city and played a key role in building connections between Chicago and Haiti which shaped the formation of the Haitian community there. Secondly, the social class composition of Haitians who migrated to Chicago is unique because it is largely professional, educated, and middle class. Finally, the Haitian diaspora in Chicago is smaller and more decentralized than its counterparts in Miami and New York. Approximately 15,000 to 30,000 Haitian descendant people live in Chicago today, but this community does not live in a “Little Haiti,” a neighborhood comprised largely of Haitian immigrants. Instead, Haitians in Chicago are geographically dispersed across the city and its metropolitan area. The distinct historical, demographic, and spatial characteristics of Chicago influenced the ways that Haitians in the city forged community, interacted with other African descendant people, and cultivated transnational linkages to their Caribbean homeland over the twentieth century.

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Haitian Adult Immigrants as Learners and Parents

Haitian immigrant parents often face challenges to visibly engage in their children’s education in the United States due to social, cultural, and economic factors. This study addressed parent involvement (PI) among Haitian immigrant parents of adolescents in a Florida community. The purpose of this exploratory, multiple-case study was to better understand connections between immigrant Haitian parents’ beliefs and learning experiences and their experiences supporting their adolescents’ learning. Three research questions were developed to explore Haitian adults’ lived experiences and perceptions of themselves as keepers of knowledge and as learners, their experiences and perceived roles as parents, and the resources they possessed that could increase PI. The conceptual framework included social constructs of family literacy, new literacy studies, and funds of knowledge. Nine Haitian parents of teenage children and 3 educators and liaisons from the community were selected for interviews. Qualitative data analysis included open coding, theme identification, and triangulation of data from an archival PI survey. Findings indicated that adults’ experiences with learning at home and learning at school influenced their perceived parenting roles and self-efficacy at home, the type of PI in which they engaged, and future aspirations for their children. Results were used to develop a white paper aimed at community stakeholders to enhance educators’ and social service providers’ cultural knowledge of Haitian families and to promote two-way communication. The project may encourage the development of culturally responsive PI strategies and adult learning opportunities benefiting local and trans-national Haitian communities throughout the United States.

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Citizens Without a Nation: The Construction of Haitian Illegality and Deportability in The Dominican Republic

Migrant “illegality” has increasingly become a popular topic in political debates around the world, but illegal populations are not random or self-generating, they are created and patterned (DeGenova 2002:422). Through the recent enforcement of new and existing immigration laws, the Dominican State has begun to move large populations of Haitian immigrants and their descendants into irregular or “illegal” immigration status. A historical analysis of the relationship between the Dominican State and Haitian immigrants presents a paradox: the Dominican economy has become increasingly dependent on Haitian migrant labor, yet the Dominican State has persistently worked to force Haitians and their descendants into irregular migratory status. The irregular immigration status leaves these individuals vulnerable and in a constant state of deportability. This research makes two claims in an attempt to understand the motives of the state; primarily, the Dominicans State has used immigration policy to assert its territorial sovereignty and enforce the historically embedded ideology of anti-Haitianism. Secondly, the Dominican State has used immigration policy and immigration enforcement to control and subordinate a large Haitian workforce. The research takes an interpretive hermeneutic approach to conduct an in-depth historical analysis of five key pieces of Dominican legislation, which comprise the recent Dominican immigration reform. This analysis is conducted though drawing on the economic, historical, and social information characterizing the relationship between the State and Haitian immigrants. These analytical tools are combined with the personal experiences of the researcher. The investigation relies primarily on theoretical literature of Nicholas DeGenova to conclude that the state uses nationalistic ideas to maintain support for the irregular status of Haitian immigrants and their descendants. The irregular and thus deportable status of Haitian immigrants and their descendants is functional to the Dominican capitalist economic system.

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