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

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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.

KEYWORDS: forced migrants, border, informal economy, mobility, substantive citizenship



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