I am a Caribbean historian who analyzes urban life to uncover the social, material, political and environmental history of the African Diaspora. I completed my Ph.D. in History at Duke University in 2018. My research, supported in part by a Fulbright-Hayes fellowship, is a history of construction in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, that engages urgent questions about the relationship between politics, the built environment, and the historical foundations of disaster.
Two major transformations indelibly marked Haiti in the second half of the twentieth century: explosive urban growth fueled by rural-to-urban migration and the consolidation of state power into the hands of the Duvalier regime, an autocratic nationalist government that ruled between 1957 and 1986. Drawing on extensive archival research, I renarrate the dictatorship through the creation, destruction, and management of material and abstract urban spaces—from airports and aquifers to the political economy of cement. My analysis of these sites shows how the daily politics of authoritarianism were infused with the dynamics of rapid demographic and geographic change. The study brings to light the previously-unknown architects, planners, developers, investors, and local and international officials who enacted, contested, and revised the dictatorship’s ideological visions and pragmatic imperatives. Ultimately, my research shows how the struggles between dictatorship and democracy in Haiti are deeply tied to neocolonial geographies of power and anxieties about citizenship and belonging in the city.
I have devoted my time at the Woodson to initiating the process of transforming my dissertation into a book manuscript, which I am tentatively calling "And We Will Be Devoured: Construction, Destruction, and Dictatorship in Haiti."