New Book: Mark Schuller’s “Humanitarian Aftershocks in Haiti”


Coinciding with the 6th anniversary of Haiti’s earthquake, Rutgers University Press just published Mark Schuller’s Humanitarian Aftershocks in Haiti (2016). It represents the author’s efforts to answer the question: “Why did aid to Haiti not only not resolve the problems that it was meant to but also trigger secondary effects, ‘aftershocks,’ such as the disruption of solidarity networks, the family, and the local economy, and even encourage an increase in violence against women?” Raoul Peck—award-winning Haitian filmmaker and director of Fatal Assistance—comments: “Mark Schuller offers clear analysis, informed by empirical knowledge. This sets him apart from the usual experts on Haiti. A challenging book from an author who goes the distance to understand the ‘other.’”

Description: The 2010 earthquake in Haiti was one of the deadliest disasters in modern history, sparking an international aid response—with pledges and donations of $16 billion—one of the most generous ever. But now, five years later, that generous aid has clearly failed. In Humanitarian Aftershocks in Haiti, anthropologist Mark Schuller shares the voices of those involved in the earthquake aid response, and they paint a sharp, unflattering view of the humanitarian enterprise.

Schuller led an independent study of eight displaced-persons camps in Haiti, compiling more than 150 interviews ranging from Haitian front-line workers and camp directors to foreign humanitarians and many displaced Haitian people. The result is an insightful account of why the multi-billion-dollar aid response not only did little to help but also did much harm, triggering a range of unintended consequences, rupturing Haitian social and cultural institutions, and actually increasing violence, especially against women. The book shows how Haitian people were removed from any real decision-making, replaced by a top-down, NGO-dominated system of humanitarian aid, led by an army of often young, inexperienced foreign workers. Ignorant of Haitian culture, many aid workers enacted policies that unwittingly triggered a range of negative results. Haitian interviewees also note that the NGOs “planted the flag,” and often tended to “just do something,” always with an eye to the “photo op” (in no small part due to the competition over funding). Worse yet, they tacitly supported the eviction of displaced people from the camps, forcing earthquake survivors to relocate in vast shantytowns or other camps or ‘informal’ settlements.

Humanitarian Aftershocks in Haiti concludes with suggestions to help improve humanitarian aid in the future, perhaps most notably, that aid workers listen to—and respect the culture of—the survivors of catastrophe.

Mark Schuller is an associate professor in the Anthropology Department and at the Center for NGO Leadership and Development at Northern Illinois University, Dekalb, Illinois, and is also an affiliate at the Faculté d’Ethnologie, l’Université d’Eátat d’Haïti. He is the award-winning author or coeditor of seven books including Killing with Kindness: Haiti, International Aid, and NGOs (Rutgers University Press), coeditor of Tectonic Shifts: Haiti since the Earthquake, and codirector and coproducer of the documentary Poto Mitan: Haitian Women, Pillars of the Global Economy.

To launch the book, Rutgers is offering this book at a 30% discount. Please visit the website and apply the code: 02AAAA16:,5634.aspx

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