Truth and Responsibility 2021 AAA Annual Meeting View-On-Demand: Session Title: Controlled misunderstandings -Haitian perceptions of UN missions Session Type: Talk (Virtual) Controlled misunderstandings -Haitian perceptions of UN missions
Over the past century Haiti has experienced successive international interventions in the name of peace. By alleging that Haiti's internal instability threatens international security, the United Nations (UN) has undertaken peace operations in the country and installed administrative apparatuses to guarantee the proper functioning of democratic institutions, assessed by institutionally established criteria. This ethnographic analysis of one of the peace operations in Haiti-MINUSTAH-explores how the data production on the levels of violence builds an intervention-legitimizing consensus that mobilizes an international bureaucratic apparatus, whose role is to produce even more data. Empirical evidence from fieldwork among UN experts and Haitian activists suggest a mismatch between the Haiti inscribed in UN documents and the Haiti reiterated in local stories about the nation. By contrasting the production of 'official history' as a truth and 'unofficial' Haitian narratives, I will shed light on the relations of power involved in the enactment of historical facts. What the UN defines as a deterioration in the economic and social condition, Haitians conceive as a loophole with revolutionary potential to change the system. Such contrast leads towards a critical analysis of Western positivist notions such as progress, development, democracy, human rights, and freedom as the ultimate principles that UN peace operations pursue. By following Michel-Rolph Trouillot's proposal, I bring together two historiographical traditions-Haitian and foreign-, as a means to "make silences speak" and create new narratives about international interventions in Haiti in the early 21st century.
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