In Haiti, telecommunication is development: Sharing governance between companies, NGOs and the state

February 1st 2012

There is a new player emerging in Haiti's telecommunications market, and on September 11th, 2011, they launched an extraordinarily ambitious venture to capture a market share. With lasting damage from the January 2010 earthquake, few regulations and endemic theft of public utilities, Haiti doesn't seem like the kind of place where broadband Internet would be viable.

Yet this is exactly what Natcom is doing: expanding Haiti's tiny fibre optic network with the goal of providing cutting-edge internet to urban and rural Haiti. Port-au-Prince's old, state-run landline system was destroyed beyond repair in the earthquake, leaving Haitians dependent upon mobiles and satellites. If successful, Natcom's fibre-optic network will make a massive difference to Haiti's communications landscape.

Return to Haiti: The calm within the storm

January 26th 2012

In a country like Haiti, the state of the national mood is just as important as investment when considering development: the best laid plans and grants are useless without the stability to implement them. This time last year I had just arrived in Port-au-Prince for the first time, hot on the trail of Jean Claude 'Baby Doc' Duvalier, who had flown into Toussaint Louveture Airport just sixteen hours before me.

At that time, in January 2011, the air was full of tension as Haitians anxiously awaited the results of the Presidential election recount. On my very first work-day here, Espy and I had to quickly wrap up our interview with a Digicel salesperson and head for the safety of home as there were riots breaking out downtown. They were responding to rumors that the police had taken Duvalier in briefly for questioning, but quickly released him.

The more things change: Time and transformations in Haiti and the Dominican Republic

January 12th 2012

The anthropology of the Caribbean is framed around questions of social change. Until the 1950s, the region was considered unworthy of study due to its cultural heterogeneity and lack of an 'original society'.

However, for the last few decades, the region has been considered theoretically important for understanding globalization. Ironically, the very same factors that caused scholars to ignore it–cultural mixing and modernization–are now a source of fascination for scholars who are interested in how societies adapt and change.

What does 5,000 years of debt says about humanity?

January 3rd 2012

Review of Graeber, David. 2011. Debt: The First 5,000 Years. New York: Melville House Publishing.

Do we really have a moral obligation to pay our debts? According to anthropologist David Graeber, the answer to this question is a resounding 'no'. In his latest book, Debt: The First 5,000 Years, Graeber argues that the language of debt permeates our common-sense notions of morality to such an extent that the idea that 'one must pay one's debts' seems common-sense.