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Unmaking the State in “Occupied” Haiti

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Abstract

The democratic transition in Haiti (1986–present) has been forged alongside the proliferation of global governance interventions, from a series of UN peacekeeping missions to countless NGOs. Much of this activity has been pursued in the name of building state capacity. This article explores why residents in a Port-au-Prince neighborhood targeted by diverse governance projects perceive and experience “statelessness.” Taking the peacekeeping mission as an exemplar of global governance, it traces how the mission's social effects promote the perception of statelessness among residents because they confuse the locus of sovereign authority. These perceptions of statelessness are rooted not only in the weakness of the government of Haiti but also in the impotence that comes from a political field occupied by excessive, disordered forms of governance. The acknowledgment of statehood therefore depends on embodied displays of authorized force in which both those who govern and those who are governed acknowledge sovereign agency, power, and responsibility.

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