April 14, 2010

The future of the world in Haiti

Many who have followed Haiti’s recent political history have a strong sense that the aftershocks of the Haitian earthquake will not be felt in Haiti alone. What happens now in Haiti is a question of world historical significance. This is not the first time that events in Haiti have served as harbingers for the world’s collective future. An anti-slavery and anti-colonial revolution of 1791-1804 created the independent state of Haiti as only the second independent country in the Americas. In giving birth to Haiti, the Revolution transformed the socio-political landscape of the 19th century Atlantic world, unleashing forces that would ultimately lead to the collapse of Atlantic slavery. In a repeat of history, the 2010 earthquake has the potential to transform politics in our own times, either for better, or – if we fail to take the time to reflect deeply on the full meaning of what has happened – for worse. Together with Haitians, we must all confront the daunting but inevitable question: how do we imagine the future in the face of a catastrophe of this scale?

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