I’m a historian who analyzes material urban life to uncover the social, political and environmental history of the modern Caribbean and Latin America. I defended my Ph.D. at Duke University in March 2018. Currently, I’m a Visiting Scholar at the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies at the University of Virginia. My research analyzes a history of construction in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to explore urgent questions about the relationship between politics, the built environment, and the historical foundations of disaster.
My book manuscript, tentatively titled And We Will Be Devoured: Construction, Destruction, and Dictatorship in Haiti, is under contract with University of California Press. The book uses the Haitian 2010 earthquake as a point of departure for a deep historical exploration of space, power, and politics in the modern Caribbean. I focus on how social vulnerabilities and physical vulnerabilities melded together through the physical production Port-au-Prince’s cityscape across the era of the Duvalier dictatorship (1957-1986). I analyze the city’s culture of building through interrogations of politics and social dynamics of city planning, construction, environmental management, and housing. Through these interwoven themes, I reveal how the city’s built environment was imbued with the social and political dynamics of its production. In the process, the book also uses urban history to create a new accounting of the little-understood Duvalier era.
I’ve also used oral history to document the lived experience of urban transformation, recording more than 100 interviews with survivors of the 2010 earthquake in Port-au-Prince. One of the most intimate collections of documentation on the disaster and its aftermath, the Haiti Memory Project has been cited in numerous accounts of the earthquake and has been used widely as a pedagogical resource in classrooms. I have written about the Haiti Memory Project in the Oral History Review and in a book chapter in the recently published volume Remembrance: Loss, Hope, Recovery after the Earthquake in Haiti
I spoke about my research at the Woodson Institute’s “Meet the Fellows” event. Click on the video below to watch a 5-minute presentation introducing my research.