Claire Antone Payton


I’m a PhD candidate in History at Duke University, where I study modern Caribbean history. My dissertation explores urban planning during the Duvalier regime in Haiti. I argue that as demographic growth intensified geographic expressions of race, class, and power, Port-au-Prince became a material and symbolic battleground in struggles over the meaning of Haitian sovereignty.

I’ve also used oral history to document the 2010 earthquake in Port-au-Prince and its aftermath. 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.

Research


I am currently completing my Ph.D. in History at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, under Dr. Laurent Dubois. My dissertation is “The City and the State: Urbanization and the Politics of Dictatorship in Haiti (1957-1986)”.

Historiographical debates tend to overlook the dictatorship of François Duvalier and his son Jean-Claude by situating it either as the culmination of a century and a half of Haitian authoritarian leadership or as the prologue to Haiti’s traumatic experiment with democracy following the popular uprising against Jean-Claude in 1986. Studies often reduce this era to episodes of spectacular violence, an approach which eclipses the quotidian structural violence the dictatorship implemented through urban planning and development projects. My dissertation, supported by a Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellowship, opens up this period by bringing together spatial theory and multi-site archival research to investigate the physical manifestations of the regime’s governmentality. During my research in Haiti, France, Canada, and the United States, I conducted interviews with planners and former government officials and located previously unexamined government and embassy records, newspapers, maps, urban planning studies, economic reports which together reveal the enduring material and political legacy of this critical period. My analysis of these materials challenges accounts that reduce the era’s devastating excesses to character flaws of father and son by exposing a diffuse network of actors who implemented or shaped the regime’s planning politics on local, national, and international levels. By concentrating on specific urban planning issues—slum clearance, construction of an international airport, degradation of the environment, and government control over the production of construction materials—I center the impact the administration had on the growing urban poor population, rather than focusing solely on the repression of elite dissents. This approach frames Haiti’s particular history within the broader themes of twentieth-century urbanization, population growth, and international development, urgent issues that have dramatically transformed life across the global south. As demographic growth intensified geographic expressions of race, class, and power, Port-au-Prince became a material and symbolic battleground in struggles over the meaning of Haitian sovereignty.

Publications


Refereed Journal Articles
2013

“Vodou and Protestantism, Faith and Survival: The Contest over the Spiritual Meaning of the 2010 Earthquake in Haiti.” Oral History Review 40, no. 2 (September 2013): 231–50.

Book Chapters
2016
“‘After They Beat Us They Are Like Dogs at Our Feet’: An Oral History of Vulnerability and Violence in Post-Earthquake Haiti.” In Remembrance: Loss, Hope, Recovery after the Earthquake in Haiti, edited by Nadège T. Clitandre, Claudine Michel, Marlène Racine-Toussaint, and Florence Bellande Robertson. Santa Barbara: Center for Black Studies Research at the University of California, Santa Barbara, 2016.

Book Reviews
2017

“Mark Schuller, Humanitarian aftershocks in Haiti” Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies / Revue Canadienne Des études Latino-Américaines et Caraïbes 42, no. 1 (January 2, 2017): 115–16.

Web-Based Publications

2012
“Case Study: The Haiti Memory Project”
Oral History in the Digital Age

Other Publications
2017
“On Moral Debt in Haiti,” NACLA Report on the Americas 49 no. 01 (April 2017) 64-70.

Translation

Forthcoming
Georges Anglade. “Atlas Critique of Haïti;” Jean Price Mars, “La vocation de l’élite;” Victor Schoelcher. “Colonies étrangères et Haiti: Résultats de L’emancipation Anglaise;” “French Royal Ordinance of 1825.” In The Haiti Reader, edited by Laurent Dubois, Kaiama L. Glover, Nadève Ménard, Millery Polyne, and Chantal Verna, translated by Claire Antone Payton. Durham: Duke University Press, forthcoming.

The Haiti Memory Project


The Haiti Memory Project is an online archival collection of first-person testimonies of survivors of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

I created this collection while living in Port-au-Prince, Haiti between June and December 2010.

I’ve written widely about the HMP, including an article in Oral History Review and a book chapter in the 2016 volume Remembrance: Loss, Hope, Recovery after the Earthquake in Haiti, edited by Nadège T. Clitandre, Claudine Michel, Marlène Racine-Toussaint, and Florence Bellande Robertson.