What I’m Reading: Summer 2019

As an academic, I suffer from a chronic complex of I-should-always-be-working, but in recent months I’ve decided that there is no point in this career if it precludes doing things that I enjoy. So I’ve made a point of actively reading fiction alongside scholarship. It helps that I’ve rediscovered the public library (farewell Amazon! 💸).

Some of the fiction has been urgent, like the recently published The Affairs of the Falcóns by Melissa Rivero, which takes the reader into the intimate world of a family of undocumented Peruvian immigrants in the 1990s. I read this in about two days. Highly recommended (would also be good for undergrads). I’m also returning to Beloved by the late, great, Toni Morrison.

Right now, I’m developing a chapter for my book manuscript about construction and the urban water supply in Port-au-Prince, so I’ve been reading some great work about the history and anthropology of water infrastructure. I’m reading Nikhal Anand’s 2017 book Hydraulic City: Water and the Infrastructures of Citizenship in Mumbai and Matthew Vitz’s 2018 City on a Lake: Urban Political Ecology and the Growth of Mexico City. These books deal with the anthropology and history of urban water infrastructures. These are both great examples of the growing literature of the social life of the built environment in an era of profound ecological transformation.

Article alert! x2

Over the past two months, I’ve had two new publications come out. The first, “Building Corruption in Haiti” is a reflection on the recent protests movements in Haiti driven by revelations of massive government corruption in the management of Petrocaribe money. Much of the money seems to have been funneled into private bank accounts through construction projects that were never started, never finished, or offer an anemic version of what had been promised. My article, in NACLA, contextualizes this moment within longer histories of construction and corruption. But these enduring relationships of extraction are not ahistorical, I argue. They are constantly modified and inflect ever-shifting web of domestic and international dynamics.

The second publication is an H-Haiti book review of Greg Beckett’s excellent new ethnography of urban life in Port-au-Prince in the early 2000s.