Urbanisme in Ayiti: Diffusion, Decentralization & Disaster
Sophonie Joseph PhD Candidate, Columbia GSAPP
Oral storytelling is at the heart of Haitian traditional knowledge exchange. Planning scholar, Leonie Sandercock notes that stories are also at the heart of planning practice (2003, p. 12). In October 2016, the Southwestern Peninsula region of Haiti’s physical infrastructure was devastated by Hurricane Matthew, a category-five superstorm. Physical infrastructures’ reconstruction is a difficult post-natural disaster challenge.
Few insurgent planning stories exist that bridge discourses across urbanisme’s disciplinary and language barriers. The purpose of this case study is to tell rural infrastructure planning stories about the diffusion of traveling planning ideas, specifically decentralization planning within the Haitian postcolonial context. Decentralization planning is defined as the devolution of strong central governments responsibilities, functions or powers to a less concentrated area of subnational government units. The research questions the long-term sociocultural impact of development aid in disaster recovery efforts.
This longitudinal and mixed methods case study of a rural municipality, Pòsali, tracks planning efforts from 2010 to 2017. By focusing on rural, Southern Haiti’s pre- and post-disaster experience and NGOs’ invasion of the area, I triangulate data from semi-structured interviews, quantitative survey responses, ethnography and historic archival documents’ analysis. The research findings include: NGO invasion of an area decreases community members sense of unity, increases participation fatigue and thus decreases participatory planning’s viability. Furthermore, decentralization planning goals are undermined by the complexity of the pernicious effects of aid. This intersectional study contributes to a gap in the Black diaspora’s policymaking and urban history within the policy mobilities, transnational planning, radical geography and feminist planning literature.