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Guest Thinkers

Haiti: Foundations of a Tragedy

To understand Haiti better is to help it more effectively. That’s the simple premise behind our interview today with Prof. Laurent Dubois, a Duke University historian and French Studies professor recognized as a leading expert on the disaster-stricken country. As he explains, Haiti’s history is a checkered and often bloody one, beginning with a landmark 18th-century slave uprising whose effects continue to be felt in today’s crisis.

While acknowledging that “it’s hard to see forward” after this month’s horrific earthquake, Prof. Dubois ventured some advice as to how Haiti can start rebuilding and addressed the sensitive question of whether France, its former colonizer, owes an unusually large sum of relief money as historical “reparations.” Dubois also cleared away some of the damaging misconceptions currently swirling around the country’s culture, including the nature of its voodoo religion, noting that “an open mind…will be extremely important for those who are working there.”


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