Pepper water and protests in Haiti

By Scott Freeman

Tear gas is not uncommon in Port au Prince. Over the past decade, whether it has been protests over food shortages, controlling political demonstrations, or ‘peacekeeping’ actions by the infamous MINUSTAH UN forces, tear gas and other methods of crowd control have been a reality of the political and social landscape in downtown Port-au-Prince. A veteran reporter in Haiti told me that he had developed all sorts of strategies to deal with tear gas, ranging use of lime under his nose to more preventative measures like always having a paint masks handy.
But as of late, a new method of mass crowd control has been quite literally ‘sweeping the streets’ in the capital of Haiti. A type of pepper spray spiked water is being shot out of water cannons and into crowds of protesters. Dlo grate, or itching water, as it is referred to in Haitian Creole, is a now common term in Port au Prince. While not all have felt its devastatingly powerful effects, knowledge of the new tactic is widespread throughout the city.

The visit of French President François Hollande was the backdrop for the most recent student protest and excessive police response. Student protests are not uncommon in Port-au-Prince, and for the past years these demonstrations have often targeted the government in power. On May 12th, outside of the Faculté d’Ethnologie, the storied home of Haitian anthropology and site of many student demonstrations, 50 or so university students protested the arrival the French President– the first official state visit of any French President to Haiti. Given that Hollande had just rescinded an offer of reparations to Haiti for the damages of slavery and exploitation (officials insisting he was talking about a ‘moral debt’ and not a financial one), such a protest was largely predictable. Other protests in the plaza of Champ de Mars supposedly numbered around 200. During the day of his visit, students and protesters chanted ‘Nou pa esklav anko!’ (We won’t be slaves again), invoking France’s historical role as a slave owning colonial power, and hinting at the continual neocolonial tactics used by France and the broader international community. Some students provocatively dressed as slaves outside the university campus.

Student Protestors at Faculté d’Ethnologie on May 12, 2015.

During the late morning that Tuesday, I was in the second floor computer of the Faculté d’Ethnologie preparing a seminar that would be cancelled 45 minutes later. I could hear student chants that had been building for an hour or so. But new noises soon entered the air-conditioned room, and students sitting around me got up from their computers to see what caused the loud commotion.

From the second floor balcony, we could see that a black armored national police truck had parked itself outside of the walls of the school. On the top of this tank, visible over the wall, was a large turret fixed with a water cannon. The noise we could hear was the water that was being shot at students, occasionally hitting the metal door of the courtyard. The demonstration was non-violent (a Professor later remarked that he saw one student throw a stone, only to be quickly reprimanded by other demonstrators), yet the tank was parked right outside the courtyard, knocking students to the ground with a surge of water even when they were inside the gates of the university. From its position higher than the university walls, the water cannon was policing actions of even the students inside the gate. Continue reading “Pepper water and protests in Haiti”

Call for papers: Conference on Transforming Development

The Ford Family Program in Human Development Studies and Solidarity and the Center for Social Concerns at the University Notre Dame in collaboration with SIT Study Abroad announce the 6th annual student conference on human development.

Offering participants the opportunity to explore interdisciplinary and sustainable research to improve livelihoods while advancing human dignity, this year’s theme is inspired by the idea that development is an evolving process. A widening set of stakeholders and rapidly advancing technologies raise new possibilities for the field. The conference will be a chance to reflect on both successes and failures in development, while analyzing opportunities created by these new trends.

With the goal of showcasing student research that investigates collaborative and innovative solutions to address human development’s most challenging issues, we welcome proposals from undergraduate and graduate students to share their research, particularly those based on experiences in the field, in a broad spectrum of topics:

  • Agriculture
  • Aid
  • Business
  • Culture
  • Economics
  • Education
  • Engineering
  • Environment
  • Gender
  • Governance
  • Health
  • Human Rights
  • Infrastructure
  • Migration
  • Peace and Conflict
  • Public Policy
  • Religion
  • Technology

Students interested in presenting a paper should submit their abstract (no more than 500 words) no later than Thursday, November 14.

Peter K. New Student Paper Prize

The Society for Applied Anthropology (SfAA) announces an annual student research competition in the applied social and behavioral sciences. The winner of the competition will receive a cash prize of $2000 and travel funds to attend the annual meetings of the SfAA.

The award honors the late Peter Kong-ming New, a distinguished medical sociologist-anthropologist and former president of the SfAA. The award will be given to the best paper which reports on an applied research project in the social/behavioral sciences. The research question should be in the domain of health care or human services (broadly construed). Please see the guidelines by clicking on the link below for additional information. The paper must be submitted to the SfAA Business Office no later than December 31 by emailing to: info@sfaa.net.

April 1st deadline for student anthropology submissions

Student Anthropologist, a peer-reviewed journal of the National Association of Student Anthropologists, seeks scholarly submissions from undergraduate and graduate students worldwide, in particular those emphasizing anthropology’s capacity to shape public issues, social problems, and global realities. These submissions should contain original research.

The two types of submissions accepted include:

1. Scholarly articles: under 6,000 words in length, subject to a peer review process.

2. Commentary submissions: opinion or theory pieces that are the original work of the author. Commentary submissions might include such mediums as written pieces (approx. 2,000 words in length), photo essays (10 photos + 1,000 words of commentary in length) and videos/YouTube© clips (10-minute maximum in duration + 1,000 words of commentary in length).

The deadline is Monday, April 1st. For more information, click here.

Applications invited for Summer Enrichment Program in Tibet

Machik is once again offering its Summer Enrichment Program (SEP). All volunteers must arrive on July 12th, and depart on August 10th. There will be a mandatory orientation for all volunteers on July 13, 14, and 15. Please read the application guidelines carefully before initiating your application. Application deadline is March 25, 2013.