Nou Bezwen Lape Pa Destabilizasyon

Graffiti, local participation, and language politics in post-earthquake Haiti


  • Charles Norton Université Paris Nanterre


Since the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship in the mid-1980s, multilingual political graffiti, along with murals containing several layers of political and religious symbolism, have been two of the most visible and public means for Haitians to circulate messages critiquing and supporting the status quo. More recently, Haiti has been referred to as the “Republic of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs),” alluding to the more than 10,000 NGOs that operate with little inter-agency coordination or accountability to the Haitian people and have eroded the sovereignty of the Haitian government (Kristoff et al. 2010). Following the earthquake of 12 January 2010, a coalition of foreign governments, NGOs, and international agencies planned and mobilized a multi-billion dollar reconstruction effort that has categorically excluded the vast majority of Haitians (Peck 2013). This study draws upon scoping interviews with hundreds of displaced Haitians, in-depth interviews with community leaders and reconstruction stakeholders in Haiti and South Florida, and by way of participant observation conducted during six weeks of consulting for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) during the aftermath of the earthquake. This qualitative and interpretive work explores the history of engaged public visual art in urban Haiti, examines local participation and language politics in the context of reconstruction, and offers the multilingual and multimodal graffiti of one Haitian artist as a case study for challenging the existing foreign-dominated power structures through the artist’s direct engagement with Haitians and foreigners alike.

Author Biography

Charles Norton, Université Paris Nanterre

Norton is a PhD candidate in Aesthetics at the University of Paris Nanterre, where his dissertation examines the intersections of hip-hop cultures, education, and social justice on a global scale. He is an instructor in the University of Arizona's French, Africana, and Hip-Hop Studies programs. Additionally, he works as a language and resettlement consultant for the Seattle Sounders Football Club, and is an active, pro bono collaborator with the Parisian cultural association 123...Rap!, the Tucson Hip-Hop Festival, the American Cultural Association of Morocco, and the University of Rwanda. 






“The Mango Tree Would Tell the Truth”