Streams of Violence
Since the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, many prominent intellectuals and public figures such as Annie Gell (2010), Apurva Sanghi (2010), and Paul Farmer (2011) have written about the event as an “unnatural” or “man-made” disaster. They explain that in addition to plate tectonics, various human factors produced Haiti’s disaster, including global warming, poor city planning, defectively constructed buildings and homes, a failed public health system, delayed and discriminatory government response, and deeply entrenched race, class, and gender divisions. As Noël Sturgeon argues, “conceiving of nature and culture as radically separate spheres … and promoting individualistic solutions to environmental problems without considering the need for change does not get at the root of our problems” (8). Sturgeon’s call for change demands critical reflection on human-centered and human-augmented environmental disasters that challenge deep-seated social values and ideologies about gender, race, and environment, a demand for the kind of reflection which, I argue here, is often the work of literature.