Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Global and Sociocultural Studies

First Advisor's Name

Percy Hintzen

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Benjamin Smith

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Third Advisor's Name

Qing Lai

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Ana Maria Bidegain

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member


Disaster Aid, Humanitarian relief, Development, NGOs, Resilience

Date of Defense



This dissertation investigates both the effectiveness and the limitations of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) aid as it relates to efforts to provide sustainable development outcomes in the wake of disasters. Focusing on the case of Haiti, and the billions of dollars of disaster aid that the country received through NGOs for relief and reconstruction of the country in the wake of the 2010 magnitude 7.0 earthquake, this dissertation explores ways in which the delivery and management of disaster aid can be organized to produce long-term sustainable results. My research is formulated around the argument that, to produce long-term outcomes, disaster aid and relief must make development a centerpiece of its intervention in order to reduce future vulnerability and build resilient communities. I argue that disjunctures in the post-revolutionary governance of Haiti created conditions of precarity, vulnerability, and preempted possibilities for resilience. The explanation rests in the policies and practices of powerful domestic and foreign actors with vested interests in maintaining conditions of underdevelopment. This explains the failure of the country to effectively respond to extreme natural events such as earthquakes and hurricanes, thereby transforming them into pervasive natural disasters. Using a mixed method approach that combines institutional ethnography of three NGOs, semi-structured interviews, focus groups, and a survey of 889 households in Port-au-Prince, I document the failure of the post-disaster recovery. I argue that to create the conditions for structural transformation following a disaster, NGOs need to work with local governments in the face of an ineffective state. They need to do so in ways that empower the subaltern in the communities, and they need to build in resilience into their response. I make a general case that when authority is devolved to the local level, communities can escape the forms of disjuncture that create precarity and vulnerability operative at the national level of governance. This creates possibilities for genuine development transformation that bring with them resilience to natural events that produce disasters.



Included in

Sociology Commons



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