Street Sovereigns: Young Men in Search of the State in Urban Haiti (in progress)
Street Sovereigns is an ethnography of street politics in a major Port-au-Prince ghetto. It traces the history and politics of what is called the “baz” (base) in Haitian Creole. The baz—part gang, part development organization, part political party, part music group—is a new mode of organizing that marginal urban youth have created to stake claims for representation and development in the liberal democratic era. Bazes enable marginal urban youth to exercise new influence in national politics and development economies, but they also lead to violent contests of leadership that exacerbate insecurity and poverty. Contrary to mainstream analyses that understand the baz as an apolitical, criminal gang, Street Sovereigns argues that it more accurately expresses the possibilities and conflicts that result from the way liberalizing regimes of governance are articulating with emergent forms of urban sovereignty. I extend my analysis beyond Haiti to argue that such localized sovereignties—common in cities as diverse as Kingston, Rio de Janeiro, Johannesburg, and Delhi—are the face of the new global order in which the state and its formal modalities have collapsed.