January 15, 2010
Dear AAA Members and Friends:
As we all know by now, Haiti has been hit by a natural disaster of horrible magnitude. For a country struggling for so long with inadequate infrastructure, widespread poverty, long-standing health problems, and frequent political instability, the earthquake on Tuesday and its many aftershocks are nothing less than a nightmare of unfathomable proportions.
I know many of you are already taking steps in your local settings to raise donations, spread the word about ways to help, and meet with others about strategies for the present and the near future. In my new role as President of the AAA, I want to thank you in advance.
I also want to make four suggestions:
- In response to those who have reached out to me requesting that the AAA provide information on those groups providing aid to people desperately in need, we include a couple of wonderful suggestions below (though many other organizations are also worth supporting both in cash and in kind, with our expertise and our connections as well). In particular, Partners in Health has been highlighted as an option for donations. They are in the field, delivering medical supplies and assistance to people in Port-au-Prince. They are an anthropologically-informed, locally-rooted organization with high credibility among anthropologists and others.
- The Haitian Studies Association should be an excellent connection for us all. They have already begun to develop strategies to help Haiti, Haitians, Haitians in the diaspora, and the Haitian academic community in the months ahead. Their website is www.HaitianStudies.umb.edu.
- The AAA will publish a blog post today to further guide the anthropological community in ways to respond usefully and compassionately. I will ask some of our Haitian experts to take the lead in responding to the post as soon as possible. We have colleagues in the Haitian anthropological community and I am most concerned to have them lead the rest of us in ways to help.
- Our best contributions are likely to require us to focus on the near-future even more than the present. I ask us all to think of the expertise we can bring in the months ahead. Medical anthropologists, economic anthropologists, practicing anthropologists, forensic anthropologists, legal anthropologists, material culture experts, and sociocultural anthropologists of many sorts may find thoughtful ways to help as our Haitian colleagues reach out to us. As my colleague and now President-Elect Leith Mullings just reminded me, it would also be really helpful if colleagues with close knowledge of Haitian society and history stay vigilant in watching media coverage of the disaster, the rescue operation, the aftermath, and Haitian society, more generally, and feel free to contribute their expertise through Op Ed pieces, letters to the editor, blogs, and interviews as well as the traditional scholarly channels.
Our dedicated colleagues who currently head AAA's Committee on Practicing, Applied, and Public Interest Anthropology (Shirley Fiske) and AAA's Committee for Human Rights (Deborah Poole and Robin Root) are already on the job and very much in touch with each other and with me. While anthropologists Paul Farmer (Partners in Health) and Ira Lowenthal (USAID) are already leading part of the initial rescue, recovery, and rebuilding operations, there is much work ahead.
Thank you in advance for helping those in need, and I thank you for your care, concern and support.
Virginia R. Dominguez
President, American Anthropological Association;
Edward William and Jane Marr Gutgsell Professor of Anthropology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign;
and Co-Founder and Consulting Director, International Forum for U.S. Studies