Like several students have indicated, Haiti first captured my attention through the news about the devastating disaster in 2010, followed by the relief campaigns. Its history and involvement in the global transformation nevertheless was scantily mentioned. I did not find out about Haiti’s past until I took a Cultural Anthropology class later in Fall 2010, where we spent time reading two impressive tour de force – “Aids and Accusations” by Paul Farmer and “Mountains beyond Mountains” by Tracy Kidder. Paul Farmer (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Farmer) obtained his B.A. from Duke, attended graduate school at Harvard where he earned a M.D. and a Ph.D., and went to work in Haiti. His book “Aids and Accusations” attempts to explain the link between Haiti’s present state of rampant poverty and diseases and its past as a French colony, as the first country to obtain independence, and later, as a country that was oppressed financially and militarily by both the United States and France. The second book was almost an ethnography of Farmer’s work in Haiti and Boston, which adds another rich layer of details to his life and quest as a doctor. I really enjoy reading both of them – besides being historically and anthropologically informative, they are also critical about the exploits imposed on third-world countries by the developed countries.
Aside, I want to also comment on a few details in Hunt’s “Inventing Human Rights”. It did not appear clear to me at the beginning of the book why she made the distinction between “natural rights” and “rights of man”. But as I read on, even though Hunt never explains this explicitly, the way I see it is that she intends for “natural rights” to be the rights we possess in the “state of nature” defined by Rousseau, whilst “rights of man” is the rights agreed upon by men when they entered the social contract, and thus already implying a degree of constraint. I am very interested in hearing what others have to comment on this.
One point I wish Hunt had incorporated in her book is the comparison between “rights of man”, i.e. why is it that with Locke, we have “life, liberty and property”, with the American Declaration of Independence, we have “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, and with the French Declaration of Independence, it is “liberty, property, security and resistance to oppression”. Hunt did allude to a comparison in the last chapter, but she never made a distinct one.