Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Geography (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Richard Grant

Second Committee Member

Diana Ter-Ghazaryan

Third Committee Member

Bradford McGuinn


On the 12th of January 2010, a massive earthquake struck the Caribbean nation of Haiti. One of the worst natural disasters to ever strike the Western Hemisphere, the capital of Port-au-Prince was severely damaged. In the aftermath of the earthquake, internally displaced people (IDPs) sought refuge by erecting hundreds of informal camps throughout the city. At the epicenter of this cataclysmic event was the burgeoning Champ de Mars tent city. Located in central Port-au-Prince, the Champ de Mars quickly transitioned from green space to slum. For two years, the eleven sites would emphasize patterns of insecurity and urban transition in a battered post-disaster zone. In 2012, the tent city was formally closed and thousands of people were relocated. This thesis begins with an analysis of camp formation in post-quake Port-au-Prince. The evolution of the Champ de Mars settlement is explored from beginning to end using historical and current satellite imagery. By investigating the evolution of the study site, human security paradigms and issues of urban permanence are examined in a qualitative and quantitative framework. In 2015, fieldwork conducted in Port-au-Prince entailed semi-structured and open-ended interviews, observations, and photography. Data and interviews amassed from internally displaced Haitians and the players who participated in the establishment and dissolution of the camp stress the complications of relocating disaster victims. This thesis concludes by examining some of the lessons learned post-closure. It is hoped that this case study will increase the understanding and applicability of disaster zone research by spotlighting an infamous tent city in a complicated urban environment.


Haiti; relocation; tent city; urban slums; internally displaced person; human security