Scott Freeman is an environmental anthropologist working at the intersection of conservation and international development in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

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Curriculum Vitae

Scott Freeman
Professorial Lecturer
School of International Service
American University 

I am an environmental anthropologist and work at the intersection of conservation and international development in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. I have conducted ethnographic fieldwork on soil conservation, sustainable fisheries, and coffee cooperatives, and have focused on NGOs, grassroots organizations, and agricultural labor groups.

My book manuscript examines soil conservation and development projects in Haiti. I'm currently thinking through what a social analysis of soil reveals about conservation writ large. This research is also focused on theorizing the development ‘project’, a phenomenon that has come to organize much of contemporary development aid. The book demonstrates how the administrative form of the development project has become an actor in its own right, influencing the design, implementation, and measurement of aid in Haiti and beyond.


Research Themes

Recently Published Edited Volume

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Dr. Freeman's Chapters in Who Owns Haiti? 

  • Sovereignty and Soil: Collective and Wage Labor in Rural Haiti.

  • Sovereignty and ‘Ownership’ from Inside and Out. with Robert Maguire.

  • Reflections on Sovereignty. with Robert Maguire and Nicholas Johnson.

Who Owns Haiti? People, Power, and Sovereignty

(2017) Edited by Robert Maguire and Scott Freeman and published by the University Press of Florida, featuring chapters by Laurent Dubois, Robert Fatton Jr., Scott Freeman, Nicholas Johnson, Chelsey Kivland, Robert Maguire, Francois Pierre-Louis Jr., Karen Richman, Ricardo Seitenfus, and Amy Wilentz

Although Haiti established its independence in 1804, external actors such as the United States, the United Nations, and non-profits have wielded considerable influence throughout its history. Especially in the aftermath of the Duvalier regime and the 2010 earthquake, continual imperial interventions have time and again threatened its sovereignty.

Who Owns Haiti? explores the role of international actors in the country’s sovereign affairs while highlighting the ways in which Haitians continually enact their own independence on economic, political, and cultural levels. The contributing authors contemplate Haiti’s sovereign roots from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, including political science, anthropology, history, economics, and development studies. They also consider the assertions of sovereignty from historically marginalized urban and rural populations. This volume addresses how Haitian institutions, grassroots organizations, and individuals respond to and resist external influence. Examining how foreign actors encroach on Haitian autonomy and shape--or fail to shape--Haiti’s fortunes, it argues that varying discussions of ownership are central to Haiti’s future as a sovereign state.

"Powerful essays by experts in their fields addressing what matters most to smaller nations--the meaning of sovereignty, and the horrid trajectory from colonialism, to neocolonialism into neoliberalism."--Patrick Bellegarde-Smith, author of Haiti: The Breached Citadel

Soil Conservation & Agriculture


Sliding Soils: Political Ecology and Development in Haiti (Book manuscript in progress)

Sovereignty and Soil: Collective and Wage Labor in Rural Haiti. In Who Owns Haiti? People, Power, and Sovereignty (2017), eds. Robert Maguire and Scott Freeman

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Who Speaks for Soil?

Platypus, the CASTAC blog, April 7, 2015

"The director of the FAO, José Graziano da Silva, had the following to say of the importance of soil: 'The multiple roles of soils often go unnoticed. Soils don’t have a voice, and few people speak out for them. They are our silent ally in food production.'
Yet as I’ve found researching soil conservation in Haiti in 2012 and examining the history of soil conservation more broadly, it seems that many people have spoken out for soils.... while I’d agree with Mr. da Silva that soils do not have an “audible” voice, I’d argue that we need to pay far more attention to who speaks for soils and why.


Dumping Peanuts in Haiti

The Globalist, June 18, 2016, co-authors Adam Diamond and Garrett Graddy-Lovelace

"[T]he seemingly noble act of donating peanuts to Haiti has rightly been criticized as undermining the already struggling smallholding peanut farmers in Haiti.
But this is not simply an issue of international aid policy. Smallholding farmers in Haiti are merely the most recent group of peanut farmers to be displaced by domestic agriculture policy. The first group was small and medium size growers in the United States."

Development Aid & Projects


Lojik èd: Pwojè e Odìt nan Ayiti (Logics of aid: The project and audit in Haiti). Chantiers. Universitè d’Ètat d’Haiti (Forthcoming)

Haiti’s Projectified Landscapes. African Education In Focus. Teachers College, Columbia University. (2013)       


Perfume & the Vetiver Trade


Perfume and Planes: Ignorance and Imagination in Haiti's Vetiver Oil Industry" Recently published in The Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology 

Vetiver in Southwest Haiti (pdf). New York: Haiti Research and Policy Program, Columbia University. Digital Publication. (2013) 


Writings for the Focus on Haiti Initiative


The Focus On Haiti Initiative was founded after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and promotes scholarship and policy discussions on Haiti at the Elliott School of International Affairs. Dr. Freeman was a member of the FOH team while a visiting scholar at the Institute for Global and International Studies at the Elliott School of George Washington University.



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My teaching focuses on the intersection of Latin America and the Caribbean, International Development and the Environment, and is informed by a critical  anthropological lens. I currently teach courses at both the master’s and undergraduate level on International Development and the Politics of Environmental Conservation. 

I have taught at the doctoral, masters, and undergraduate levels, and continue to teach and collaborate with the Faculté d’Ethnologie at the Université d’Etat d’Haiti in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.



International Development. 2015-2019. American University.

Politics of Conservation. 2015-2019. American University.

Conservation, Sustainability, and Development. 2015. Georgetown University.

Qualitative Field Research Methods. 2015. Georgetown University.

Antwopoloji Anviwonman (Environmental Anthropology). 2015. Université d’Etat d’Haiti.

Micropolitics of Development and Social Analysis. 2014. American University.

Globalization, Institutions, and Bureaucracy. 2014. The George Washington University.

Methods Seminar in Development Anthropology. 2014. The George Washington University.


International Development. 2015-2019. American University.

Politics of Conservation. 2015-2019. American University.

Marginalization and Conservation. 2015. American University.

Methods in Sociocultural Anthropology. 2015. The George Washington University.

Introduction to Latin American Studies. 2014. The University of Maryland.

Development Anthropology. 2013. The George Washington University.

Introduction to Comparative Ethnic Studies. 2011 (Teaching Assistant). Columbia University.


Palo Alto: Café y Vida

The following documentary is presented by the coffee-growing community of Palo Alto, Santiago in the Dominican Republic. Cooperativa Agropecuaria y Servicios Multiples de los Agricultores del Alto del Cedro (COOPACEDRO) is an organization composed of over 150 coffee farmers banding together to maintain sustainable livelihoods in the face of crop loss due to coffee rust. 

Support is provided  by Instituto para la Autogestión y el Desarrollo de Base (INADEB) and the Inter-American Foundation


Media and Presentations


The deportation crisis no one is talking about

Guest segment on Changing America, MSNBC, June 23, 2015                          

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"The Dominican Republic is deporting hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants -- mostly of Haitian descent. The measure has sparked international outrage. What happens now?"

Revisions of Soil: Generations of Applied Anthropology in Haiti

Presentation at Teachers College, Columbia University, on Applying Anthropology, February 26, 2015

... unlike early applied research, contemporary anthropology must critically engage with the knowledge produced by NGOs and development funding agencies, and therefore with the very research produced by previous applied anthropological efforts. This presentation illustrates and analyzes the way in which multiple anthropologies come into contact, and how a contemporary applied venture must critically analyze a broad spectrum of development actors, both past and present.


Perfumers promote fair trade for Haiti's 'super-crop'

by David Adams, REUTERS, April 24, 2014 

"The vetiver plant, a tropical grass, is a little-known Haitian agricultural treasure, producing one of the most prized essential oils for high-end perfumes .... The crop is a major employer in the region, where farmers have harvested vetiver from the region's dry, hilly soil for decades with little but a subsistence living to show for it - until recently....

Critics say the fair-trade system may not help the farmers enough. Scott Freeman ... said unforeseen events often force farmers to dig up immature roots to cover medical care, school fees or a funeral.

'Haitian farmers are in an economically precarious position,' said Freeman. 'When they find themselves in a tight squeeze, they dig up the vetiver. It's their bank account.'"


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