"The Tenth Department" by Michel S. Laguerre, Ph.D.

Laguerre is Professor and Director of the Berkeley Center for Globalization and Information Technology at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of Diasporic Citizenship: Haitian Americans in Transnational America (1998) and Diaspora, Politics, and Globalization (2006).

The Tenth Department was conceived of, between 1986 and 2003, as a symbolic overseas diasporic territorial circumscription of the Republic of Haiti. Until 1962, Haiti was divided into 5 Departments (Artibonite, Nord, Nord-Ouest, Ouest, and Sud). In that year, the country was repartitioned into 9 Departments (Artibonite, Centre, Grand’Anse, Nord, Nord-Est, Nord-Ouest, Ouest, Sud, and Sud-Est). After the collapse of Duvalier’s kleptocratic dictatorial regime in 1986, the 10th Department concept was popularly used by government officials, diasporic political leaders, and academic analysts in reference to the diaspora to reflect the contribution of its membership in the re-foundation of the nation (the crossborder nation) and the restructuration of the state (the expanded state). After the Nippes Department, carved out of the Grand’Anse Department, became in 2003 an additional and official intra-muros territorial Department of the country (Artibonite, Centre, Grand’Anse, Nippes, Nord, Nord-Est, Nord-Ouest, Ouest, Sud-Est, and Sud), the use of the 10th Department to refer to the Haitian diaspora has slowly passed into oblivion. No attempt so far has been made to rename the diaspora the 11th Department.

The practice of referencing the diaspora as a demographic unit of the state is not peculiar to Haiti. Other countries have developed a similar strategy for the same reason; that is, to redefine the nation as inclusive of its diaspora—thereby transforming it into a cosmonation—and to recognize the contributions of the diaspora to the shaping of the accomplishments and destinies of the homeland. In this context, one may understand why the French diaspora is viewed as the "27th Region of France;" the Polish diaspora as the "4th Province of Poland;" and the Chilean diaspora as the "14th Region of Chile." The identification of the diaspora as a region, department, or province creates a potential renaming problem if the country decides to redefine the boundaries of its electoral units through redistricting, as we have seen in the case of Haiti. However, defining or identifying the diaspora as a circumscription of the state (the "11th constituency"), as Croatia did, is a practical way to resolve this impending redundancy issue.