Social order in Haiti

After early reports of post-earthquake chaos, news agencies are reporting instances of Haitians creating social order. The New York Times reported that starving Haitians are sharing their intermittent meals, as “new rules of hunger etiquette are emerging.” A portion of chicken, once appropriate for two people, might now be shared with 20.

This may be a sign of failings of the aid community, or of problems at the airport that prevent incoming planes, loaded with food, to land. But in any case, no matter how desperate they are, Haitians are following new unwritten rules about how to deal with their traumatic state, about how to get along with others who are equally desperate.

However disorderly Haiti may appear, Haitians are not in a state of chaos. Following the insights of Harold Garfinkel and ethnomethodology, Haitians are engaged in the everyday co-production of order, in this case including the collective but bottom-up process of dealing with being in a food crisis. There are no doubt myriad other examples of how life in Haiti, even now, continues to be orderly and functional. Now, if only the food would arrive.

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