Some of the advice for how Haiti ought to rebuild after the earthquake sounds hauntingly familiar. There are echoes of the same bad development advice Haiti has received for decades, even before the nation faced its current devastating situation. To avoid repeating past failures, we would be wise to review how previous aid models led down the wrong path.
Twelve years ago, Grassroots International released a study entitled “Feeding Dependency, Starving Democracy: USAID Policies in Haiti.” Offering an in-depth examination of USAID development policies in Haiti, the study concluded that official aid actually damaged the very aspects of Haitian society it was allegedly trying to fix. The aid was undermining democracy and creating too much dependency.
The study was particularly critical of the development community for making Haiti into a net food importer when it had been nearly self-sufficient and, in fact, a major rice producer. Despite, or because of, years of aid programs and structural adjustment policies imposed by international financial institutions and donor countries, the study found that Haiti’s food dependency was actually increasing. This disturbing result was partially caused by subsidized food aid programs that fed transnational agribusiness corporations but didn’t help Haitians grow food for their families.
Sadly, much of that 12-year-old study could have been written today.
This is the blog for the sociology classes of Prof. Richard Hudak (Endicott College, the University of Massachusetts Lowell and Merrimack College).
When I started this blog, I had been enjoying a lot of the TV series “The Ghost Whisperer” in reruns. In imagining what it might be like to talk to the dead, I began to muse that sociologists, too, were weird to the average person, and “have a gift” of being able to see the hand of social structure in everyday life. The Sociological Imagination is what makes us “special” or at least distinctive.
But this is not a gift we have inherited, like Melinda Gordon of the TV series. Rather it is one that has been bequeathed to us by teachers before.
For the past few years I have shared with my students a variety of internet content related to sociology. This is a more systematic effort to do so, and to give students the opportunity to create their own posts as well. Welcome to “The Structure Whisperer.”