Humanitarian Aftershocks in Haiti by Mark Schuller: Analysis of Modern Global Humanitarianism

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About this sample


Words: 1060 |

Pages: 2|

6 min read

Published: Apr 15, 2020

Words: 1060|Pages: 2|6 min read

Published: Apr 15, 2020

In his book, Humanitarian Aftershocks in Haiti, Mark Schuller uses an anthropological lens to examine the state of modern global humanitarianism and development via a record of humanitarian response after the 2010 earthquake that wreaked havoc in Haiti. In the book, Schuller shines a light on how aid groups based in Port-au-Prince reacted to widespread homelessness caused by the natural disaster.

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He implores the reader to consider several “unintended consequences” which go beyond the fundamental needs of aid recipients. Sculler confronts and ultimately supports the idea that philanthropic response to the earthquake had led to a secondary crisis, punishing Haitian communities based on a lack of humanitarian due diligence. He urges us to recognize that disaster response and other philanthropic ventures are fixed in a firm group of Western cultural ideals disguised as altruism which negatively impacts the cultures they are designed to benefit, in this case, Haitian culture. Schuller’s argument universally addresses the ways that highly local forms of unity and cultural expression are tainted by the neoliberal basis of philanthropic work. Schuller’s criticism of global humanitarianism is based on research carried out over a four year period, including his observations of eight different IDP camps.

Along with a team of Haitian-American and native-born Haitian university students, Schuller utilizes both quantitative and qualitative family surveys as well as interviews with camp inhabitants and aid professionals. Considering the wholesome implications of foreign aid, Schuller emphasizes Haitian perspectives. He establishes the main themes of each chapter by beginning with an interview, which becomes a powerful reference point for the reader. Humanitarian Aftershocks in Haiti provides a pivotal perception about the complicated communal dynamics of living in an internally displaced persons camp. Schuller’s analysis of eight different IDP camps yields common themes about family complexion, gender, and profoundly influential relationships. Through steady consumption of Haitian perspectives, Schuller allows the locals to direct his analysis. Schuller diverges from the neoliberal view of IDP camps and their locals being unremarkable instances of national underdevelopment and social flaw. Schuller describes how these camps’ were originally constructed and the organization of domestic dynamics within the camps’. Throughout his experience, Schuller chronicles how influential the professional practices of aid organizations are in the local social structure.

In chapter 4 Schuller discusses how the role of women in Haitian society was blurred after the earthquake. He says that as mothers and heads of the household, women were subjected to a patriarchal hierarchy that forced women to be submissive. The poverty of Haitian society along with traditional patriarchy led to women being abandoned by their male counterparts and having to sacrifice resources for their children. The humanitarian aid that Haiti received also caused physical and emotional distress of Haitian women post-disaster. The distribution of rationing cards to men created a corrupt system where men demanded sexual “favors” for allowing women to eat. Also, the shortage of sanitary resources in these aid camps clearly were shown to lodsidely impact women. After reading this chapter, I am still shocked about the lack of common sense used when reacting to these natural disasters. It is clear that NGOs and other governmental organizations neglected to familiarize themselves with any of the details associated with Haitian society.

As I learn more and more about the implications of foreign aid, I am finding it more and more imperative to become familiar with the details of local societies before distributing aid. In the chapter about Haitian familial framework, Schuller displays how the delivery of aid had almost single-handedly shifted the construct of the Haitian family unit. Institutions distributing humanitarian aid in Haiti decided to allocate resources based on the concept of the small nuclear family, rather than traditional Haitian family arrangements like the lakou. By neglecting conventional family formations like the lakou, a trans-generational household of extended family, the dispersion of aid forced Haitian families to divide into smaller units. The delivery of aid, centered around superficial expectations about familial structure entrenched in Neoliberal worldviews, was epithetical with Haitian culture and devastated local social networks. Schuller also remarks on how labor practices designed by aid organizations embody a negative pyramid of human worth.

Throughout Humanitarian Aftershocks in Haiti, Mark Schuller describes how the aid system favors foreign employees by paying them more and increasing benefits compared to local hires. Schuller notices that aid organizations value professional expertise as opposed to local knowledge. He observes that residents of the IDP camps reside at the base of this social hierarchy. A majority of these residents live in appalling conditions where they contend to meet their most fundamental necessities. Aid organizations view these residents with skepticism, notorious for making deliveries with armed UN soldiers. Although Schuller acknowledges that aid organizations often collect data about the needs of their residents, he remarks that these promises seldom result in tangible relief. Schuller is able to track the frequent injustice and basic inequalities of aid in Haiti to the far-reaching domination of Western political doctrine. Taking into account the importance of this idea to his comprehensive analysis, Schuller fails to provide the reader with a clear description of the term. It is undeniable that protocols weakening government influence and lowering barriers to trade ravaged the Haitian economy and social structure, but in his book, Schuller uses Western political ideology as an all-encompassing cause of Haitian struggle.

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At first, Schuller interprets the term as “the ideology and practice based on the assumption that the free market, unfettered by regulation or government interference, is the best engine for growth and the fairest distributor of wealth” (28). Later on, Schuller uses the term to describe a fixed landmark moment or an immaterial obligate of the world: Port-au-Prince witnessed disastrous urbanization in “the two decades since neoliberalism” (36); agrarian Haitians migrating to Port-au-Prince were “displaced by neoliberalism” (30). During the chapter about international organizations hiring Haitian employees, Schuller recounts the intrinsic social pecking-order that exists between aid recipients and educated Haitian workers, but he conclusively assigns these complicated social hostilities to the local impact of neoliberalism (176). Although Schuller’s supreme emphasis on neoliberalism drowns out many of the other secondary causes of destruction in Haiti, this idea does not dim the book’s many strengths. Schuller’s analysis is equipped with immense detail regarding the bureaucratic underpinnings and unintended consequences of aid-work in Haiti. His research introduces essential cultural criticism to a practice generally thought to be blanketed in ethical and economic conditions.

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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Humanitarian Aftershocks In Haiti By Mark Schuller: Analysis Of Modern Global Humanitarianism. (2020, April 12). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 20, 2024, from
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