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When the Hands Are Many: Community Organization and Social Change in Rural Haiti

Smith, Jennie M.

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ISBN 10: 0801486734 / ISBN 13: 9780801486739
Published by Cornell University Press 2001-05-31, 2001
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Bibliographic Details

Title: When the Hands Are Many: Community ...

Publisher: Cornell University Press 2001-05-31

Publication Date: 2001

Binding: Paperback

Book Condition: Fair

Edition: 1.

About this title


In an ethnography that challenges standard approaches to understanding the poor and disempowered, Jennie M. Smith's descriptions of peasant activity change what constitutes a democratic society. Through their civil institutions and artistic expression, Haitian peasants, widely known as some of the world's most impoverished, politically disempowered, and illiterate citizens, debate the meanings of development, democracy, and the public good.Smith offers a historically grounded overview of how the Haitian state and certain foreign powers have sought to develop rural Haiti and relates how Haitian peasants have responded to such efforts through words and deeds. The author argues that songs called chante pwen serve as "melodic machetes," a tool with which the peasants make their voices heard in many social circumstances.When the Hands Are Many illustrates the philosophies, styles, and structures typical of social organization in rural Haiti with narrative portraits of peasant organizations engaged in agricultural work parties, business meetings, religious ceremonies, social service projects, song sessions, and other activities. Smith integrates these organizations' strengths into a new vision for social change and asks what must happen in Haiti and elsewhere to facilitate positive transformation in the world today.


"Interesting and enlightening reading for those interested in Caribbean ethnography; imperative reading for all those engaged in international development efforts."―Choice, January 2002, Vol. 39, No. 5

"Smith's humanistic text is an example of the kind of honest, holistic, and humane scholarship that anthropologists are beginning to embrace in 'public interest' anthropology. When the Hands Are Many is a challenge to researchers on NGOs and civic life in Haiti. Hopefully, the donors are reading this book, changing their ways of thinking about Haitian peasants and changing the way they do business in Haiti. The gauntlet has been thrown down. . . . everyone interested in Haiti should pick this book up."―Mark Schuller, UC Santa Barbara. Journal of Haitian Studies

"In exploring the meaning behind concepts such as democracy and social development from the peasants' perspective, Jennie M. Smith displays a firm commitment to producing a model for positive change in all spheres of Haitian life."―British Bulletin of Publications, No. 107, October 2002.

"Smith has called for an important debate that needs to be built on first-hand, anthropological understandings. Not only political scientists ought to learn this lesson, rather than rely inordinately on World Bank statistics and lessons of failure, but permit Haitians to craft what Haitians can create."―Henry F. Carey, Georgia State University, H-Net Reviews, May 2002

"There is an old Haitian Creole proverb that goes: 'Men anpil, chay pa lou' (when the hands are many, the load becomes lighter). Jennie Smith, by taking this proverb as a guideline for her book, has accomplished its goal of informing us of such a state of mind embodied by the moun andeyo of Haiti. Because of that, When Hands Are Many is an important ethnological, political and anthropological tool not only for scholars interested in Haitian society but also for Haitians themselves who have the reasons and desire to see the problems of their country solved."―Jeane Ellie, Counterpoise, January/April 2002

"When the Hands are Many is alive with its subjects' humor and irony even as its author refuses to romanticize the hemisphere's worst poverty. Jennie Smith asks us to view the organized peasantry as she does: as teachers and guides with a message for a world in which rising tides of inequality bring misery and affluence together cheek-to-jowl. Smith's lyrical book buzzes with the sights and sounds of village Haiti, yet remains accountable both to political economy and to history."―Paul Farmer, Harvard Medical School

"While When the Hands are Many will be required reading for all Haitianists, it also goes well beyond Haiti to demonstrate why and how ethnography matters. Jennie Smith's profound intellectual respect for the people she studies proves central to her research strategies."―Michel-Rolph Trouillot, University of Chicago

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