Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

Haitians are citizens of the Republic of Haiti, comprising the western third of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. With French-Creole heritage and overwhelmingly African culture, Haiti has been an independent state since 1804, after formerly enslaved rebels defeated French colonial forces. A majority of Haitians live in rural villages and a considerable number still farm. Jobs in the manufacturing and service sectors are other common means of securing a livelihood. Over the years, Haitians have suffered from frequently concurrent episodes of natural disasters, economic marginalization, and political instability and repression.


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Middle America and the Caribbean --Caribbean



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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in eHRAF World Cultures and are referenced by author, date of publication and eHRAF document number.

The Haitians collection (SV03) covers historical, cultural, economic and environmental information, circa mid-1520s to 2001, on the peoples of Haiti which occupies the western third of the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean. A majority of the documents are concerned with Marbial, a rural community in central Haiti as observed in 1934-1957, and a slum urban community in the capital Port-au-Prince.

The basic works to consult are three documents, all of them written by American anthropologists based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted fieldwork in 1934-1955. Of these three, Leyburn (1966, no.3) provides the most comprehensive introduction to the island’s cultural and political history. Herskovits (1937, no. 1) is a study of peasant life in Marbial with particular emphasis on religion, but also aspects of economic activities and social organization. Courlander (1960, no. 2) provides a detailed description of Haitian religion and folklore, highlighting elements which he considers to have originated in traditional African regions.

The information in these documents is further enriched by follow-up research focusing on specific themes. The works of Jennie Marcelle Smith and Alfred Métraux Alfred provide important updates on the peasants of Marbial with particular emphasis on aspects of economic life (Métraux 1951, no.11) and structural causes for the continued impoverishment and marginalization of rural people (Smith 2001, no.4). Other themes covered in these recent studies include dynamics of urban life in a downtown Port-au-Prince community called Upper Belair (Languerre 1982, no: 5), childbearing practices and maternal health care (Allman 2011, no.7), family life and regulations of sexual relations (Simpson, no. 6: 1942), traditional association for mutual help and cooperation (Métraux 1952, no. 10), class relations (Comhaire 1955, no. 8), and significance of kinship ties among market women (Legeman 1962, no. 9).

For more detailed information on the context of the individual works in the file, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

Overview by

Teferi Adem

Arrondissement –Haitian government administrative divisions each further divided into small units called communes– Use TERRITORIAL HIERARCHY ( 631) with ADMINISTRATIVE AGENCIES ( 647)

Chef de section Use LOCAL OFFICIALS ( 624) with TERRITORIAL HIERARCHY ( 631)

Combite –community organization for cooperation and labor exchange– Use MUTUAL AID ( 476) with COOPERATIVE ORGANIZATION ( 474)

Lwa –ancestral spirits– Use CULT OF THE DEAD ( 769) with SPIRITS AND GODS ( 776)

Maljok –evil eye– Use SORCERY ( 754)

Manbo-yo –women vodum priests– Use PRIESTHOOD ( 793)

Ougan-yo –men vodum priests– Use PRIESTHOOD ( 793)

Placee –socially recognized, but not legally sanctioned, extramarital relationship between a married man and a single woman– Use EXTRAMARITAL SEX RELATIONS ( 837) with REGULATION OF MARRIAGE ( 582)

Sections rurales –use 631– Use TERRITORIAL HIERARCHY ( 631)

Vodun –the dominant religion of Haiti– Use GENERAL CHARACTER OF RELIGION ( 771) with RELIGIOUS DENOMINATIONS ( 795)

Indexing Notes by

Teferi Adem

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