After the natural disaster, sanitation “angels”

by cindy

In the first week of class we spoke about waste as a system of classification.  A system to categorize material at a mass social level, from separating the good from the bad.  Of our need to remain separate and pure from waste for spiritual, emotional, physical and/or hygienic purposes.  Waste systems create order; social structures rely on order to function.

Ukeles points to two particular systems – development and maintenance.  Maintenance is a system of support supporting the outcomes and byproducts of development.  Waste removal and classification is a maintenance activity.

Just as revolutions disrupt the function of maintenance activities – or more specifically require that new maintenance systems be put in their place – so do natural disasters such as the earthquake in Haiti a year ago.

I recall this article from a couple of months ago concerning the state of waste management in Haiti.  With a complete breakdown of the maintenance system, Haitians are literally living with – and in some cases within – their own wast.  The new sanitation “angels” in Haiti are those men who are willing to submerge themselves in the fetid canals of waste in order to remove materials most likely to accelerate the spread of cholera.


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