Traditionally, extended families in rural Haiti would organize themselves into clusters of homes surrounding a central courtyard. This organizational structure is called the lakou, a term which also denotes the extended family group itself. The lakou model has its roots in Haiti’s plantation heritage. As a nation emerging from enslavement, Haiti adopted the lakou as a means to safeguard against the return of the plantation. The lakou became a grassroots opposition to any state action tending to reinstate the plantation order. Existing entirely outside the state, the lakou became what Gérard Barthélemy called “an egalitarian system without a state.”
A second major contributing factor to the development of the lakou was the rise of vodou in Haiti. After Haiti achieved independence in 1804, it faced 56 years of neglect on the part of the Catholic Church. In this chasm, vodou—rooted in West African traditions—flourished. The absence of the Church throughout the early 1800’s allowed for other West African traditions, such as the family compound, to reemerge. This family compound structure, intimately linked with vodou practice, became the foundation for the Lakou system.
Dubois, Laurent. Haiti: The Aftershocks of History. New York: Metropolitan, 2012.Google Books. Web. 30 Apr. 2012. http://books.google.com/books?id=drU3HlesN5kC&printsec=frontcover&dq=haiti+the+aftershocks+of+history&hl=en&sa=X&ei=ZU6fT4nvHpOm8gSi4sSPAQ&ved=0CDAQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=haiti%20the%20aftershocks%20of%20history&f=false
Nesbitt, Nick. “Turning the Tide: The Problem of Popular Insurgency in Haitian Revolutionary Historiography.” Oct. 2008. Web. 30 Apr. 2012. http://www.smallaxe.net/repository/file/sx%2027/3-SA27%2520Nesbitt%2520(14-31).pdf
Stevens, A. M. (1998). Haitian womens food networks in haiti and oldtown, united states of america. Brown University).ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, , 364 p. http://search.proquest.com/docview/304419710?accountid=10598