Creole Cottage, Antigua

Creole Cottage, Antigua

Haitian "Caille"

Haitian "Caille"

Arawak Bohio

Arawak Bohio

Chez Elvis

Chez Elvis


A funny word, “economics.” From the Greek oikos, meaning “house,” meaning that whole area of life (relationships among friends, the unpaid work) that Economics chooses to ignore. An expression like “political economy” must have sounded like a farce when it was first coined, but now it returns as tragedy, the willful ignorance of the fact that the poor, too, have a system: of living, surviving and building.The New Orleans shotgun house has its own economy. A shotgun is a house so built that you could shoot a gun through the front door and kill the chicken you’re having for dinner, which happens to be be scratching in the back yard at the other end of the house. It’s a house longer than wide, with a series of rooms opening onto one another, front to back. This is the type of house Elvis was born in, in Tupelo, Mississippi.But then you can put two shotguns side-to side, which makes a double shotgun; or build a story at the back, which makes a camelback. Or you can put two shotguns facing one another with the long side facing the street and a passage in-between, which makes a dogtrot.

Mostly you stick a porch up front, which makes a creole cottage. The creole cottage is found all over the Caribbean, and far down into South America: the porch idea is Native American and the shotgun probably comes from Africa, according to the scholar John Vlach.

But then you have the house on stilts, as many houses are in New Orleans, and you’ve got a house that’s built to catch a breeze, and keep you dry, and provide you with a porch to socialize with passing folk. That’s the kind of house (the economy) that Bush’s goons are hoping to wipe out in poor areas of New Orleans. It takes a lot of cops to keep this economy outside the false oinkonomy of capitalism. Next question is, how many cops to destroy it?