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My Soul Is in Haiti

My Soul Is in Haiti: Protestantism in the Haitian Diaspora of the Bahamas

Bertin M. Louis
Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    My Soul Is in Haiti
    Book Description:

    In the Haitian diaspora, as in Haiti itself, the majority of Haitians have long practiced Catholicism or Vodou. However, Protestant forms of Christianity now flourish both in Haiti and beyond. In the Bahamas, where approximately one in five people are now Haitian-born or Haitian-descended, Protestantism has become the majority religion for immigrant Haitians.

    In My Soul Is in Haiti, Bertin M. Louis, Jr. has combined multi-sited ethnographic research in the United States, Haiti, and the Bahamas with a transnational framework to analyze why Protestantism has appealed to the Haitian diaspora community in the Bahamas. The volume illustrates how devout Haitian Protestant migrants use their religious identities to ground themselves in a place that is hostile to them as migrants, and it also uncovers how their religious faith ties in to their belief in the need to "save" their homeland, as they re-imagine Haiti politically and morally as a Protestant Christian nation.

    This important look at transnational migration between second and third world countries shows how notions of nationalism among Haitian migrants in the Bahamas are filtered through their religious beliefs. By studying local transformations in the Haitian diaspora of the Bahamas, Louis offers a greater understanding of the spread of Protestant Christianity, both regionally and globally.

    eISBN: 978-1-4798-8700-2
    Subjects: Anthropology, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    Brother Magloire of Victory Chapel Church of the Nazarene was explaining to me the difference between Protestants and Christians among Haitian migrants in the Bahamas.¹ He noted that you had to observe how someone functioned in society: Does the person serve God and manifest a devoutkaracktè(character), or does he or she engage in acts considered to be sinful, such as attending dance parties, smoking, or wearing make-up? His observations highlight a curious finding I stumbled upon while conducting fieldwork about Haitian Protestant religious practice among migrants in the Bahamas. Some migrants regard Protestant and Christian as two very...

  6. 1 Haitian Protestant Culture
    (pp. 19-46)

    “Why do you wear your hair like that? You should have hair like me!” These were the words of a pastor admonishing me while I was being threatened with physical removal from a Pentecostal church in Portau-Prince, Haiti, in 2002.¹ I had gone to Haiti to study Protestant religious culture, seeking to understand how it affected the lives of Haitian Protestant migrants. I would learn that the religious culture of Protestants in Haiti directly informs the production of symbolic boundaries by Haitian Protestant migrants in the United States and the Bahamas. As anthropologist Takeyuki Tsuda argues, a complete and comprehensive...

  7. 2 Haitians in the Bahamas
    (pp. 47-70)

    While in New Providence, I accepted an invitation to speak to children about the importance of education in their lives.¹ I met with them at an after-school program in one of the poorer neighborhoods. The children, who sat around me in a circle and ranged in age from five to ten, were black and of primarily African descent. I spoke to them about my educational development in the United States and encouraged them to do well in their studies. I then sat down at a table with a few girls of grade-school age. During my stay-in-school speech, I noticed that...

  8. 3 Pastors, Churches, and Haitian Protestant Transnational Ties
    (pp. 71-94)

    While living in New Providence, I used jitneys to get to church services, interviews with informants, and interdenominational religious gatherings where evangelical churches throughout the Haitian community met to worship at various times of the year. If I wanted to get to Victory Chapel Church of the Nazarene and New Haitian Mission Baptist Church, I would take the 7a bus route. At the beginning of my study of Haitian Protestantism in the Bahamas, I thought those churches were probably two of a handful of Haitian Protestant churches on the island. To my surprise, I would later find out that there...

  9. 4 Haitian Protestant Liturgy
    (pp. 95-118)

    Haitian Protestant liturgy—which consists of praise, worship, hymnody, and sermons—is an integral part of the practice of Haitian Protestant Christianity. Liturgy serves to bind individuals into the body of Christ and is structured in a manner that promotes collective worship while reinforcing hierarchy: At the top is the holy trinity (God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit), followed by the pastors, deacons, and Sunday school monitors, and then come the members and believers who assemble to worship and praise God at Haitian Protestant churches. Pastors and deacons are authorities within the church who preach, organize, teach, admonish, and...

  10. 5 “The People Who Have Not Converted Yet,” Protestant, and Christian
    (pp. 119-142)

    On December 10, 2005, Dieunous Senatus, assistant pastor of Victory Chapel Church of the Nazarene, buried his wife. She had passed away as a result of preeclampsia, a rapidly progressive medical condition in pregnant women characterized by high blood pressure and the presence of protein in the mother’s urine. Swelling, sudden weight gain, headaches, and changes in vision are important symptoms.¹ The only cure for preeclampsia is through the delivery of the baby. In her case, she reached the hospital, had seizures, and died in childbirth.

    Pastor Senatus attended the Sunday evening service after the funeral with one of his...

  11. Conclusion: Modernity Revisited
    (pp. 143-152)

    In the fields of anthropology and religious studies, many generally assume that being a Protestant or being a Christian is one and the same identity. However, by applying symbolic boundary theory, we recognize that Protestant Christian identity is a complex construct. This ethnography’s use of symbolic boundary theory, which integrates an intellectualist approach and transnationalism theory, articulates why Haitians remain devout Protestant Christians rather than switching among Protestantism, Catholicism, and Vodou. This approach also explains why migrants draw the symbolic boundaries ofKretyen,Pwotestan, andmoun ki poko konvèti, and why they reject Vodou. While this book uses symbolic boundary...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 153-162)
    (pp. 163-168)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 169-178)
    (pp. 179-179)