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

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

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

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

Synopsis

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, whereapproximately 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.

Excerpt

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. He noted that you had to observe how someone functioned in society: Does the person serve God and manifest a devout karacktè (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 different identities, though anthropologists and religious studies scholars consider both terms as similar. in Haitian religious life, Protestant describes a religious movement that began in Haiti in the nineteenth century. the term is generally used in Haiti and the Haitian diaspora to refer to a person who practices some form of Protestant Christianity, such as the Adventist, Baptist, and Methodist faiths and Pentecostalism. Protestant is also a pejorative term that is used privately among devout Haitian Protestants to describe other migrants in their diasporic religious community who engage in sinful behavior. Devout Haitian Protestant migrants in the Bahamas consider themselves as Kretyen (Christian) rather than Pwotestan (Protestant). They build their identities as Kretyen around (1) their adherence to shared, cultural norms of Protestant Christianity from their native Haiti regarding their appearance and comportment, and (2) their krent pou Bondyè (fear of God) which is reflected in proper appearance and comportment.

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