Transnational Migrants in Mississippi
Our final comparative case study pairs together two religious communities composed of groups who are ethnic and religious minorities in east central Mississippi. The first case examines a local Catholic ministry to disadvantaged Hispanics dispersed over several churches. These Hispanic communities in rural Mississippi are served by the same pastor—an itinerant priest. The second case investigates an Islamic association composed primarily of students and established university professors. The Islamic Center, based in a small city proximate to several local universities, is run by a local president.
We focus on these communities for several reasons. To begin, religious life and poverty relief in both these religious communities speak directly to issues of cultural diversity. Each of these two cases offers important insights into the marginal position of nonmainstream religious communities when compared with dominant faith traditions on the local cultural landscape. Cultural diversity emerges as a salient feature of religious life within these populations not only via their nonmainstream religious convictions, but also through their distinctive ethnic identities. Taken together, the cases presented in this chapter highlight how the religious convictions held by persons of Hispanic, Middle Eastern, African, and Southeast Asian origins are shaped by a social order in which racial identity and ethnic stratification are often understood in the polarized terms of black and white.
The double marginality—that is to say, the religious and ethnic exclusion—of these populations in the cultural landscape of Mississippi sheds new light on the intersection of religion, race, and poverty relief. Regional social hierarchies and patterns of marginalization are closely linked with the aid–provision processes that are preferred and utilized by these religious communities. Their views of public welfare and appraisals