Margarita Mooney on Religion & Haitian Immigrants
Date: August 8th, 2011
Although the 2010 earthquake in Haiti generated a great deal of media attention to the plight of individuals living in that country, there has been less focus on the large populations of Haitians who have fled their native country over the past several decades to places such as the United States, Canada and France. Prof. Margarita Mooney — assistant professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a Faculty Fellow at the Carolina Population Center — examines how personal faith and religious organizations assist immigrants adapt to their new surroundings. We briefly review the history of Haiti and the difficulties that immigrants face in a foreign country. Our discussion then turns towards how religion — both personal faith and church institutions (specifically the Catholic Church) — can assist immigrants in finding a personal and communal identity. During the middle of the interview, we take an interesting detour to discuss the methodology behind Prof. Mooney’s research. We have an open discussion regarding how Margarita’s initial expectations for her fieldwork were somewhat frustrated until she began listening directly to her interview subjects about the important role that faith plays in their lives. We talk about how many scholars have often overlooked the role of faith and also discuss what role a researcher plays in studies that involve direct observation. This is a very insightful discussion for both graduate students, undergraduates and non-academics who will gain insights into how social scientifice research is conducted. Afterwards, we talk about what role Catholic religious organizations (both parishes and social service groups) have played in assisting immigrant Haitians in Miami, Montreal, and Paris. Margarita notes that the efforts of Notre Dame d’Haiti and the Pierre Toussaint Center in Miami has been much more successful in helping Haitians adopt to their new circumstances than similar organizations in Montreal and Paris. Prof. Mooney explains this by the specific relationship that local and national governments play in partnering with religious institutions. At the conclusion of the podcast, Margarita shares insights she gleaned from her research on religious organizations with how that may help secular groups better serve their own constituencies. Recorded: July 15, 2011.
Prof. Margarita Mooney’s personal website and website at the University of North Carolina.
Faith Makes Us Live: Surviving and Thriving in the Haitian Diaspora, by Margarita A. Mooney.
Pierre Toussaint Center (Miami).
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