Friday, October 30, 2009
Author-Meets-Critics Panel at the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion
In October 2009, Kevin Christiano of Notre Dame convened an author-meets-critics panel on my book, Faith Makes Us Live: Surviving and Thriving in the Haitian Diaspora, at the annual meetings of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion. The three panelists were Michael Emerson of Rice University, Melissa Wilde of the University of Pennsylvania, and Richard Wood of the University of New Mexico. All three panelists were extremely complementary about the ambitious three-country research design, the large amount of ethnographic work done, and the passionate writing. In blogs below, I address some of the questions raised by each of the panelists. I would like to thank Kevin Christiano for convening the panel and offering his insights on the Quebec case, with which he is very familiar. When we were talking about whether voluntary organizations, including faith-based ones, are necessary to complement state provided social services, Kevin described to the audience how for many Quebecois, the state is ipso facto better than the church at providing social services. Because the Catholic Church dominated social life for nearly 200 years while French Quebecois were under the rule of Anglophone Quebecois and Canadians, since the 1960s Quiet Revolution many Quebecois have held firmly to the opinion that they need to be liberated from traditional control of the church. Although I agree with this statement, in a discussion after the panel, I told Kevin that it seemed to me that Quebec was still strongly culturally Catholic, even nearly 50 years after the Quiet Revolution begun. In my work with Haitian immigrants, I found that Catholic leaders and organizations--both Haitians and Quebecois--were instrumental in assisting the settlement and adaptation of Haitians who arrived in Quebec from the 1960s-1990s. These Catholic leaders and associations had many connections to the Quebecois state that helped them in their work with Haitians. It was only when large numbers of non-Catholic immigrants began arriving in Quebec and their religious leaders sought to engage the public sphere that the people of Quebec began to really question cooperation between religious organizations and the state. Thus, although the Quiet Revolution clearly altered the social position of the Catholic Church in Quebec, this change occurred slowly and many connections still exist.