Cover Image

Larger ImageView Larger

Faith Makes Us Live

Surviving and Thriving in the Haitian Diaspora

Margarita Mooney (Author)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 302 pages
ISBN: 9780520260368
August 2009
$34.95, £28.00
Based on fieldwork in Haiti and in three cities of the Haitian diaspora--Miami, Montreal, and Paris--this study offers a vivid portrait of the power of faith for immigrants. Drawing on extensive interviews and including rich details of everyday life, Margarita Mooney explores the struggles and joys of Haitian Catholics in these three very different cities. She finds that religious narratives, especially those about transformation and redemption, provide real meaning and hope in what are often difficult conditions. However, Mooney also finds that successful assimilation into the larger society varies from country to country, having less to do with these private religious beliefs than on cooperation between religious and government leaders. In the United States, the Catholic Church is able to offer services and advocacy that help immigrants succeed, but it is not able to do the same in France or Canada. Presenting a powerful picture of traditional Catholic piety that overturns many assumptions about Vodou practice in Haitian Catholicism, this work also provides a groundbreaking comparative perspective on how immigrants' experiences and opportunities vary greatly across different nations.

Chapter 1. “Faith Makes Us Live”

Chapter 2. Comparing Religion and Immigration Cross-Nationally

Chapter 3. Miami
“Jesus Came with Us on the Boat”

Chapter 4. Montreal
“Hold on Tight, Don't Let Go”

Chapter 5. Paris
“I Would Be Dead without the Church”

Chapter 6. What Lies behind the Mountain?

Appendix A. Methods

Appendix B. Ayiti Cheri: Notes on the Haitian Homeland



Margarita A. Mooney is Assistant Professor of Sociology and Faculty Fellow of the Carolina Population Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
“Offers a vivid portrait of the power of the Catholic faith for immigrants.”—Carolina Arts & Sciences
“[An] Engaging ethnography.”—Christianity Today/ Books & Culture
“Faith Makes Us Live is well worth reading.”—Miami Herald
“Faith Makes Us Live has to be seen as making a strong contribution to the literature on the incorporation of immigrants.”—American Journal Of Sociology / AJS
“Notable for its comparative perspective and its focus on the role of religion in the adjustment of Haitian immigrants in three different sociopolitical contexts. . . . [A] book rewarding for its anecdotal detail and the many human interest stories it contains.”—Philip Gleason Journal Amer Ethnic History
“I strongly recommend this theoretically interesting and empirically relevant book.”—Oxford Journal
“I strongly recommend this theoretically interesting and empirically relevant book to scholars and students as well as people involved in community work and religious groups.”—Sociology Of Religion
“Overall, the book is clear, forcefully argued, and addresses its subject in a sophisticated yet accessible manner.”—Matthew Hedstrom Teaching Sociology
"Margarita Mooney's path-breaking book, Faith Makes us Live, is the first-ever comparative study of how religious faith and practice affect immigrant adaptation and assimilation. Her imaginative analysis of Haitian immigrants in Miami, Montreal, and Paris shows how religious faith serves to mediate culturally between immigrants and their host societies, but also reveals that by itself faith is not enough to achieve successful integration. Host societies must also be receptive to the religious institutions that serve immigrants if integration is to be achieved. Her book is essential reading for students of both religion and immigration."—Douglas S. Massey, Princeton University

"Margarita Mooney's research on Haitian Catholic immigrants in three settings is elegant in design, assiduous in execution, and compelling in presentation. Mooney's immigrants bring a deep piety with them across the ocean, but the different contexts of reception they encounter in Miami, Montreal, and Paris significantly influence their differential adaptation to their new homes in the U.S., Canada, and France. Faith Makes Us Live is an essential contribution to the growing body of literature on religion and immigration."—R. Stephen Warner, University of Illinois at Chicago

"Faith Makes Us Live is one of those rare books that succeeds in making a valuable contribution on at least three fronts: it extends the literature on religion and immigration by showing how religious organizations serve as mediating structures between immigrants and their host communities, it demonstrates to scholars interested in faith-based service organizations that the larger relationships between church and state must be considered carefully through a comparative framework, and it provides students of religion with a compelling, up-close-and-personal account of how faith matters in the daily lives of Haitian immigrants."—Robert Wuthnow, Princeton University

"What excites me most about Faith Makes Us Live is that it analyzes the role played by the Catholic Church in immigrant incorporation while taking into consideration the distinctive challenges met by Haitians in three societies that treat the poor, immigrants and people of color quite differently. The comparison between Miami, Paris, and Montreal is particularly felicitous given differences in the position and influence of the Church, the characteristics of the Haitian populations, and the public resources available to immigrants across these three contexts. By showing how religion sustains resilience and empowerment for a particularly vulnerable group of individuals, Mooney demonstrates the crucial role of meaning-making matters for immigrant incorporation."—Michele Lamont, Harvard University.

"This book teaches us an important lesson: When immigrants are religious—and so many are—pragmatic cooperation between church and state can hasten their acculturation and improve their well-being. Faith Makes Us Live is essential reading for those who want to better understand the role of religion and religious institutions in immigrants' lives."—Mark Chaves, Duke University

"An examplar of theory-driven ethnographic research. Professor Mooney provides an ambitious, comparative study at once rich in detail and grand in scope. By systematically comparing three countries on two continents, this book uncovers crucial patterns of relationships among church, state, and civil society and how they affect immigrants on the ground. This is what ethnography should be: rooted in the lived experience of everyday life and yet motivated by the need to understand human social processes in general."—Andy Perrin, University of North Carolina

"Thoroughly sociological in design and analysis, this study opens new vistas for the field of religion and immigration. Leaving behind celebratory or critical accounts of the role of religious beliefs in the adaptation of immigrant minorities, Mooney makes clear that processes and outcomes depend on the interaction between religious institutions and the broader socio-political context. An original contribution, made even more valuable by its focus on one of the most downtrodden groups in the migrant world."—Alejandro Portes, Princeton University

Join UC Press

Members receive 20-40% discounts on book purchases. Find out more