Migration and Vodou

Karen E. Richman

Foreword by Kevin A. Yelvington

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"Much more than just a good ethnography. It is the sensitive account of Richman’s deeply personal experience of Haitian culture. It joins the ranks of powerful and compassionate ethnographies that take us to the heart of the anthropological enterprise. . . . A must read."—American Anthropologist  
 
"A tour de force of social history, narrative ethnography and ritual analysis."—Anthropological Quarterly
 
"A very close look into diverging expectations and needs separating the Haitian transnational community and the ethos of extended families who compete for resources, power and moral integrity."—Ethnos  
 
"A work of great scholarship, compassion, and insight. . . . [T]he skill with which the author incorporates multi-sited ethnography, issues of transnational community, the development of a specific form of Vodou, political economy, and history in a single, rich narrative should serve as an example to other ethnographers."—Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology
 
"Sets a new standard for Haitian ethnography."—Journal of Latin American Geography  
 
"Detailed and moving . . . , the end product of many years of research."—H-Net
 
"The most ambitious, insightful, and interesting account of the nature and centrality of religion for transnational migrants yet written . . . a pathbreaking study."--Josh DeWind, director, International Migration Program, Social Science Research Council

This book and accompanying compact disc provide a rare excursion in the innovative ways a community of Haitian migrants to South Florida has maintained religious traditions and familial connections. It demonstrates how religion, ritual, and aesthetic practices affect lives on both sides of the Caribbean, and it debunks myths of exotic and primitive vodou (often spelled "voodoo"), which have long been used against Haitians.

As Karen Richman shows, Haitians at home and in migrant settlements make ingenious use of audio and video tapes to extend the boundaries of their ritual spaces and to reinforce their moral and spiritual anchors to one another. The book and CD were produced in collaboration to give the reader intimate access to this new expressive media. Sacred songs are recorded on tapes and circulated among the communities. Migrants are able to hear not only the performance sounds--drumming, singing, and chatter--but also a description, as narrators tell of offerings, sacrifices, prayers, and the exchange of possessions. Spirits who inhabit the bodies of ritual actors are aware of the recording devices and personally address the absent migrants, sometimes warning them of their financial obligations to family members in Haiti. The migrants’ dependence on their home village is dramatically reinforced while their economic independence is restricted.

Using standard ethnographic methods, Richman’s work illuminates the connections among social organization, power, production, ritual, and aesthetics. With its transnational perspective, it shows how labor migration has become one of Haiti’s chief economic exports.

Karen E. Richman is director of undergraduate studies at the Institute for Latino Studies, on the faculty of the Departments of Anthropology and Romance Languages and Literatures, and a fellow of the Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies and Eck Institute for Global Health at the University of Notre Dame. 
 
A volume in the series New World Diasporas, edited by Kevin A. Yelvington
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Clearly destined to become a classic in diaspora studies. -- Anthropology Review Database

This interesting book builds on and adds to the small but growing literature on Salvadoran migration and should be of interest to a wide readership. It also should make an important contribution to different fields of inquiry, particularly transnational and migration studies, ethnic and community studies, as well as Latin American development studies. -- Journal of Latin American Anthropology

A unique ethnographic enquiry into the rarely mentioned mating of economics and religion. -- New West Indian Guide

A detailed and moving ethnography. -- H-Net

A must-read for anthropologists, ethnomusicologists, and other students of Caribbean expressive culture; the book's appeal should extend to those outside of the academy as well. -- The World of Music

Karen Richman's Migration and Vodou is a tour de force of social history, narrative ethnography and ritual analysis. -- Anthropological Quarterly

Social scientists concerned with the complex interplay of culture, society, and political economy in the formation and reproduction of transnational communities will find a model to emulate in Richman's rich description, discerning analysis, and provocative argument. -- anthrosource.net

A work of great scholarship, compasion, and insight. Readable enough for undergraduate courses. Useful to advanced scholars. The skill with which the author incorporates multisited ethnography, issues of transnational community, the development of a specific form of Vodou, political economy, and history in a single, rich narrative should serve as an example to other enthnographers. -- Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology

Karen Richman's long-term ethnography has provided us with a very close look into diverging expectations and needs separating the Haitian transnational community and the ethos of extended families who compete for resources, power and moral integrity. Her observation of long-distance spiritual commitment and the particular interpersonal consellations give evidence of sincere and reliable empirical work; and her way of combining fine literature with interesting photos contributes to a moving ethnography. -- Ethnos

Karen Richman's long-term ethnography has provided us with a very close look into diverging expectations and needs separating the Haitian transnational community and the ethos of extended families who compete for resources, power and moral integrity. -- Ethnos

A remarkably broad and deep ethnography that engages with several bodies of literature at once. . . . Sets a new standard for Haitian ethnography. -- Journal of Latin American Geography

This original research offers a uniquely local perspective on national political intrigues and coercive international agro-business strategies, while intersecting with the relevant literature. . . . Essential reading for all Haitian scholars. -- Latin American Music Review

The power of [Richman’s] work lies in her ability to convincingly demonstrate how changes within religious practices respond to and frame peasant vulnerability at the hands of the Haitian elite and multinational industry. . . . [Her] combination of meticulous historical research with immersive ethnography yields a broader portrait of how subaltern communities negotiate relationships of power than many ethnographies offer. -- H-AfrArts

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