Frederick, “Colored Television”

Frederick, Marla F.  2015.  Colored Television: American Religion Gone Global.  Palo Alto: Stanford University Press.

Publisher’s Description: The presence of women and African Americans not simply as viewers, but also as televangelists and station owners in their own right has dramatically changed the face of American religious broadcasting in recent decades. Colored Television looks at the influence of these ministries beyond the United States, where complex gospels of prosperity and gospels of sexual redemption mutually inform one another while offering hopeful yet socially contested narratives of personal uplift. As an ethnography, Colored Television illuminates the phenomenal international success of American TV preachers like T.D. Jakes, Creflo Dollar, Joyce Meyer, and Juanita Bynum. Focusing particularly on Jamaica and the Caribbean, it also explores why the genre has resonated so powerfully around the world. Investigating the roles of producers, consumers, and distributors, Marla Frederick takes a unique look at the ministries, the communities they enter, and the global markets of competition that buffer them.

Louis, “My Soul is in Haiti”

Louis, Bertin.  2014.  My Soul is in Haiti: Protestantism in the Haitian Diaspora of the Bahamas.  New York: NYU Press.

Publisher’s Description:

In the Haitian diaspora, as in Haiti itself, the majority of Haitians have long practiced Catholicism or Vodou. However, Protestant forms of Christianity now flourish both in Haiti and beyond. In the Bahamas, where approximately one in five people are now Haitian-born or Haitian-descended, Protestantism has become the majority religion for immigrant Haitians.
In My Soul Is in Haiti, Bertin M. Louis, Jr. has combined multi-sited ethnographic research in the United States, Haiti, and the Bahamas with a transnational framework to analyze why Protestantism has appealed to the Haitian diaspora community in the Bahamas. The volume illustrates how devout Haitian Protestant migrants use their religious identities to ground themselves in a place that is hostile to them as migrants, and it also uncovers how their religious faith ties in to their belief in the need to “save” their homeland, as they re-imagine Haiti politically and morally as a Protestant Christian nation.
This important look at transnational migration between second and third world countries shows how notions of nationalism among Haitian migrants in the Bahamas are filtered through their religious beliefs. By studying local transformations in the Haitian diaspora of the Bahamas, Louis offers a greater understanding of the spread of Protestant Christianity, both regionally and globally.

Suárez, “Renewal in the Cuban Evangelical Church”

Suárez, Margarita M. W. 2014. Renewal in the Cuban Evangelical Church: The Perspective of Two Feminist Pastors.  Cross Currents 64(2): 236-261. 

Excerpt: The Protestant churches in Cuba are changing. They are recreating themselves in Cuba which is itself changing often moment by moment. In the early years of the revolution, religious people were often seen as counter-revolutionary, and with the advent of Latin American Liberation Theology in the 70s and 80s, the Cuban government began to realize that one could be both religious and revolutionary.1 With the demise of the Soviet Union, in the early 90s, the government also realized that pragmatically an openness to religion would lead to new avenues for trade and economic assistance. In this article, the changing face of the Protestant church in Cuba will be viewed through the lens of the lives and thought of two Cuban women pastors, one Presbyterian and one Baptist. They exemplify a new feminist Christianity now seen in the church in Cuba.

Alvare, “Haile Selasse and the Gospel of Development”

Alvare, Bretton. 2014. Haile Selasse and the Gospel of Development: Hegemony and Faith-Based Development in Trinidad and Tobago, West Indies. The Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology 19(1): 126-147.

AbstractThis article explores the process by which faith-based nongovernmental organizations (FBOs) incorporate, reproduce, and contest hegemonic constructions of development as they attempt to bring the fruits of development to their local communities. The analysis focuses on the National Rastafari Organization (NRO) of Trinidad and Tobago—a small, grassroots FBO, whose leaders designed and implemented a localcommunity development program that, despite being modeled on the Rastafari principles contained in Haile Selassie’s “gospel of development,“ had more in common with the neoliberal national development program being promoted by the Trinidadian government than with the development programs typical of other formal Rastafari organizations in the wider Caribbean region. The NRO did not hold all of the themes, logics, or recommended practices of this gospel of development in the same regard. Instead, their immersion in hegemonic fields led them to seize on those aspects that resonated most with the state discourses of neoliberal participatory development in circulation at the time.

Chenoweth, “Practicing and Preaching Quakerism”

Chenoweth, John M. 2014. Practicing and Preaching Quakerism: Creating a Religion of Peace on a Slavery-era Plantation. American Anthropologist 116()1: 94-109. 

Abstract: A meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (“Quakers”) formed in the British Virgin Islands in the 1740s offers a window onto broader practices of religion making. Equality, simplicity, and peace form a basis for Quaker thought, but in the BVI these ideals intersected with the realities of Caribbean life and the central fact that members also held enslaved Africans. What members did to create Quakerism varied for this group, yet it was nonetheless understood to be a part of the broader community of “Friends.” Practice perspectives are employed here to gain access to seemingly ephemeral religion through the concrete objects of archaeology but also as a means of reconciling variation in practice with the idea of a coherent religion. Here religious identity was negotiated through practices on multiple scales, creating unity via larger-scope practices of writing and reading while the most frequent identifications were local and variable. Written works are often seen to encode a static, “real” version of religion against which actions can be measured, but I will argue that religion is better seen in practice, and here Quakerism was created at least as much in the variable minutia of individual performance as in widely shared documents.

McAlister, “Possessing the Land for Jesus”

McAlister, Elizabeth.  2014.  Possessing the Land for Jesus.  In Spirited Things: The Work of “Possession” in Afro-Atlantic Religions, Paul Christopher Johnson, ed.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Excerpt: “The American and Haitian religious actors I follow here are not part of the vast nongovernmental organization complex that has made Port-au-Prince a ‘Republic of NGOs.’  Rather, I am interested in independent missions and congregations that are also linked to global networks.  North American evangelicals, including Haitian Americans in the diaspora, form relationships with Haitian church congregations precisely in the sphere of privatized humanitarian assistance that neoliberal economic policies have created as the primary theater of operations for aid, relief, recovery, rebuilding, and development.  After the quake in Haiti, biblical quotations about land resonated with conflicts over land occupied by tent encampments, competition for international relief monies, and discussions about the best way to rebuild the nation.  It was in this context that dispossessed Pentecostals began to think, speak, and strategize about ‘God’s people possessing the land.'”

Frederick, “For the Love of Money? “

Frederick, Marla F.  2013.  “For the Love of Money?: Distributing the Go$pel beyond the United States.  Callaloo 36(3).

Excerpt: In this paper, I wrestle with the power of religious globalization as it relates to the expansion of American media markets in Jamaica. By looking at the influence of United States-based, market driven models of religious broadcasting on local religious distributors like Mercy and Truth Ministries and Love TV in Jamaica, this paper teases out the ways in which market logics intersect and at times undermine altruistic claims to the work of ministry. In these instances the kind of love—absent preoccupations with money and power—that Rev. Miller spoke of is often usurped by the very real costs of ministry. Religious broadcasting has taken the gospel, which many evangelical Christians consider “the Greatest Love Story in the World,” embodied in the scripture’s profession that “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son,” and turned it into a different gospel. The gospel of love and redemption amended to a gospel of health and wealth. “Love of God” is often comingled with “Love of Money.” If anything this paper argues that religious producers are not independent purveyors of the predominance of economic logics that drive religious broadcasting; instead, producers and distributors are intimately connected in a pattern of economic profitability that often challenges non-United States based local broadcasters who want to remain independent/ministry focused engines of social change in their respective communities. The threat of competition and the need for economic solvency in a paid-time era—wherein broadcasters have to raise their own support through book and tape sales—requires the best of business models to survive in a globalized religious broadcasting market.

Payton, “Vodou and Protestantism, Faith and Survival”

Payton, Claire.  2013.  Vodou and Protestantism, Faith and Survival: The Contest over the Spiritual Meaning of the 2010 Earthquake in Haiti.  Oral History Review.  Advance online publication, no page numbers.

Abstract: This article explores the spiritual dimension of the Haitian earthquake of January 12, 2010, and argues that some of the quake’s most profound reverberations occurred at the level of the spirit. Drawing from oral histories with survivors of the disaster, it reveals that Protestantism and the Catholic-Vodou traditions, which are often seen as being diametrically opposed to each other, actually overlap and influence one another. The development of the Haiti Memory Project, an oral history initiative aimed at documenting the impact and implications of the earthquake among Haiti’s popular classes, is also described. Interviews for this project were conducted in Haitian Kreyòl, French, and English. This article features two embedded audio excerpts (one in French, the other in Haitian Kreyòl), as well as a hyperlink to supplementary audio excerpts, that allow readers to experience the multilingual nature of the project. Additionally, hyperlinks allowing online access to three full interviews from the collection appear at the end of the article.

Chanting Down the New Jerusalem: Book Review

Guadeloupe, Francio. 2009. Chanting Down the New Jerusalem: Calypso, Christianity, and Capitalism in the Caribbean. Berkeley: University of California Press.

By: Brian Howell (Wheaton College)

Beautiful islands of beaches, colorful and fascinating cultures, and delicious tropical cuisine, it is no wonder the economies of the tiny island nations of the Caribbean have become dominated by tourism in their postcolonial history.  At the same time, reading about Caribbean history and politics may produce conflicted feelings about benefiting from the exploitation of the people and their land.  It’s hard to enjoy your Piña Colada if you’re too aware of the colonial history of exploitation behind the excellent service at Club Med.

But are the excellent service, the friendly smiles, and warm welcome just a cover for deep-seated resentment and cultural tension?  As Francio Guadeloupe notes in the conclusion of Chanting Down the New Jerusalem: Calypso, Christianity and Capitalism in the Caribbean, the Caribbean generally is often portrayed in terms of these contrasts: the Caribbean downtrodden and their Western exploiters; neocolonial nationalists struggling against European empire; local religious movements against Christian hegemony; men versus women; Black against White; in short, a “Caribbean that has become paradigmatic for students of Caribbean studies” (206).

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McAlister, Elizabeth (2012) “From Slave Revolt to a Blood Pact with Satan: The Evangelical Rewriting of Haitian History”

McAlister, Elizabeth. 2012. “From Slave Revolt to a Blood Pact with Satan: The Evangelical Rewriting of Haitian History” Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses 42(2) [Pagination not available – Pre-publication electronic distribution]

Abstract: Enslaved Africans and Creoles in the French colony of Saint-Domingue are said to have gathered at a nighttime meeting at a place called Bois Caïman in what was both political rally and religious ceremony, weeks before the Haitian Revolution in 1791. The slave ceremony is known in Haitian history as a religio-political event and used frequently as a source of inspiration by nationalists, but in the 1990s, neo-evangelicals rewrote the story of the famous ceremony as a “blood pact with Satan.” This essay traces the social links and biblical logics that gave rise first to the historical record, and then to the neo-evangelical rewriting of this iconic moment. It argues that the confluence of the bicentennial of the Haitian Revolution with the political contest around President Aristide’s policies, the growth of the neo-evangelical Spiritual Mapping movement, and of the Internet, produced a new form of mythmaking, in which neo-evangelicals re-signified key symbols of the event—an oath to a divine force, blood sacrifice, a tree, and group unity—from the mythical grammar of Haitian nationalism to that of neo-evangelical Christianity. In the many ironies of this clash between the political afterlife of a slave uprising with the political afterlife of biblical scripture, Haiti becomes a nation held in captivity, and Satan becomes the colonial power who must be overthrown.