Nancy Ammerman’s Comments

Nancy Ammerman was impressed with the research design of my book that allows us to see the effects of macro-level structures of law, policy and culture on how immigrants form religious communities and how those communities support their adaptation. She complimented me for both sorting out cross-national patterns in Haitians’ adaptation and for writing about individual people’s stories with a compassionate heart. Although much has been written comparing “religious” America” and “secular” Europe, Ammerman liked how my book makes a more sophisticated argument about church-state relations in Europe, Canada and the U.S. I argue that these relationships are constantly being re-negotiated, and how states respond to immigrants’ religious identities and institutions is one of the current battlegrounds for understanding and redefining secularization. One of Ammerman’s main questions was: what are the trade-offs of the different national models for incorporating immigrants? Are Haitians in Miami “ghettoized” into a Haitian neighborhood and Haitian church, as some of my informants in Canada and France remarked? Does the stronger state in France and Canada simply mean that immigrants there don’t need as many mediating structures? My brief response to that is that the U.S. has a bottom-up approach to immigrant adaptation. That is, immigrants are left largely free to form their own ethnic, religious, and entrepreneurial associations. The French and Canadian government take a more active role in “integrating” immigrants. At times, the top-down approach in France and Canada means that certain kinds of immigrant associations, notably religious ones, can get excluded from the process. I argue that this is detrimental to immigrants’ social mobility and feelings of inclusion in their new homes.

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