Self, Lwa and Haiti: Adherence Process and ‘Reinvention of the Self’ by a Therapeutic Use of Haitian Vodou in Montreal

Self, Lwa and Haiti: Adherence Process and ‘Reinvention of the Self’ by a Therapeutic Use of Haitian Vodou in Montreal

Hadrien Munier

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Abstract

Over recent decades, Haitian immigrants who settled in Montreal have introduced the practice of Vodou to the city, both as a religion and a spiritual healing practice. During nine months of fieldwork in Montreal, I examined the manner in which the therapeutic use of Vodou plays a role in the “indigenization” of this religion; that is, how believers utilize it as they adapt to new circumstances and become involved in transnational networks. An analysis of believers’ narratives highlights the key position of the therapeutic use of Vodou in the process of adapting to life in Montreal. As patients search for ways to solve their problems, using Vodou therapeutically to heal, cure, prevent, or remediate becomes a common way to enter the religion. Vodou healing rituals are based on a relationship with spiritual entities, called  lwa in Haitian Creole. As such, the therapeutic use of Vodou requires learning about the role and powers of these spirits. The patient’s participation in a ritual process of healing positions them to become more and more involved in religious belief and practice. Vodou offers a system of interpretation for illnesses, issues, and personal problems that leads the client to a “reinvention of self,” which has the characteristics of a conversion phenomenon. As the migrant defines himself or herself within this socio-cultural construction of belonging, two dimensions are important to this process. The first establishes Haiti as a reference point for identity that is constructed and shared in the diasporic community. Secondly, adherents develop a “dividual” self through the practice of Vodou. Keywords: Haitian Vodou, indigenization, Montreal, transnational religion, medical anthropology.

Key Words: African Diaspora, Immigration, Religion, Community, Identity

Download Full Text – Munier 2013

One Response to “Self, Lwa and Haiti: Adherence Process and ‘Reinvention of the Self’ by a Therapeutic Use of Haitian Vodou in Montreal”

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  1. NEW Special Issue release ! “African Diaspora Religion” | Student Anthropologist - January 15, 2014

    […] 2) Self, Lwa and Haiti: Adherence Process and ‘Reinvention of the Self’ by a Therapeutic Use of Haitian Vodou in Montreal by Hadrien Munier […]

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