Elizabeth Thomas Crocker

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Elizabeth Thomas Crocker

e-crockerMatriculated September 2008

Elizabeth Thomas Crocker’s research focuses on the practice of Vodou among Haitian immigrants in America. These Haitians face challenging social and cultural conditions, and individuals often shift between identities, allowing them to select the one that will be most advantageous in a given situation. Traditionally, Haitian communities have often needed to adapt their public persona to fit within dominant social norms. The majority of Haitians today practice Vodou, a syncretic religion melding West African and Catholic religious elements. Most Haitians also consider themselves Catholic or Protestant as well. In the past, these identities were two sides of the same coin, allowing Haitians to participate in both realms equally. However, Haitian traditional practices of spirit possession, honoring multiple deities, and animal sacrifice are sources of misunderstanding and prejudice for immigrants in America. Therefore, Haitian immigrants often attend Christian churches and publicly deny any connection to the Vodou religion in order to avoid bias from their new community. Yet, in times of duress, many Haitians still turn to Vodou priests and priestesses to intervene with the spirits on their behalf, and some still attend yearly ceremonies to ensure they remain in favor with the Vodou spirits. Spiritually, this is a dangerous practice because the practitioners believe that if the Vodou spirits feel ignored or spurned, they can lash out at practitioners in devastating ways.

Elizabeth’s research intends to explore how Haitian immigrants shift between these identities of Haitian Vodouist and devout Christian in ways that they would not have to in their homeland and the results that this has upon their concept of their religion and connections to their traditional ways of life. Understanding the ways in which Haitian immigrants balance these two identities may shed light on American religiosity as a whole, as both migrants and non-migrants grapple with adopting socially acceptable public personas while still maintaining their faith in private.

Awards

  • Earhart Fellowship