Society for Cultural Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
This paper analyzes the challenges of aiding Haitian refugees and immigrants in the Archdiocese of Boston through the institutional vehicle of Catholic charity. With roots in pastoral care and material support provided to European migrants in the early 20thcentury, to its contemporary role as one of the largest institutional providers of “human services” in Massachusetts, Catholic Charities has been integral not only to migrant incorporation, education, and governance, but also to ameliorating poverty and health disparities among minority and ethnic communities. The Haitian Multi-Service Center, a social service program founded in 1978 and later housed within Catholic Charities in the late 1980s, operates at the nexus of church, state, and nongovernmental “compassion economies” (James 2010, 2019). The Center’s structural location subjects both individual and institutional humanitarians and their clients to the disciplines of what I have characterized as the “grant economy,” one in which audits structure and govern the kinds of care provided to clients. Such positioning produces double binds regarding how best to empower and care for others through charitable social work. The theories of Michel Foucault and Michel de Certeau offer a frame through which to examine how social workers promote “life” and “health literacy” through the Center’s maternal and child health and adult education programs.