New Book: Obeah and Other Powers: The Politics of Caribbean Religion and Healing

One of the new books presented at the annual Caribbean Studies Association’s book launch in Guadeloupe this year was Obeah and Other Powers: The Politics of Caribbean Religion and Healing, edited by Maarit Forde and Diana Paton (Duke University Press, 2012). [See full list of books launched in our previous post Caribbean Studies Association’s 2012 Book Launch.]

Description: In Obeah and Other Powers, historians and anthropologists consider how marginalized spiritual traditions—such as obeah, Vodou, and Santería—have been understood and represented across the Caribbean since the seventeenth century. In essays focused on Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago, and the wider Anglophone Caribbean, the contributors explore the fields of power within which Caribbean religions have been produced, modified, appropriated, and policed. The “other powers” of the book’s title have helped to shape, or attempted to curtail, Caribbean religions and healing practices. These powers include those of capital and colonialism; of states that criminalize some practices and legitimize others; of occupying armies that rewrite constitutions and reorient economies; of writers, filmmakers, and scholars who represent Caribbean practices both to those with little knowledge of the region and to those who live there; and, not least, of the millions of people in the Caribbean whose relationships with one another, as well as with capital and the state, have long been mediated and experienced through religious formations and discourses.

Contributors are Kenneth Bilby, Erna Brodber, Alejandra Bronfman, Elizabeth Cooper, Maarit Forde, Stephan Palmié, Diana Paton, Alasdair Pettinger, Lara Putnam, Karen Richman, Raquel Romberg, John Savage, and Katherine Smith.

About the book, Richard Price (author of Travels with Tooy and Rainforest Warriors) says, “The authors of this outstanding collection share the refreshing ambition to historicize local knowledge and to embrace the opacity and persisting mystique of Caribbean spiritual realities—from the colonial occult to enchanted modernities.”

Maarit Forde is a Lecturer in the Department of Liberal Arts at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine.

Diana Paton is a Reader in Caribbean history at Newcastle University. She is the author of No Bond but the Law: Punishment, Race, and Gender in Jamaican State Formation, 1780–1870 and editor of A Narrative of Events, since the First of August, 1834, by James Williams, an Apprenticed Labourer in Jamaica and, with Pamela Scully, Gender and Slave Emancipation in the Atlantic World, all also published by Duke University Press.

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