Obeah, Orisa, and Religious Identity in Trinidad (Vols. I & II)

Duke University Press has just announced the two-volume work Obeah, Orisa, and Religious Identity in Trinidad, to be published in October 2022. Volume I, by Tracey E. Hucks centers on Obeah; Volume II, by Dianne M. Stewart, is dedicated to Orisa.

Description: Obeah, Orisa, and Religious Identity in Trinidad is an expansive two-volume examination of social imaginaries concerning Obeah and Yoruba-Orisa from colonialism to the present. Analyzing their entangled histories and systems of devotion, Tracey E. Hucks and Dianne M. Stewart articulate how these religions were criminalized during slavery and colonialism yet still demonstrated autonomous modes of expression and self-defense. In Volume I, Obeah, Hucks traces the history of African religious repression in colonial Trinidad through the late nineteenth century. Drawing on sources ranging from colonial records, laws, and legal transcripts to travel diaries, literary fiction, and written correspondence, she documents the persecution and violent penalization of African religious practices encoded under the legal classification of “obeah.” A cult of antiblack fixation emerged as white settlers defined themselves in opposition to Obeah, which they imagined as terrifying African witchcraft. These preoccupations revealed the fears that bound whites to one another. At the same time, persons accused of obeah sought legal vindication and marshaled their own spiritual and medicinal technologies to fortify the cultural heritages, religious identities, and life systems of African-diasporic communities in Trinidad.

In Volume II, Orisa, Stewart scrutinizes the West African heritage and religious imagination of Yoruba-Orisa devotees in Trinidad from the mid-nineteenth century to the present and explores their meaning-making traditions in the wake of slavery and colonialism. She investigates the pivotal periods of nineteenth-century liberated African resettlement, the twentieth-century Black Power movement, and subsequent campaigns for the civil right to religious freedom in Trinidad. Disrupting syncretism frameworks, Stewart probes the salience of Africa as a religious symbol and the prominence of Africana nations and religious nationalisms in projects of black belonging and identity formation, including those of Orisa mothers. Contributing to global womanist thought and activism, Yoruba-Orisa spiritual mothers disclose the fullness of the black religious imagination’s affective, hermeneutic, and political capacities.

Tracey E. Hucks is Victor S. Thomas Professor of Africana Religious Studies at Harvard Divinity School and Suzanne Young Murray Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. She is the author of Yoruba Traditions and African American Religious Nationalism.

Dianne M. Stewart is the Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Religion and African American Studies at Emory University and author of Three Eyes for the Journey: African Dimensions of the Jamaican Religious Experience and Black Women, Black Love: America’s War on African American Marriage.

Obeah, Orisa, and Religious Identity in Trinidad Volume I: Obeah
Tracey E. Hucks
Duke University Press, October 2022
280 pages
ISBN 978-1478014850 (pb), 978-1478013914 (hc)
https://www.dukeupress.edu/obeah-orisa-and-religious-identity-in-trinidad-volume-i-obeah

Obeah, Orisa, and Religious Identity in TrinidadVolume II: Orisa
Dianne M. Stewart
Duke University Press, October 2022
368 pages
ISBN 978-1478014867 (pb), 978-1478013921 (hc)
https://www.dukeupress.edu/obeah-orisa-and-religious-identity-in-trinidad-volume-ii-orisa

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