Materialities of Ritual in the Black Atlantic

Materialities of Ritual in the Black Atlantic

Materialities of Ritual in the Black Atlantic

Materialities of Ritual in the Black Atlantic

Synopsis

Focusing on everyday rituals, the essays in this volume look at spheres of social action and the places throughout the Atlantic world where African-descended communities have expressed their values, ideas, beliefs, and spirituality in material terms. The contributors trace the impact of encounters with the Atlantic world on African cultural formation, how entanglement with commerce, commodification, and enslavement and with colonialism, emancipation, and self-rule manifested itself in the shaping of ritual acts such as those associated with birth, death, healing, and protection. Taken as a whole, the book offers new perspectives on what the materials of rituals can tell us about the intimate processes of cultural transformation and the dynamics of the human condition.

Excerpt

Broadly, the human experience of material—things, objects, and their contexts—in ritual domains is the subject of this book, with emphasis on the everyday rituals that define human conditions in the Black Atlantic. There are indeed many studies that have examined different aspects of spiritual and religious traditions of African-descended populations in the Atlantic world. This current book is different in its focus on the material dimensions of quotidian rituals. the overriding question that guides the volume is how objects, places, and landscapes are mobilized to fulfill their communicative, symbolic, and semiotic roles in the rituals of everyday life dealing with the different ramifications of human conditions, including birth, death, healing, wellness, social preservation, self-realization, memory, and identity formation, and the consequences for forging meaningful human existence.

We have sought to answer this question across different temporal and spatial planes. in the process, the contributors offer important insights into the agentive action of the material life on the cultural formation processes through which rituals were invented and mobilized in the making of modern black subjectivities. They take us out of the synchronic boundaries of meanings that have dominated the literature to the open field of meaningfulness that highlight Black Atlantic rituals as innovative cultural processes and products enmeshed in sociopolitical and economic realities as well as spiritual and power relations. This collection of integrated essays also examines how the entanglement of the African-descended peoples in different spheres of the Atlantic encounters—commerce, commodification, slavery, Middle Passage, colonialism, and post-emancipation—shaped the forms, contents . . .

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