Diaspora Conversions: Black Carib Religion and the Recovery of Africa

Diaspora Conversions: Black Carib Religion and the Recovery of Africa

Diaspora Conversions: Black Carib Religion and the Recovery of Africa

Diaspora Conversions: Black Carib Religion and the Recovery of Africa

Synopsis

By joining a diaspora, a society may begin to change its religious, ethnic, and even racial identifications by rethinking its "pasts." This pioneering multisite ethnography explores how this phenomenon is affecting the remarkable religion of the Garifuna, historically known as the Black Caribs, from the Central American coast of the Caribbean. It is estimated that one-third of the Garifuna have migrated to New York City over the past fifty years. Paul Christopher Johnson compares Garifuna spirit possession rituals performed in Honduran villages with those conducted in New York, and what emerges is a compelling picture of how the Garifuna engage ancestral spirits across multiple diasporic horizons. His study sheds new light on the ways diasporic religions around the world creatively plot itineraries of spatial memory that at once recover and remold their histories.

Excerpt

Toute séparation est un lien. [Every separation is a link.]

Simone Weil, La pesanteur et la grâce

The production of space, having attained the conceptual and
linguistic level, acts retroactively upon the past, disclosing
aspects and moments of it hitherto uncomprehended.

Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space

Proust’s masterpiece, À la recherche du temps perdu (The Remembrance of Things Past), begins with the rush of memory erupting from a particular place and time. the narrator has returned to his old home. He feels cold; his mother serves him tea and a small cake, a madeleine. As he dips the cake into the tea and tastes it, his mind is flooded by places and people of the past. They return from across a chasm, “like souls,” crossing a great space (1: 49–50). the place of recollecting—his mother’s house—and the sensations of that place transport the narrator to Sunday mornings of his childhood in Combray. in a sense all of the colossal retrospection that follows is funneled through, and mediated by, that one bite. Yet the arbitrariness of that moment and place that were the prism of remembrance haunts the story. Suppose his remembering had begun not with a visit to the old house, but in a café, dunking a scone into coffee rather than a madeleine into tea; or near a wharf with a whiff of fish. Suppose other places and objects had appeared, or had been chosen, as the brokers of reminiscence. Might they have opened different avenues of memory and forgetting? Might they have . . .

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