Working the Spirit: Ceremonies of the African Diaspora

Working the Spirit: Ceremonies of the African Diaspora

Working the Spirit: Ceremonies of the African Diaspora

Working the Spirit: Ceremonies of the African Diaspora

Excerpt

When I began planning this book in the winter of 1989 I had in mind a kind of handbook of religions of the African diaspora. The book would organize basic information about the traditions and show something of their spirit. As the research and writing continued I began to realize that it was this spirit that interested me, especially the special ways that the spirit was "worked" in the communal ceremonies of each tradition. After years of attending santería drum and dance ceremonies, I started to see, hear, and feel many of the same "workings" during visits to African American churches. The book began to focus on what an outsider might experience at services of the spirit in five diasporan communities, and how these experiences might relate to the communities' own interpretation of their actions.

I've discovered that while it is difficult enough to relate basic information about the traditions, it is quite something more to presume to understand their spirit. As a white, North American, middle-class male, I've continually discovered new limitations in my understanding of religions of the African diaspora as I have projected my own interests and issues on people with very different ones. As I have grown in my understanding of their traditions, I have experienced a continual correction of these projections, a challenge to my prejudices by diasporan realities. Yet . . .

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