Academic journal article African Studies Review

Rethinking the African Diaspora: The Making of a Black Atlantic World in the Bight of Benin and Brazil

Academic journal article African Studies Review

Rethinking the African Diaspora: The Making of a Black Atlantic World in the Bight of Benin and Brazil

Article excerpt

Kristin Mann and Edna G. Bay, eds. Rethinking the African Diaspora: The Making of a Black Atlantic World in the Bight of Benin and Brazil. London and Portland, Ore.: Frank Cass Publishers, 2001. 168 pp. Bibliography. Index. $64.50. Cloth. $24.50. Paper.

This book provides a long-awaited continuation of the conversation between Brazil and the Bight of Benin about the nature of the African diaspora. As many Afro-Brazilians and West Africans are already aware, the Afro-Atlantic shores were active places where Africans and their descendants moved back and forth in myriad roles and circumstances. Mann and Bay have edited a volume that underscores the necessity of looking closely at the historical contexts that have made up these worlds both in Africa and in Brazil.

The first half of the collection focuses on how Afro-Brazilians affected the societies in the Bight of Benin. The volume begins with Mann's call for a shift in paradigms according to which the Afro-Atlantic world has been studied. Moving away from one-dimensional approaches, she sees Africans as mobile in the world, shaping the societies they journey to and from. Law reinforces this perspective with his careful and revealing assessment of how the Afro-Brazilian patriarch Francisco Felix de Souza came to dominate the economic and social world of eighteenth-century Dahomey through participation in the slave trade. The varied and complicated roles that many like de Souza played in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, in turn, are issues that Bay meditates on in relation to the meaning of "collective memory." Solidified in Vodoun's ritual bo figures, the history of slavery in Dahomey becomes infused with a spiritual politics that empowers. Bay also contends with the concurrent history of elites who created the social context for personal empowerment through the enslavement of political enemies. …

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