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American religion: diaspora and syncretism from Old World to New

Author(s): Aisha Khan

Journal: New West Indian Guide
ISSN 1382-2373

Volume: 77;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 105;
Date: 2003;
Original page

Keywords: Caribbean | Blacks | East Indian | religion | cultural history | cultural development | book review

[First paragraph] Nation Dance: Religion, Identity, and Cultural Difference in the Caribbean. PATRICK TAYLOR (ed.). Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001. x +220 pp. (Paper US$ 19.95) Translating Kali 's Feast: The Goddess in Indo-Caribbean Ritual and Fiction. STEPHANOS STEPHANIDES with KARNA SINGH. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2000. xii + 200 pp. (Paper US$ 19.00) Between Babel and Pentecost: Transnational Pentecostalism in Africa and Latin America. ANDRÉ CORTEN & RUTH MARSHALL-FRATANI (eds.). Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001. 270 pp. (Paper US$ 22.95) Encyclopedia of African and African-American Religions. STEPHEN D. GLAZIER (ed.). New York: Routledge, 2001. xx + 452 pp. (Cloth US$ 125.00) As paradigms and perspectives change within and across academie disciplines, certain motifs remain at the crux of our inquiries. Evident in these four new works on African and New World African and South Asian religions are two motifs that have long defined the Caribbean: the relationship between cultural transformation and cultural continuity, and that between cultural diversity and cultural commonality. In approaching religion from such revisionist sites as poststructuralism, diaspora, hybridity, and creolization, however, the works reviewed here attempt to move toward new and more productive ways of thinking about cultures and histories in the Americas. In the process, other questions arise. Particularly, can what are essentially redirected language and methodologies in the spirit of postmodern interventions teil us more about local interpretation, experience, and agency among Caribbean, African American, and African peoples than can more traditional approaches? While it is up to individual readers to decide this for themselves, my own feeling is that it is altogether a good thing that these works still echo long-standing conundrums: the Herskovits/Frazier debate over cultural origins, the tensions of assimilation in "plural societies," and the significance of religion in everyday life. Perhaps one of the most important lessons that research in the Caribbean has for broader arenas of scholarship is that foundational questions are tenacious even in the face of paradigm shifts, yet can always generate new modes of inquiry, defying intellectual closure and neat resolution.
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