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Making sense of Santería: three books on Afro-Cuban religion

Author(s): Stephan Palmié

Journal: New West Indian Guide
ISSN 1382-2373

Volume: 70;
Issue: 3;
Start page: 291;
Date: 1996;
Original page

Keywords: Cuba | USA | Santería | religion | book review

[First paragraph] Santeria from Africa to the New World: The Dead Sell Memories. GEORGE BRANDON. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993. x + 206 pp. (Cloth US$31.50) Working the Spirit: Ceremonies of the African Diaspora. JOSEPH M. MURPHY. Boston: Beacon, 1994. xiii + 263 pp. (Cloth US$ 25.00) Walking with the Night: The Afro-Cuban World of Santeria. RAUL CANIZARES. Rochester VT: Destiny Books, 1993. xii + 148 pp. (Paper US$ 12.95) Since 1959, the steady exodus from revolutionary Cuba has led to the gradual emergence of an Afro-Cuban religious diaspora in the United States. While this phenomenon has attracted scholarly attention for some time, the literature has grown particularly rapidly in recent years. It is, perhaps, not entirely fortuitous that a spate of current academic publications on the subject coincided with a scramble by the popular media to exploit its exotic potential in the context of the 1993 U.S. Supreme Court case on animal sacrifice. Clearly, what has come to be called an Afro-Cuban "cultic renaissance" in exile holds promise both for sensationalist journalism and certain kinds of theoretical projects. Partly articulating with older, but politically reinvigorated debates about the relations between African and African-American cultures, partly addressing fundamental questions about conventional models of cultural boundedness and coherence, and, finally, calling into question both popular and academic notions of "modernity" (and its inevitable counterpart "tradition"), the 292 New West Indian Guide/Nieuwe West-Indische Gids vol. 70 no. 3 &4 (1996)problems posed by the emergence of an Afro-Cuban religious diaspora in the United States present a timely challenge.
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