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Sacral Grooves, Limbo Gateways

Travels in Deep Southern Time, Circum-Caribbean Space, Afro-creole Authority

Keith Cartwright

Publication Year: 2013

“We’re seeing people that we didn’t know exist,” the director of FEMA acknowledged in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Sacral Grooves, Limbo Gateways offers a corrective to some of America’s institutionalized invisibilities by delving into the submerged networks of ritual performance, writing, intercultural history, and migration that have linked the coastal U.S. South with the Caribbean and the wider Atlantic world. This interdisciplinary study slips beneath the bar of rigid national and literary periods, embarking upon deeper—more rhythmic and embodied—signatures of time. It swings low through ecologies and symbolic orders of creolized space. And it reappraises pluralistic modes of knowledge, kinship, and authority that have sustained vital forms of agency (such as jazz) amid abysses of racialized trauma.

Drawing from Haitian Vodou and New Orleanian Voudou and from Cuban and South Floridian Santería, as well as from Afro-Baptist (Caribbean, Geechee, and Bahamian) models of encounters with otherness, this book reemplaces deep-southern texts within the counterclockwise ring-stepping of a long Afro-Atlantic modernity. Turning to an orphan girl’s West African initiation tale to follow a remarkably traveled body of feminine rites and writing (in works by Paule Marshall, Zora Neale Hurston, Lydia Cabrera, William Faulkner, James Weldon Johnson, and LeAnne Howe, among others), Cartwright argues that only in holistic form, emergent from gulfs of cross-cultural witness, can literary and humanistic authority find legitimacy. Without such grounding, he contends, our educational institutions blind and even poison students, bringing them to “swallow lye,” like the grandson of Phoenix Jackson in Eudora Welty’s “A Worn Path.” Here, literary study may open pathways to alternative medicines—fetched by tenacious avatars like Phoenix (or an orphan Kumba or a shell-shaking Turtle)—to remedy the lies our partial histories have made us swallow.

Published by: University of Georgia Press

Series: The New Southern Studies


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pp. 1-5


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pp. 6-7

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pp. vii-x

...Press of Florida, 2013), reprinted with permission of the University Press of Florida. Parts of chapter 1 appeared in an earlier version in “Notes Towards a Voodoo Hermeneutics: Soul Rhythms, Marvelous Transitions, and Passages to the Creole Saints in Paule Marshall’s...

A Note on the Illustrations

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pp. xi-xiv

Invocation: To Bust Your Shell

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pp. 1-2

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INTRODUCATION: Reborn Again: Orphan Initiations, Motherless Lands

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pp. 3-32

...the National Geographic Society, renewed my own appreciation for that old voodoo economist, Ronald Reagan, and his famous slip of the tongue at the 1988 Republican National Convention: “Facts are stupid things.” Reagan got this absolutely right. Imagine, for example, if National...

Part One: The Ancestral House

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CHAPTER ONE: Down to the Mire: Travels, Shouts, and Saraka in Atlantic Praise-Housings

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pp. 35-64

...From W. E. B. Du Bois to Jean Toomer, several key early authors of African American modernity turned southward to Gullah/Geechee terrain—the Altamaha, the Georgia rice fields, the shout-driven rhythms of the Charleston—to dip their art into living waters of a folk authority more complex and transfiguring...

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CHAPTER TWO: Lift Every Voice and Swing: James Weldon Johnson’s God-Met Places and Native Lands

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pp. 65-94

...There is a remarkable set of tensions between God and native land in the Negro national anthem. Marking a path grown from “the places, our God, where we met Thee,” the song lays implicit claim to a counter-cultural knowledge of the sacred’s blood-consecrated terrain...

Part Two: Les Invisibles

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CHAPTER THREE: Fe Chauffe, Balanse, Swing: Saint-Domingue Refugees in the Govi of New Orleans

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pp. 97-127

...stagnant situation. Balancing acts help swing us beyond the fi xed score or script through otherwise uncharted, invisible, inaudible, or unthinkable zones of experience. Whether it be the time- space of a Haitian yam harvest celebrated in Brooklyn or the stage of a club in New Orleans’s Faubourg Marigny, the...

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CHAPTER FOUR: Making Faces at the Sublime: Momentum from within Creole City

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pp. 128-156

...“M’o get me a mojo hand,” blues and zydeco frontmen wail amidst waves of slide guitar or accordion from clubs in the French Quarter and Faubourg Marigny. To step into that assembly’s living memory or to walk the streets...

Part Three: Sangre y Monte

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CHAPTER FIVE: “Come and Gaze on a Mystery”: Zora Neale Hurston’s Rain-Bringing Authority

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pp. 159-183

...Hurston’s Haitian encounters with the Vodou lwa had been prepared by earlier travels of ritual seeking in the Gulf South and the Bahamas and were fed too by her Florida broughtupsy and orphaning. She carried all this—her initiate crowning in New Orleans as storm-walking...

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CHAPTER SIX: “Vamonos pa’l Monte”: Into Florida’s Repeating Bush

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pp. 184-213

...terrestrial life, she is the genius of fi rst contacts and aqueous beginnings. Her beach off erings grew increasingly familiar: fruit, fl owers, and candles left at surf’s edge, fried pork rinds and plantains surrounding seven pennies. Her public face—the Virgin of Regla—confronted me daily in neighborhood bodegas...

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ENVOI: “White Women Have Never Known What to Do with Their Blood”: Gulf Carriers and Sanguine Knowledge

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pp. 214-240

...When Governor George Wallace took his infamous doorway stand to block a descendant of enslaved Africans from admission to the University of Alabama, he doubtless felt he was serving the intent of the state’s and nation’s founding fathers. He was not wrong in that conviction. Even America’s most...


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pp. 241-270


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pp. 271-292


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pp. 293-311

E-ISBN-13: 9780820342139
E-ISBN-10: 0820342130
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820342139

Page Count: 308
Illustrations: 4 b&w illustrations
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: The New Southern Studies
Series Editor Byline: Jon Smith and Riché Richardson, Series Editors See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 859837396
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