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Rituals of Resistance

African Atlantic Religion in Kongo and the Lowcountry South in the Era of Slavery

Jason R. Young

Publication Year: 2007

In Rituals of Resistance Jason R. Young explores the religious and ritual practices that linked West-Central Africa with the Lowcountry region of Georgia and South Carolina during the era of slavery. The choice of these two sites mirrors the historical trajectory of the transatlantic slave trade which, for centuries, transplanted Kongolese captives to the Lowcountry through the ports of Charleston and Savannah. Analyzing the historical exigencies of slavery and the slave trade that sent not only men and women but also cultural meanings, signs, symbols, and patterns across the Atlantic, Young argues that religion operated as a central form of resistance against slavery and the ideological underpinnings that supported it. Through a series of comparative chapters on Christianity, ritual medicine, burial practices, and transmigration, Young details the manner in which Kongolese people, along with their contemporaries and their progeny who were enslaved in the Americas, utilized religious practices to resist the savagery of the slave trade and slavery itself. When slaves acted outside accepted parameters—in transmigration, spirit possession, ritual internment, and conjure—Young explains, they attacked not only the condition of being a slave, but also the systems of modernity and scientific rationalism that supported slavery. In effect, he argues, slave spirituality played a crucial role in the resocialization of the slave body and behavior away from the oppressions and brutalities of the master class. Young's work expands traditional scholarship on slavery to include both the extensive work done by African historians and current interdisciplinary debates in cultural studies, anthropology, and literature. Drawing on a wide range of primary sources from both American and African archives, including slave autobiography, folktales, and material culture, Rituals of Resistance offers readers a nuanced understanding of the cultural and religious connections that linked blacks in Africa with their enslaved contemporaries in the Americas. Moreover, Young's groundbreaking work gestures toward broader themes and connections, using the case of the Kongo and the Lowcountry to articulate the development of a much larger African Atlantic space that connected peoples, cultures, languages, and lives on and across the ocean's waters.

Published by: Louisiana State University Press

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pp. xi-xii

It is true, as many have noted before, that writing is a corporate enterprise. And so there are individuals and institutions, foundations and family members who . . .

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pp. 1-23

I am remembering Reema’s boy—the one with the pear-shaped head.1 Once a child of Willow Springs, he returned to the small island off the coast of Georgia and . . .

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1. Kongo in the Lowcountry

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pp. 24-41

Writing in Slaves in the Family, Edward Ball details the arrival, in 1736, of a young woman in South Carolina. She had been sold as a slave in West- Central Africa . . .

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2. Saline Sacraments, Water Ritual, and the Spirits of the Deep: Christian Conversion in Kongo and along the Sea Islands of the Deep South

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pp. 42-104

Sarah was a slave; and a dutiful one at that. When Sarah spoke, she comported herself with all of the deference demanded by the master class: “‘Your servant, . . .

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3. Minkisi, Conjure Bags, and the African Atlantic Religious Complex

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pp. 105-145

Th e idea of the fetish derives from the medieval Portuguese term feitiço, which referred to sorcery or magical arts. In its earliest use, the term articulated . . .

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4. Burial Markers and Other Remembrances of the Dead

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pp. 146-181

During the era of the slave trade, Kongolese notions of the soul maintained that the body existed as a container for a composite set of inhabiting souls that, though . . .

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pp. 183-189

Th e preceding chapters propose the development of an African Atlantic religious complex that developed during the era of slavery and the slave trade. Linked . . .

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pp. 191-195

Th e people of Willow Springs have been celebrating Candle Walk on the twenty-second night of December for some time now, though nobody really knows why . . .


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pp. 197-234

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 235-252


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pp. 253-258

E-ISBN-13: 9780807135389
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807137192

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2007