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Dark Arts and Diaspora
Abstract

Abstract:

Exploring the relationship between diaspora and creolization, this article analyzes their shared theoretical foundation in the concept of community. With the premise that empirical evidence of social behavior is both a problematic and a necessity in understanding processes of diaspora and creolization, the article takes as its case in point a cultural phenomenon commonly known in the Atlantic World as obeah: magical practices using supernatural powers. Deriving largely from West and Central African religious traditions, but also from European and South Asian sources, obeah is consummately creole. It is found in various forms in virtually all Caribbean diasporas in North America and in other diaspora destinations such as the United Kingdom. Obeah’s fraught and complex four centuries of colonial history has rendered it as bane and succor at the same time, both embraced and denied by dominant as well as subaltern peoples. These qualities of ambivalence and ambiguity raise probing questions about the creation and role of “community” in producing diasporic identities and the transformational, creolized cultures they carry. The article will discuss obeah’s Caribbean slave plantation past and its diasporic present, asking how obeah, a creole/ized, simultaneously inclusive and divisive phenomenon, figures in the formation of community and thus in defining and interpreting diaspora.



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