This article examines the ceremonial practice of smallest scale and greatest prevalence in Afro-Cuban religions: elders' oral narration of initiation as an "unchosen choice," pursued solely as a response to affliction. This article marshals evidence to show that the conditions of scholars' involvement in these traditions have contributed to the dearth of analysis concerning these stories and proposes that the initiation narrative be classified as a distinct speech genre, with both traceable historical sources and concrete social effects. Drawing on several years of ethnographic research, the author contends that the verbal relation of such narratives has redounded to the enlargement of Afro-Cuban traditions, chiefly by promoting the spirits' transformative reality and healing power. Both the methodological critique and theoretical argument are offered in hopes of redirecting the study of Africana religions toward embodied micropractices that assist in the gradual coalescence of social identities and subjectivity.


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pp. 151-193
Launched on MUSE
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