[URBANTH-L]Call for Papers - 2009 AAA - Beyond the Sacred: Redressing the dominance of religion in anthropological explorations of Afro-American culture

Allan Charles Dawson allan.dawson at mac.com
Tue Mar 17 23:37:47 EDT 2009

Call for Papers

Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association

(Philadelphia, PA, United States, 2-6 December 2009)

Beyond the Sacred: Redressing the dominance of religion in  
anthropological explorations of Afro-American culture (2009 AAA  

Anthropologists working with communities of the African Diaspora, in  
seeking to reframe Africa as an integral part of a network of Atlantic  
interaction, have broadened the scope of scholarship beyond the  
excavation of a past rooted in slavery to include the multiplex  
‘routes’ of interaction between Black communities. However, the locus  
classicus for exploration and discussion of Africanity in Afro-America— 
whether as the product of creolization or African survivals—remains  
the sacred spaces of Afro-American religious traditions. From  
Candomblé to Santeria, from Vodoun to Black Baptist churches, religion  
has been and continues to be the principle ethnographic, historical  
and analytical trope through which anthropologists have tried to  
understand how Black American communities incorporate the idea of  
Africa into their identity processes. This emphasis belies and  
diminshes the broad array of techniques, practices and traditions that  
attempt to connect Afro-American populations with Africa and Africans— 
many of which exist beyond the realm of the sacred. Privileging the  
religious arena often serves to confine the study of Africanity in  
America to the realm of the still ongoing ‘creolization vs. survivals’  
debate, as the metaphors of survival and memory are vital to many Afro- 
American religious congregations. This panel seeks to bring together  
papers that present a broader view of how ideas about Africa and  
contemporary connections with Africa inform constructions of Black  
identity in the Americas beyond the history of the Middle Passage and  
Afro religious phenomena.

The panel organizer invites papers that problematize the place of the  
religion as the central trope through which scholars and community  
members understand connections with Africa and Africans and that  
suggest alternative ways of understanding how Africa can inform Black  

Please send abstracts by e-mail to Allan Dawson (allan.dawson at mac.com)  
by Wednesday, 28 March 2009. Session participants will be confirmed  
shortly thereafter. Submission Deadline for AAA 2009 Panels is 1 April  

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