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Ever since its emergence in colonial-era Cuba, Afro-Cuban Santería (or Lucumí) has displayed a complex dynamic of continuity and change in its institutions, rituals, and iconography. In Santería Enthroned, David H. Brown combines art history, cultural anthropology, and ethnohistory to show how Africans and their descendants have developed novel forms of religious practice in the face of relentless oppression.
Focusing on the royal throne as a potent metaphor in Santería belief and practice, Brown shows how negotiation among ideologically competing interests have shaped the religion's symbols, rituals, and institutions from the nineteenth century to the present. Rich case studies of change in Cuba and the United States, including a New Jersey temple and South Carolina's Oyotunji Village, reveal patterns of innovation similar to those found among rival Yoruba kingdoms in Nigeria. Throughout, Brown argues for a theoretical perspective on culture as a field of potential strategies and "usable pasts" that actors draw upon to craft new forms and identities—a perspective that will be invaluable to all students of the African Diaspora.
American Acemy of Religion Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion (Analytical-Descriptive Category)
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David H. Brown, Ph.D., is a nonresident fellow at the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard University and founder and manager of Folkcuba.com, L.L.C. He is the author ofThe Light Inside: Abakuá Society Arts and Cuban Cultural History.Review:
"Brown’s book sets a benchmark in clarifying most issues related to Regla de Ocha/Lucumí, aka Santería, as it has evolved through Havana and into eastern parts of the United States." (Jualynne E. Dodson North Star 2004-11-15)
“Santería Enthroned has now set a new standard for scholarship on the aesthetic dimensions and historical development of this fascinating initiatory tradition. . . . Santería Enthroned gives much food for thought; indeed, this generously illustrated and superbly designed volume is a banquet for the eye as well as the intellect. . . . The fruit of twenty years’ labor, Brown’s study will stand the test of time and is easily the best account of Santería as created, lived, and lovingly elaborated to date. Glancing at the honey-toned cover . . . one is reminded that sometimes what glitters does turn out to be a full twenty-four carats, or at least to be worth its weight in gold.” (Elizabeth Pérez History of Religions)
“A densely layered and beautiful book. Brown's work on the unique innovations and incorporations of Spanish and Catholic royal elements into "Yoruba" religious aesthetics is nuanced. The comparative work with religious iconography, and material culture like initiation gowns and altars, pays close attention to both Yoruba philosophical models and the development of Lucumi Yoruba Cuban innovations. . . . Santeria Enthroned is an ambitious book that achieves a dense, textured understanding of Orisha traditions located in multiple, local Diasporas: New Jersey in the late twentieth century, Havana in the nineteenth century, and so on. Readers get a sense of the shifting strategies that help Santeria practitioners and artists negotiate their history and their present creativity.”(Solimar Otero International Journal of African Historical Studies)
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