Santeria Enthroned: Art, Ritual, and Innovation in an Afro-Cuban Religion

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9780226076096: Santeria Enthroned: Art, Ritual, and Innovation in an Afro-Cuban Religion
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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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About the Author:

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, L.L.C. He is the author ofThe Light Inside: Abakuá Society Arts and Cuban Cultural History.


"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)

"Brown's tome is a definitive work of scholarship and should become a standard reference for anyone interested in the diaspora of West African religion. While the guiding argument about the invented character of tradition is well rehearsed in anthropology, what makes this book so impressive is the subtlety and richness with which this process is described." (Martin Holbraad Journal of Latin American Studies)

“Brown has written a definitive study of Afro-Cuban religion. . . . This book is essential reading for scholars of religion and theologians who explore religion in the Americas.”—Michelle A. Gonzalez, Journal of Religion (Michelle A. Gonzalez Journal of Religion)

“Drawing on an intimate knowledge of Afro-Cuban communities in Cuba and the United States, Brown’s account of the adaptability and versatility of the folk religion commonly known as Santeria (or Lucumi) is simply the best and most enlightening account of the faith’s iconographic elements available. . . . Brown has a novelist’s flair for description and story that keeps the book engaging throughout. Lavishly illustrated.”--Library Journal (Library Journal)

"Using virtually every extant secondary source on Afro-Cuban culture, formalistic and imagistic evidence from the tradition itself and, crucially a plethora of oral narratives, Brown reconstructs the history of Santería from Africa to Cuba to Miami in luxurious detail. , , . This wealth of information is firmly undergirded by a rigorous yet ground-breaking theoretical perspective. . . . A truly prodigious achievement, a remarkably coherent compilation of vast resources, and a major contribution to the field." (Lesley A. Northup Revista Europea de Estudios Latinoamericanos)

"Brilliantly constructed, theoretically sophisticated. . . . Brown's text exemplifies how we might use historical data for theoretical innovations that shed new light on the complexities of race, legitimacy, and people's struggles over the authenticity of social and cultural change." (Kamari Maxine Clarke Transforming Anthropology)

"A deep and rich ethnographic treatment of this distinct religious tradition." (Joseph M. Murphy Theological Studies)

"Santeria Enthroned presents an ambitious blend of archival research, visual analysis, oral-historical interviews, ethnography, ethnohistory, and the techniques of art history, applied to the problematic tension between continuity and innovation in Afro-Cuban religion. The book will stand as an essential reference for decades to vcome." (Michael Stone H-Net Review)

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780226076102: Santeria Enthroned: Art, Ritual, and Innovation in an Afro-Cuban Religion

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ISBN 10:  0226076105 ISBN 13:  9780226076102
Publisher: University Of Chicago Press, 2003