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Spirit Service

Vodún and Vodou in the African Atlantic World

Known in the Dominican Republic and Togo as Vodu, in Benin as Vodún, and in Haiti as Vodou, West African religion has, for hundreds of years, served as a repository of sacred knowledge while simultaneously evolving in response to human experience and globalization.

Spirit Service: Vodún and Vodou in the African Atlantic World explores this dynamic religion, its mobility, and its place in the modern world. By examining the systems—ritual practices, community-based spirit veneration, and spiritual means of securing opportunity and well-being—alongside the individuals who worship, this rich collection offers the first comprehensive ethnographic study of West African spirit service on a broad scale. Contributors consider social encounters between African/Haitian practitioners and European / North American spiritual seekers, economies and histories, funerary rites and spirit possessions, and examinations of gender and materiality.

Offering much-needed perspective on this historically disparaged religion, Spirit Service reminds us all that the gods are growing, assimilating, and demanding recognition and respect.

About the Authors

Eric J. Montgomery is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Michigan State University and Saperstein Senior Fellow and Faculty in the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies at Wayne State University. He is coauthor of An Ethnography of a Vodu Shrine in Southern Togo and editor of Shackled Sentiments: Slaves, Spirits, and Memories in the African Diaspora.Timothy R. Landry is Associate Professor in the departments of Anthropology and Religious Studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. He is the author of Vodún: Secrecy and the Search for Divine Power.Christian N. Vannier is Lecturer in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Michigan, Flint. He is the co-author of An Ethnography of a Vodu Shrine in Southern Togo and coeditor of Cultures of Doing Good: Anthropologists and NGOs.

Reviews

"Perhaps no religion has been more maligned and misrepresented than Vodu, Vodún, Vaudou, or Voodoo.  Spirit Service engages the top scholars of Vodún in the world to capture the diversity and vitality of this quintessential African religion in a single volume, while at the same time offering a timely and vigorous counternarrative and testament to the Black religious imagination in Africa, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Indeed, Spirit Service is a tour de force in scale and scope, examining themes as important as they are riveting—art, performance, ritual, healing, resistance, funerary rights. Each treatment captures a complexity of the whole that is Vodún—highlighting the profound ways in which this religion has continued to adapt, rebuild, and reclaim all that is African religion. A must-read for students of African studies, history, religious studies, anthropology, and performance studies."—Nwando Achebe, Jack and Margaret Sweet Endowed Professor of History, Michigan State University

"The religious systems known as Vodu, Vodún, Vaudou, Voodoo, Gorovodu, and more have never been so thoroughly explored, interpreted, interrogated, and esteemed as by the writers of this lavish collection. The fourteen chapters in this volume provide extraordinarily diverse descriptions and narratives that allow readers to understand in abundant detail how Vodún (etc.) is not a single religion, but rather a vast global proliferation of sacred beliefs and practices that are in many ways related to one another, yet significantly different from place to place and through different historical periods. Readers will appreciate not only the diversity of forms and intentions of spirit service, but also that of the writers' relationships to their subjects, their closeness to the rituals or their more scientific distance, their identification (or not) with the community they study, their attention to performance, passion, aesthetics, rapture; and finally to political issues, class and race, state intervention, colonialism and its violence. This collection is an excellent and necessary addition to anthropology, history, and religious studies courses on Haiti, Voodoo in the U.S., African cultures, world religions, religious ritual and performance, art, and more."—Judy Rosenthal, Professor Anthropology Emeritus, University of Michigan, Flint

"An impressive overview of Beninese Vodún and Haitian Vodou, this volume explores their various manifestations on both sides of the Atlantic. The essays in this anthology examine Vodún and Vodou's common history, their integration in their respective communities, their encounter with Christianity and Islam, and their remarkable adaptability to various social and economic changes. The Middle Passage and chattel slavery, and of late the migration of Vodún and Vodou to many parts of the world has transformed their sacred traditions to produce a multiverse of symbolic forms and has altered their beliefs and ritual practices. The authors examine the current forms of Vodún and Vodou as well as their continuity and discontinuity with their past. Vital for historians of religion, anthropologists, sociologists, and political scientists, this book is likely to be an authoritative collection of essays and an important resource for scholarly research for years to come."—Leslie G. Desmangles, Professor Religious Studies Emeritus, Trinity College

9780253061904 : spirit-service-montgomery-landry-vannier
Hardback
346 Pages
$90.00 USD
9780253061911 : spirit-service-montgomery-landry-vannier
Paperback / softback
346 Pages
$40.00 USD

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