Mellon Seminar in Black Atlantic Studies: Spirit Possession aujourd'hui-with a nod to Levi-Strauss

The Mellon Seminar in Black Atlantic Studies explores an emerging paradigm shift in African Diaspora scholarship. The Mellon Seminar in Black Atlantic Studies, 2008-2009 is co-organized by Andrew Apter, Departments of History and Anthropology; African Studies Center and Patrick Polk, Department of World Arts and Culture.

Thursday, February 12, 2009
12:00 PM - 2:00 PM
6275 Bunche Hall
University of California, Los Angeles
Los Angeles, CA 90095

The Mellon Seminar in Black Atlantic Studies explores an emerging paradigm shift in African Diaspora scholarship. Inspired by Paul Gilroy’s innovative work in black cultural studies, the shift can be described as one from “roots” to “routes,” recasting Africa from a “baseline” to a circuit predicated on ethnic mixing and hybrid forms from the very beginning of the triangle trade.  If European ports and capitals, Caribbean plantations, American shipyards and African cities became co-equal sites in an emerging trans-Atlantic field, so trade-union politics, plural societies, Pan-African movements and expressive musical and ritual hybrids developed as hallmarks of a distinctive “counter-modernity.”  Black Atlantic Studies does not disavow the African Diaspora, but incorporates it within a triangulated field of “transverse dynamics” and coextensive horizons.

As an interdisciplinary research seminar, we invite leading scholars in Black Atlantic Studies who combine analytic and interpretive methods ranging from demographic approaches to new slave trade databases to performance-centered phenomenological approaches to gender, race and memory. If some studies involve intensive fieldwork on festival complexes and performance genres in bounded sites, others track the circulation of expressive cultural forms between coasts and hinterlands, within Atlantic regions, and across socially differentiated regimes of value. The challenges of linking the localities of “place” to the translocal dimensions of Black Atlantic history and culture set the seminar’s methodological theme.

Series Schedule

February 11 | 4:00pm -6:00pm

“Diaspora Conversions: Black Carib Religion and the Recovery of Africa.”

Paul C. Johnson, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

6275 Bunche Hall


February 12 | 12:00pm -2:00pm

“Spirit Possession aujourd’hui-with a nod to Lévi-Strauss”

Paul C. Johnson, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

6275 Bunche Hall


March 6 | 3pm – 5pm

“Microhistory Set in Motion: An Itinerary from Senegambia to Saint-Domingue to Santiago de Cuba”

Rebecca Scott, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

co-hosted by “New Approaches to the Cultural History of the Caribbean Mellon Seminar”

6275 Bunche Hall


March 9 | 4:00pm -6:00pm

“Silences in the Museum: Reflections on Paris’s Musée du Quai Branly”

Sally Price, William and Mary College

10383 Bunche Hall


March 10 | 4:00pm -6:00pm

“Travels with Tooy: History, Memory, and the African-American Imagination”

Richard Price, William and Mary College

6275 Bunche Hall


April 3 - 4

“Excavating the Past: Archaeological Perspectives on Black Atlantic Regional Networks” a conference in honor of Merrick Posnansky

co-hosted by UCLA Cotsen Institute of Archaeology and Center for Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Studies

UCLA William Andrews Clark Memorial Library



For more information please contact:

James S. ColemanAfrican Studies Center

Tel: 310-825-3686

Sponsor(s): African Studies Center, World Arts & Cultures/Dance