Mumbo Jumbo: Critical Perspectives on Black Atlantic Sacred Arts

The UCLA Mellon Seminar in Black Atlantic Studies presents its concluding conference, June 4-5, an event bringing together scholars and artists whose work explores ritual aesthetics of the African Diaspora in both contemporary and historical contexts.

Saturday, June 05, 2010
10:00 AM - 5:30 PM
6275 Bunche Hall
History Conference Room
6th floor of Bunche Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90095

Friday, June 4 Schedule:

  • 1-5 pm: Presentations
  • 5-6 pm: Reception

Saturday, June 5 Schedule:

  • 10 am - 5:30 pm: Presentations

Especially inspired by the seminal work of Donald J. Cosentino, we seek to build upon his critical study of Black Atlantic symbolic systems in artistic, performative and epistemological registers, emphasizing both the making and unmaking of the meaning. How, for example, do altars and altered states of consciousness manifest sacred powers and profane pleasures? Are masquerade, mockery, and ironic reversal central to the revolutionary potential of certain iconic figures? How do figurations of African gnosis (mumbo jumbo, juju, gris-gris, hoo-doo) both reflect and deflect the European Enlightenment when provoking invocations of Robespierre's New Deity, the Fraternal Order of the Masons, the Papacy, Black Power, and a wide variety of popular enthusiasms? Indeed, what is Mumbo Jumbo and what is it doing in Africa, Europe, and the Americas?


Friday, June 4, 2010



Welcome by Andrew Apter and Patrick Polk

Invocation by Baba Funke (12:00 – 12:15)


African American Spirit Guides and Guises (12:15pm - 1:30 pm)

Chair: Patrick A. Polk (UCLA)


Stephen C. Wehmeyer (Champlain College): “High Guides and Hoodoo Balls”: Re-imagining the Ritual Arts of African American Spiritualism         

Jacob S. Dorman (University of Kansas): “Now, Mr. Black man, ...where is your church?”: Black Spiritualists and the Contested Genealogies of African American Religions


Locating the Divine and the Dangerous (1:45pm - 3:00pm)

Chair: Robin Derby (UCLA)


Martha Ellen Davis (National Archives, Dominican Republic): Dominican vodú: Sacred Arts at the Margins of the Black Atlantic

Wallace Zane (California State University, Northridge): The Logic of Jumbies: Malevolent Beings in the Eastern Caribbean


Requiems and Revelries for the Dead (3:15pm - 4:30 pm)

Chair: Andrew Apter (UCLA)


Richard Brent Turner (University of Iowa): A Jazz Funeral for ‘A City That Care Forgot’: The New Orleans Diaspora after Hurricane Katrina

Kelly E. Hayes (Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis): The Dark Side of the Sacred: Pomba Gira in Brazil


Reception    4:30pm - 5:15pm


Keynote Lecture (5:15 pm)

Stephan Palmié (University of Chicago): The Original African Repo-Man: A Note on the Equiano Wars

Saturday, June 5, 2010



African Diaspora Art Histories (9:30am - 10:45am)

Chair: Marla C. Berns (UCLA)


Judith Bettelheim (UCLA): José Bedia: Roots, Routes and the Studio

C. Daniel Dawson (Columbia University and NYU): Who Speaks for the Gods: Practice and Province in Public Exhibitions (or Art and Authority in the African-American Religious Context)


Haiti and the Artistic Eye (11:00am - 12:15pm)

Chair: Carine Fabius (Galerie Lakaye)


Leah Gordon (London): Kanaval: Vodou, Politics, and Revolution on the Streets of Haiti

Marilyn Houlberg (Art Institute of Chicago): When Death Wears Sunglasses: Negotiating Life and Death at the Crossroads in Haiti Before and After the Earthquake


Lunch Break    12:15pm - 1:15pm


The Ever-Living Dead (1:15pm - 2:30pm)

Chair: Claudine Michel (UCSB)


Elizabeth McAlister (Wesleyan University): Slaves, Cannibals, and Infected Hyper-Whites: The Race and Religion of Zombies in Haitian Mystical Arts and American Film

Katherine Smith (UCLA): Zonbi Bouzen: Lineage, Labor, and the Dead


Closing Remarks (3:00pm)

Donald J. Cosentino (UCLA): "Swearing Oro”:  Dilemmas of a Post-Modern Ethnologist

To register for the conference, please email or call (310) 825-3686. The conference is free and open to the public, but registration is requested.

Cost : Free and open to the public; Pay-by-space and all-day ($10) Parking available.

James S. Colemen African Studies Center310-825-3686

Sponsor(s): African Studies Center, World Arts & Cultures/Dance, Fowler Museum at UCLA, UCLA School of Arts and Architecture, UCLA Mellon Seminar in Black Atlantic Studies. The UCLA Mellon Faculty Seminar on Caribbean Cultural History