New Directions in the Study of Black Atlantic Religions

Presented by UC Multi-campus Research Group on New Approaches to Black Atlantic Religions and University of California Office of the President Multi-campus Research Programs & Initiative Funding (MRPI)

Saturday, October 27, 2018
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
10383 Bunche Hall, UCLA
10th floor of Bunche Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1310

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This multidisciplinary group composed of faculty from multiple UC campuses will critically assess the current state of scholarship on Black Atlantic belief systems and theorize new methodologies and analytic orientations for comparative and regional studies. Our objective is to expand UC’s historical role as a hub for the study of Black Atlantic religions by fostering dialogue and collaboration amongst a new generation of scholars. We will explore where new research is needed, ways to develop new methods, what new theoretical paradigms are available, and carefully consider how we as scholars can contribute to the anti-racist struggles of the peoples of the Black Atlantic world. Participants include Jeffrey Kahn, UC Davis, Rachel O’Toole, UC Irvine, Roberto Strongman, Elizabeth Pérez and Claudine Michel from UC Santa Barbara, Jeroen Dewulf, UC Berkeley and Patrick A. Polk, Lauren Derby, Katherine Smith and Andrew Apter, UCLA.

Outside speakers include Brendan Jamal Thornton from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill whose book on Pentecostalism and masculinity in the Dominican Republic won the Caribbean Studies award for best book in the humanities.

Yanique Hume from the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, Barbados, who writes about Haitians in eastern Cuba and African diaspora mortuary rites, will provide a keynote. Hume is also a professional dancer and choreographer and will also hold a dance workshop during her stay on campus.

Conference Schedule (subject to change):

8:30-9:00 AM Coffee and Registration

9:00-9:30 AM Welcome, Andrew Apter (UC Los Angeles) and Opening Remarks, Claudine Michel (UC Santa Barbara)

9:30-11:00 AM Panel One: Governing Powers

Jeroen Dewulf (UC Berkeley), “Traces of an Afro-Iberian Substratum in Caribbean and North American Black Cultural History”

Brendan Jamal Thornton (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), “Hegemony, Essentialism, and Christian Variation in the Southern Caribbean”

Rachel Sarah O’Toole (UC Irvine), “Her Things: Ana de la Calle in Colonial Peru”

Patrick A. Polk (UC Los Angeles), “Far-Farmed and Hard to Find: Learning from the Doctress of Hubbardston”

Chair, Carla Gardina Pestana (UC Los Angeles)

11:00-11:15 AM Coffee Break

11:15 AM-12:45 PM Panel Two: Hidden Powers

Jeffrey S. Kahn (UC Davis), “Navigating the Haitian Caribbean: A Cosmographic Physics of Land and Sea”

Lauren H. Derby (UC Los Angeles), “Sorcery as ‘Environmental’ History: Exploring the Haitian-Dominican Borderlands”

Raúl Moreno Campos (CSU Channel Islands), “La cuarta dimensión: Theosophy and the Politics of Latin American Modernist Esotericism in the Black Atlantic, ca. 1900-1930”

Vikram K. Tamboli (UC Los Angeles), “Forbes Burnham, Mother Monica, and The Mystical Triune: Channeling Black Powers in Guyana during the 1960s and 1970s”

Chair, Philip Deslippe (UC Santa Barbara)

12:45-2:00 PM Lunch

2:00-3:30 PM Panel Three: Powerful Bodies

Elizabeth Pérez (UC Santa Barbara), “Notes Toward a 'Trans- Atlantic' History: Black & Latinx Transgender Experience & Religious Practice”

Katherine Smith (UC Los Angeles), “Freemasonry and Gender Norms in Haitian Vodou”

Roberto Strongman (UC Santa Barbara), “Queering Black Atlantic Religions”

Elyan Hill (UC Los Angeles), "Altars in Motion: Critical Consumerism and Gender Fluidity in Mami Wata Performances"

Chair, Aisha K. Finch (UC Los Angeles)

4:00 PM Keynote, Yanique Hume (University of the West Indies at Cave Hill), “Dancing for the Dead and the Living: Embodiment and Invocation in Caribbean Mortuary Praxis”


The conference is free and open to the public; RSVP requested by emailing Sheila Breeding, African Studies Center, at She can also answer any questions you may have about the event. Pay-by-space and all-day ($12) parking available in lot 3 Campus map, directions, transportation options to UCLA at

Cost : free and open to the public

Sheila Breeding310-825-3686

Sponsor(s): This conference is sponsored by the University of California Office of the President Multi-campus Research Programs and Initiative Funding and the UC Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI). Co-sponsors of this event include Patricia Turner, Dean and Vice Provost, Division of Undergraduate Education, UCLA College of Letters and Science; UCLA Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance; UCLA Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies; UCLA Center for the Study of Religion, Robin D.G. Kelley, Gary B. Nash Endowed Chair in U.S. History; Fowler Museum; UCLA Center for the Study of Women; U