This volume demonstrates how, from the beginning of the Atlantic slave trade, enslaved and free Africans in the Americas used Catholicism and Christian-derived celebrations as spaces for autonomous cultural expression, social organization, and political empowerment. Their appropriation of Catholic-based celebrations calls into question the long-held idea that Africans and their descendants in the diaspora either resignedly accepted Christianity or else transformed its religious rituals into syncretic objects of stealthy resistance.
In cities and on plantations throughout the Americas, men and women of African birth or descent staged mock battles against heathens, elected Christian queens and kings with great pageantry, and gathered in festive rituals to express their devotion to saints. Many of these traditions endure in the twenty-first century. The contributors to this volume draw connections between these Afro-Catholic festivals-observed from North America to South America and the Caribbean-and their precedents in the early modern kingdom of Kongo, one of the main regions of origin of men and women enslaved in the New World. This transatlantic perspective offers a useful counterpoint to the Yoruba focus prevailing in studies of African diasporic religions and reveals how Kongo-infused Catholicism constituted a site for the formation of black Atlantic tradition.
Afro-Catholic Festivals in the Americas complicates the notion of Christianity as a European tool of domination and enhances our comprehension of the formation and trajectory of black religious culture on the American continent. It will be of great interest to scholars of African diaspora, religion, Christianity, and performance.
In addition to the editor, the contributors include Kevin Dawson, Jeroen Dewulf, Junia Ferreira Furtado, Michael Iyanaga, Dianne M. Stewart, Miguel A. Valerio, and Lisa Voigt.
Copyright in bibliographic data and cover images is held by Nielsen Book Services Limited or by the publishers or by their respective licensors: all rights reserved.
Cecile Fromont is Associate Professor of History of Art at Yale University. She is also the author of the award-winning book The Art of Conversion: Christian Visual Culture in the Kingdom of Kongo.
List of Illustrations
Introduction: Kongo Christianity, Festive Performances, and the Making of Black Atlantic Tradition
Cecile Fromont and Michael Iyanaga
Part 1 Ritual Battles from the Kongo Kingdom to the Americas
1. Sangamentos on Congo Square? Kongolese Warriors, Brotherhood Kings, and Mardi Gras Indians in New Orleans
2. Moros e Christianos Ritualized Naval Battles: Baptizing American Waters with African Spiritual Meaning
3. A Mexican Sangamento? The First Afro-Christian Performance in the Americas
Miguel A. Valerio
Part 2 America's Black Kings and Diplomatic Representation
4. Representing an African King in Brazil
5. Black Ceremonies in Perspective: Brazil and Dahomey in the Eighteenth Century
Junia Ferreira Furtado
Part 3 Reconsidering Primary Sources
6. Envisioning Brazil's Afro-Christian Congados: The Black King and Queen Festival Lithograph of Johann Moritz Rugendas
7. The Orisa House That Afro-Catholics Built: Africana Antecedents to Yoruba Religious Formation in Trinidad
Dianne M. Stewart
Part 4 Aurality and Diasporic Traditions
8. On Hearing Africas in the Americas: Domestic Celebrations for Catholic Saints as Afro-Diasporic Religious Tradition
List of Contributors
"By including festivals from New Orleans and Mexico City, and by framing the volume as in direct conversation with scholarship on African American art and culture in the United States, Fromont takes an important stride toward bridging the historiographical divide between scholarship on North and South America."-Ximena A. Gomez, Art History "The authors critically address the modes of disciplinary engagement that have dominated discussion and evaluation to date. These essays are useful references for understanding the renegotiation necessary for comprehending processes and celebrations that excavate meaning far below the surface and, in turn, provide valuable information on the legacy of Catholic religiosity that has been simmering for centuries on the African continent."-7/24/2020, Early American Literature "[This volume] offers a much-needed contribution to the study of African, Afro-Latino/a and African-American Catholics. While the field of Black Atlantic religions has exploded in the past decade, the study of Black Atlantic Catholicism has been one of the most understudied areas in the field of religion."-Michelle A. Gonzalez, Reading Religion "This remarkable set of essays and their accompanying images bring to life the dynamic interactions of central Africa and the Americas as expressed in music, dance, artistic representation, and spirituality. It does not resolve the great debate over African continuities versus creole creativity, but it enriches and enlivens it and makes it fundamental to an understanding of the Atlantic world."-Stuart B. Schwartz, author of All Can Be Saved: Religious Tolerance and Salvation in the Iberian Atlantic World "A compelling collection of essays that map out the transplantation of Kongo and Central African Christian traditions in the Americas by exploring the crucial role African Christian festivals played in the Americas. This is a timely multidisciplinary text that invites readers to explore representation and performance expressed in ideas, music, and art deployed by Africans to assert the will to thrive in the context of domination and to forge a vibrant Christian presence and practice."-Elias Bongmba, author of The Dialectics of Transformation in Africa "This multidisciplinary study of acculturation participates in a turn in postcolonial studies away from questions of the imposition of Christianity to black reinvention."-Victor Houliston, Heythrop Journal
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