Mapping Yorùbá Networks

Power and Agency in the Making of Transnational Communities

Mapping Yorùbá Networks

Book Pages: 384 Illustrations: 67 illustrations Published: July 2004

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Religious Studies

Three flags fly in the palace courtyard of Òyótúnjí African Village. One represents black American emancipation from slavery, one black nationalism, and the third the establishment of an ancient Yorùbá Empire in the state of South Carolina. Located sixty-five miles southwest of Charleston, Òyótúnjí is a Yorùbá revivalist community founded in 1970. Mapping Yorùbá Networks is an innovative ethnography of Òyótúnjí and a theoretically sophisticated exploration of how Yorùbá òrìsà voodoo religious practices are reworked as expressions of transnational racial politics. Drawing on several years of multisited fieldwork in the United States and Nigeria, Kamari Maxine Clarke describes Òyótúnjí in vivid detail—the physical space, government, rituals, language, and marriage and kinship practices—and explores how ideas of what constitutes the Yorùbá past are constructed. She highlights the connections between contemporary Yorùbá transatlantic religious networks and the post-1970s institutionalization of roots heritage in American social life.

Examining how the development of a deterritorialized network of black cultural nationalists became aligned with a lucrative late-twentieth-century roots heritage market, Clarke explores the dynamics of Òyótúnjí Village’s religious and tourist economy. She discusses how the community generates income through the sale of prophetic divinatory consultations, African market souvenirs—such as cloth, books, candles, and carvings—and fees for community-based tours and dining services. Clarke accompanied Òyótúnjí villagers to Nigeria, and she describes how these heritage travelers often returned home feeling that despite the separation of their ancestors from Africa as a result of transatlantic slavery, they—more than the Nigerian Yorùbá—are the true claimants to the ancestral history of the Great Òyó Empire of the Yorùbá people. Mapping Yorùbá Networks is a unique look at the political economy of homeland identification and the transnational construction and legitimization of ideas such as authenticity, ancestry, blackness, and tradition.


“A tour de force indeed, Mapping Yoruba Networks is an impressive intellectual yield worth of its decade-long scholarly investment.”
— Pamela J. Olubunmi Smith , Journal of African American History

“Clarke has succeeded in creating a narrative in which the cultural politics of blackness has merged with the notion of citizenship and the quest to resolve the dilemma of globalization and its cultural implications.” — Matthews A. Ojo , Journal of Contemporary Religion

"[A] major contribution to the growing body of scholarly literature on transnational theories of revivalist movements. . . . Clarke set out with an ambitious agenda to map Yorubá networks, and she has delivered a convincing and revealing presentation. This book is destined to become a major reference work." — William L. Smith , Utopian Studies

"[E]xtraordinary. . . . [O]ne of the most innovative studies of the African Diaspora to date." — Elisha P. Renne , Journal of Colonialism & Colonial History

"[F]ascinating. . . . Mapping Yoruba Networks offers insights about the transnational African diaspora and the construction of self-conscious identities and communities in relation to it. The narrative sections, in which Clarke describes interactions with and among Oyotunji members, are rich and rewarding. . . ." — Lisa A. Lindsay, International Journal of African Historical Studies

"[I]mportant, innovative. . . . [Clarke's] detailed descriptions of New World Yoruba ritual are engagingly written, accurate, and accessible. . . . Recommended. . . ." — S. D. Glazier, Choice

"[T]he author's style of presentation is very lucid and systematic, and the glossary is both enlightened and enlightening. . . . [T]his work is a historic tour de force in ethnography and will doubtless serve as a point of departure for similar studies in the future." — Amidu Olalekan Sanni, Modern African Studies

"Clarke exemplifies the best of 21st century anthropology as she offers an insider's sympathy without romanticism, step-back objectivity without arrogance. . . . [T]he book should . . . inspire those wrestling with the dynamics of cultural production anywhere in the world." — Allen F. Robert, American Ethnologist

"Clarke has produced a masterpiece about an intercontinental network of religious beliefs and practices. . . . [E]xcellent. . . . Mapping Yoruba Networks is a useful book for studying African religions in diaspora. . . . [E]nlightening and educative. It is indeed a pleasant book to read." — Julius Adekunle, Africa Today

"This is a solid book, with much to be emulated for its objectives, methodology, passion, and sound conclusions. . . . [T]his book will endure as a major work of scholarship, to be read as part of the emerging field of comparative cultural studies and the creation of new identities in the modern world."
— Toyin Falola , Research in African Literatures

“In her pioneering analysis of the formation of a new religious nationalist movement, Kamari Maxine Clarke shows in fascinating detail how the Òyótúnjí community refashioned Yorùbá religion to suit its notion of racial identity.” — Jacob Olupona, editor of African Spirituality: Forms, Meanings, and Expressions

“In this highly original analysis, Kamari Maxine Clarke shows how the apparent stability of ‘tradition’ at different moments in time has been the product of processes of innovation made both necessary and possible during particular phases of economic limitation and religious and political oppression in the long historical stream of ‘black transatlantic’ cultural production.” — Brackette F. Williams, author of Stains on My Name, War in My Veins: Guyana and the Politics of Cultural Struggle


Availability: In stock
Price: $29.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Kamari Maxine Clarke is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Yale University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Note on Orthography ix

Preface xi

Acknowledgments xxix

Introduction: From Village, to Nation, to Transnational Networks 1


1 “On Far Away Shores, Home Is Not Far”: Mapping Formations of Place, Race, and Nation 51

2 “White Man Say They Are African”: Roots Tourism and the Industry of Race as Culture 107


3 Micropower and Oyo Hegemony in Yoruba Transnational Revivalism 157

4 “Many Were Taken, but Some Were Sent”: The Remembering and Forgetting of Yoruba Group Membership 201

5 Ritual Change and the Changing Canon: Divinatory Legitimation of Yoruba Ancestral Roots 231

6 Recasting Gender: Family, Status, and Legal Institutionalism 257

Epilogue: Multisited Ethnographies in an Age of Globalization 279

Appendix 289

Notes 295

Glossary 317

Bibliography 323

Index 341
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3342-5 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3330-2
Publicity material