Spiritual Citizenship

Transnational Pathways from Black Power to Ifá in Trinidad

Book Pages: 256 Illustrations: 24 photographs, incl. 10 in co Published: November 2017

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Caribbean Studies, Religious Studies

In Spiritual Citizenship N. Fadeke Castor employs the titular concept to illuminate how Ifá/Orisha practices informed by Yoruba cosmology shape local, national, and transnational belonging in African diasporic communities in Trinidad and beyond. Drawing on almost two decades of fieldwork in Trinidad, Castor outlines how the political activism and social upheaval of the 1970s set the stage for African diasporic religions to enter mainstream Trinidadian society. She establishes how the postcolonial performance of Ifá/Orisha practices in Trinidad fosters a sense of belonging that invigorates its practitioners to work toward freedom, equality, and social justice. Demonstrating how spirituality is inextricable from the political project of black liberation, Castor illustrates the ways in which Ifá/Orisha beliefs and practices offer Trinidadians the means to strengthen belonging throughout the diaspora, access past generations, heal historical wounds, and envision a decolonial future.


"The author deftly describes the ritual practices of African-based religions in the African diaspora and highlights the role of international conferences in the formation of religious identity. Additionally, she successfully relates the contemporary Orisa movement in Trinidad to the 1970s Trinidad black power movement. . . . Castor does an outstanding job of portraying the flow of ritual and ritual performance. Highly recommended." — S. D. Glazier, Choice

"Spiritual Citizenship is an important text. . . . An essential teaching text on questions of multiculturalism, citizenship, race, and religion. Its engaging writing style on these timely issues and its focus on the under-studied (but fascinating) religious context of Trinidad make Spiritual Citizenship a must-read."  — J. Brent Crosson, Reading Religion

"Spiritual Citizenship is a groundbreaking ethnography. . . . With vivid, engaging and descriptive writing, Castor examines how Ifá/Orisha religious communities that were for decades persecuted and maligned have been re-evaluated in the context of the Black Power Movement in Trinidad—later defined as integral to the pluralistic and multicultural nation and simultaneously incorporated into transnational spiritual networks of priests and practitioners." — Yolanda D. Covington-Ward, Transforming Anthropology

"Overall, Spiritual Citizenship is accessible, slim but not thin, and adds to the limited scholarship on the subject of Ifá in Trinidad. It provides a fascinating case of the ways in which Afro-Atlantic cultures are constituted through ongoing exchanges around and across oceans. It would be a useful addition to undergraduate and graduate courses in anthropology, religious studies, and African American studies." — Alexander Rocklin, New West Indian Guide

"Spiritual Citizenship makes an important ethnographic contribution to Caribbean anthropology and Afro-Atlantic history. . . . This study is notable for the unique and timely ethnographic contributions it makes." — Keith E. McNeal, Journal of Anthropological Research

"Spiritual Citizenship gives readers a sense of Orisha religion in Trinidad as it is as well as how Castor wants it to be, as when she writes, 'Informed by Yorùbá cosmology and a newly planted Ifá lineage, Orisha communities in Trinidad have embarked on a pathway of community building guided toward ideas of freedom, liberation, and social justice.'" — Spencer Dew, Religious Studies Review

"What this book does best is to show how competing transnational and national dynamics offer multiple possibilities for religious authority and achievement, and how these possibilities generate friction. . . . Given how well Castor writes herself and her processes of learning and initiation into the ethnography, the book offers insights on transforming returns at multiple levels." — Paul Johnson, Anthropos

Spiritual Citizenship is a tour-de-force of the twenty-first-century kind. It proposes a reconceptualization of the way that scholars understand notions of cultural citizenship, insisting that we consider the spiritual epistemologies engaged in sacred meaning making. Through an examination of the complex ways that new domains of belonging are being negotiated and lifeworlds made meaningful, Spiritual Citizenship moves the anthropological scholarship on Orisha religious practices to a new level of engagement with spiritual ontologies of citizenship. It is a must read for those committed to decolonizing anthropology through the last bastion of the enlightenment—that of decolonizing our epistemologies of knowledge.” — Kamari Maxine Clarke, author of Mapping Yoruba Networks: Power and Agency in the Making of Transnational Communities

"Trinidad and Tobago gives N. Fadeke Castor a rich and generative field to discuss blackness and pan-Africanism in new ways. Having amassed a deep and fascinating archive—tracing key individuals, rituals, and racial, color, and class consciousness—Castor makes an impressive and enduring contribution to the study of African religion in the Caribbean." — Jafari Allen, author of ¡Venceremos? The Erotics of Black Self-Making in Cuba


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

N. Fadeke Castor is Assistant Professor of Religion and Africana Studies at Northeastern University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Note on Orthography  ix
Preface  xi
Acknowledgments  xvii
Introduction  1
Part I. Spiritual Engagements with Black Cultural Citizenship
1. The Spirit of Black Power: An Ancestral Calling  25
2. Multicultural Moments: From Margins to Mainstream  54
Part II. Emerging Spiritual Citizenship
3. Around the Bend: Festive Practices in a Yorùbá-Centric Shrine  71
4. Trini Travels: Spiritual Citizenship as Transnational  99
5. Ifá in Trinidad's Ground  128
Appendixes I-III  169
Notes  179
Glossary  191
References  197
Index  221
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Winner of the Clifford Geertz Prize in the Anthropology of Religion (American Anthropological Association)

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-6895-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-6873-1
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