Accepted Paper:

Ritual 'innovation' and conflict in Havana (Cuba): some effects of Afro-Cuban religions' transnationalisation on the local religious field  
Emma Gobin (Université Paris 8)

Paper short abstract:

From an ethnographical perspective, this presentation underlines how the transnational context in which Afro-Cuban religions are now evolving modifies some ritual and discursive practices in Havana and also increases local conflicts of power and legitimacy.

Paper long abstract:

Nowadays, santería and Ifá, both of Yoruba origin, occupy a prestigious place in the afro-cuban religious field. The number of practitionners, foreigners as well as Cubans, is constantly increasing. During the XXth century, they spread to the rest of the American continent and more recently to Europe. This phenomenon has been studied in several countries (USA, Mexico, France, Spain, etc.) but it is also beginning to have repercussions on the Cuban original religious context. From an ethnographical perspective, this paper explores the effects of this transnationalization process in Havana. Indeed, the ritual and discursive practices taking place in the tricontinental context of what is now called « orisha religion » are directly influencing some local religious practices on the island. I will focus on the initiation of a foreign women in an exclusive masculine priesthood that took place in Havana two years ago. Realized by Cuban Ifá priests, this initiation has been the object of a violent controverse. The analysis of strategies of legitimacy and delegitimacy in stake in this conflict reveals that some Cuban practitionners « reafricanize » their own ritual system on the basis of intense exchanges with foreign practitionners, in this case principally from United-States. At the same time, it underlines that the transnational context in which Cubans religions are now evolving not only modifies the scale of local struggles for religious power and monopoly for legitim tradition but also exacerbates it.

Panel W075
The internationalisation of African-American religions