Accepted Paper:

Religious innovation in contemporary Cuba: the local encounter between New Age practices and Afro-Cuban religions  
Emma Gobin (Université Paris 8)

Paper short abstract:

Based on a pragmatic approach, this paper focuses on ethnographical cases which highlight creative interactions between (local) Afro-Cuban religions and (exogenous) New Age rituals and cosmology. It attempts to “typologize” three modalities of the process of religious innovation at work here.

Paper long abstract:

During the last decade, in the context of important socio-economical changes and of the growing of persons' and information flows, new healing and spiritual practices stemming from Western self-development trends have developed in Cuba (reiki, so-called groups of meditation and « energy », neo-shamanism, etc.). They have gained numerous followers and practitioners among different sectors of the national population and are locally appropriated and actively reworked, adapted and adjust in a recurrent and protean entanglement with the Afro-Cuban religions which dominate the local religious field since decades. In a tension between these endogenous practices and the new exogenous ones (which may be generically termed as New Age), this process results in significant personal and collective socio-religious innovations deeply anchored in idiosyncratic, reflexive and intimate experiences of religion and the world. Through first-hand ethnographical data and an approach centred on the pragmatic aspects of religious experience, this paper proposes to examine several examples of these ritual innovations as well as the protean ways in which they articulate New Age cosmology and values with the "traditional" Afro-Cuban ones. It will argue that three main modalities of religious innovation are at work here which precisely involve differentiated forms of interaction and embedment between New Age and Afro-Cuban practices and cosmologies. Their exploration allow us to grasp better the active and reflexive role played by different agents (local "spiritual seekers", innovative healers but also Afro-Cuban priests) in these contemporary processes of socio-religious innovations.

Panel P061
Religious trends toward intimacy and revolution