Accepted paper:

Crafting religious nomadism


Roger Canals (University of Barcelona)

Paper short abstract:

The use of new technologies, the “religious industry” and migration are leading to the expansion of Afro-American cults across the globe. How does this nomadism modify the meaning, appearance and function of the material cultural elements associated with Afro-American rituals?

Paper long abstract:

Afro-American cults are becoming increasingly global, mainly due to immigration, the influence of a strong religious industry and the massive presence of these religions on the Internet. This nomadism alters the practice, meaning and function of the rituals —both religious and artistic— and especially modifies the material cultural elements associated with them. Given this, and based on ethnographic data gathered in Spain on the practice of Afro-American cults in diaspora, this paper has two main objectives: on the one hand, it aims to show how material culture —and especially that associated with religious and artistic practice— is not only a "reflection" of social change, but also a strategy for dealing with this change and modifying the present. In our case, this implies that the objects become a tool for dealing with the transculturalism which characterizes diasporic processes. On the other hand, this paper upholds that the alterations which Afro-American cults are experiencing as a result of their nomadism should not be interpreted as a "loss" of authenticity, but rather as another example of their dynamic, hybrid and unifying nature. Visual anthropology is a discipline which is particularly appropriate for analyzing the nomadism of objects in Afro-American cults, since it enables us, through edited images, to relate the experiences and objects filmed in different contexts, thus undertaking comparative and multi-situated anthropology.

panel MMM03
Mobile objects and transnational crafts