An Ethnography of a Vodu Shrine in Southern Togo

Of Spirit, Slave and Sea


In this book, Eric Montgomery and Christian Vannier provide an ethnographically informed text on the cultural meanings and practices surrounding the gods and metaphysics of Vodu, as they relate to daily life in an ethnic Ewe fishing community on the coast of southern Togo. The authors approach this spirit possession and medicinal order through “shrine ethnography,” understanding shrines as parts of sacred landscapes that are ecological, economic, political, and social. Giving voice to practitioners and situating shrines and Vodu itself into the history and political economy of the region make this text pertinent to the social changes and global relevance of Millennial Africa.

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Eric Montgomery, Ph.D. (2006), Wayne State University, is Adjunct Professor of Anthropology and Peace and Conflict Studies at Wayne State and Central Michigan University. He co-produced and directed two ethnographic films, and many articles in anthropology, including Syncretism in Africa and Latin America (Journal of Religion and Society, 2016).

Christian Vannier, Ph.D. (2007), Wayne State University, is a Lecturer of Anthropology and Africana Studies at University of Michigan-Flint. He has published numerous articles on Afro-Atlantic culture and co-edited Cultures of Doing Good: Anthropologists and NGOs (2017).
"Through their extensive engagement with vodu shrine priests, devotees, and villagers, anthropologists Montgomery (Wayne State Univ.) and Vannier (Univ. of Michigan-Flint) clarify the interconnected ritual economy of Gbedala, in which dedication to particular vodu deities is a source of both spiritual and material benefits."

E. P. Renne, University of Michigan, CHOICE, Vol. 54 No. 12

'Eric Montgomery and Christian Vannier’s (2017) book is a careful, ethnographically rich, and historically grounded contribution to African Studies and especially to the understanding of Vodu, one of the world’s most well-known West African religious complexes (...) If encouraging readers to think in different ways is a measure of success, then I give Montgomery and Vannier’s book five stars. This is a study of tremendous value to scholars of religions in the African Atlantic World that will resonate with historians and anthropologists alike. It is sophisticated enough to speak to specialists and engaging enough to capture the attention of students and the interested public. For anyone wishing to learn more about Africa or religion, this is a superb exploration of both.'

Timothy Landry, Trinity College, Hartford, CT, Journal of Religion in Africa 48 (2018).
All interested in West Africa and the anthropology of religion, and anyone concerned with Africana culture, “Voodoo”, slavery, history, ritual, performance, and globalization.
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