Imagining Religions in a Trinidad Village: The Africanity of the Spiritual Baptist Movement and the Politics of Comparing Religions

in New West Indian Guide / Nieuwe West-Indische Gids

The Herskovitses went to Trinidad in search of continuities between African and Trinidadian social life, but wrote that Trinidadians they met were indifferent to the existence of such continuities. Their questions of African origins struck chords in a larger web of contestations over the colonial definition and repression of certain religious practices and communities on the island, in particular the so-called “Shouters,” or Spiritual Baptists. Through a close reading of the Herskovitses’ field notes, rather than indifference to connections with Africa, this article tries to flesh out what people were interested in, and what was at stake in emphasizing or marginalizing differences, similarities, or connections between religions (African or otherwise) given who was speaking to whom in what context.

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