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On Leaving and Joining Africanness Through Religion: The 'Black Caribs' Across Multiple Diasporic Horizons

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image of Journal of Religion in Africa

Garifuna religion is derived from a confluence of Amerindian, African and European antecedents. For the Garifuna in Central America, the spatial focus of authentic religious practice has for over two centuries been that of their former homeland and site of ethnogenesis, the island of St Vincent. It is from St Vincent that the ancestors return, through spirit possession, to join with their living descendants in ritual events. During the last generation, about a third of the population migrated to the US, especially to New York City. This departure created a new diasporic horizon, as the Central American villages left behind now acquired their own aura of ancestral fidelity and religious power. Yet New-York-based Garifuna are now giving attention to the African components of their story of origin, to a degree that has not occurred in homeland villages of Honduras. This essay considers the notion of 'leaving' and 'joining' the African diaspora by examining religious components of Garifuna social formation on St Vincent, the deportation to Central America, and contemporary processes of Africanization being initiated in New York.

Affiliations: 1: University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Center for Afroamerican and African Studies, 505 S. State St./4700 Haven, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1045, USA


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