Anthropology & History, Africa, African Diaspora, Transnationalism
Anthropology of religion, of ethnicity, and of education; history and theory of anthropology; African and African-inspired religions around the Atlantic perimeter; ethnic diversity in the African-descended population of the US; tertiary education as a culture; gender, religion and politics; transnationalism; spirit possession
J. Lorand Matory is the Director of the Sacred Arts of the Black Atlantic Project and the Lawrence Richardson Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Duke University. For six years, from 2009 until 2015, he also directed the University's Center for African and African American Research. Professor Matory conducts field research in Brazil, Nigeria, Benin Republic, Cuba, Trinidad, Jamaica and the US. Choice magazine named his Sex and the Empire That Is No More: Gender and the Politics of Metaphor in Oyo Yoruba Religion an Outstanding Book of the Year in 1994, and his Black Atlantic Religion: Tradition, Transnationalism and Matriarchy in the Afro-Brazilian Candomblé received the Herskovits Prize for the best book of 2005 from the African Studies Association. His forthcoming research on ethnic diversity at historically black Howard University was the subject of the 2008 Lewis Henry Morgan Lectures and will be published by the University of Chicago Press as Stigma and Culture: Global Migrations and the Crisis of Identity in Black America. In 2013, the government of the Federal Republic of Germany awarded him the Alexander von Humboldt Prize, a lifetime achievement award that is one of Europe's highest academic distinctions.
Of the Race but above the Race: Stigma and the Schooling of Ethnic Identity in the "Mecca" of Black Education
Areas of Interest
African culture in the Americas
religion and politics
Africa is not to the black Americas as the past is to the present. Ongoing historical developments in Africa have continually influenced American cultural history, and, more surprisingly, ongoing historical developments in the Americas have continually influenced African history.
Critical review of Pares's The Formation of Candomble. The ongoing interaction between African and African-diaspora populations explains much that is neglected in models of cultural "memory" and "forgetting."
Obituary of the doyen of African-American anthropology, Franz Boas Professor Emeritus Elliot P. Skinner, of Columbia University.
Black Atlantic Religion illuminates the mutual transformation of African and African-American cultures, highlighting the example of the Afro-Brazilian Candomblé religion. This book contests both the recent conviction that transnationalism is new and the long-held supposition that African culture endures in the Americas only among the poorest and most isolated of black populations. In fact, African culture in the Americas has most flourished among the urban and the prosperous, who, through travel, commerce, and literacy, were well exposed to other cultures. Their embrace of African religion is less a "survival," or inert residue of the African past, than a strategic choice in their circum-Atlantic, multicultural world. With counterparts in Nigeria, the Benin Republic, Haiti, Cuba, Trinidad, and the United States, Candomblé is a religion of spirit possession, dance, healing, and blood sacrifice. Most surprising to those who imagine Candomblé and other such religions as the products of anonymous folk memory is the fact that some of this religion's towering leaders and priests have been either well-traveled writers or merchants, whose stake in African-inspired religion was as much commercial as spiritual. Morever, they influenced Africa as much as Brazil. Thus, for centuries, Candomblé and its counterparts have stood at the crux of enormous transnational forces. Vividly combining history and ethnography, Matory spotlights a so-called "folk" religion defined not by its closure or internal homogeneity but by the diversity of its connections to classes and places often far away. Black Atlantic Religion sets a new standard for the study of transnationalism in its subaltern and often ancient manifestations.