Critical Perspectives on Empire: The Cultural Politics of Obeah: Religion, Colonialism and Modernity in the Caribbean World

Critical Perspectives on Empire: The Cultural Politics of Obeah: Religion, Colonialism and Modernity in the Caribbean World

By: Diana Paton (author)Hardback

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An innovative history of the politics and practice of the Caribbean spiritual healing techniques known as obeah and their place in everyday life in the region. Spanning two centuries, the book results from extensive research on the development and implementation of anti-obeah legislation. It includes analysis of hundreds of prosecutions for obeah, and an account of the complex and multiple political meanings of obeah in Caribbean societies. Diana Paton moves beyond attempts to define and describe what obeah was, instead showing the political imperatives that often drove interpretations and discussions of it. She shows that representations of obeah were entangled with key moments in Caribbean history, from eighteenth-century slave rebellions to the formation of new nations after independence. Obeah was at the same time a crucial symbol of the Caribbean's alleged lack of modernity, a site of fear and anxiety, and a thoroughly modern and transnational practice of healing itself.

About Author

Diana Paton has researched and taught Caribbean history for nearly twenty years. She studied at Warwick and Yale Universities, and between 2000-16 she was Lecturer, Senior Lecturer and, since 2008, Reader in Caribbean History at Newcastle University. She currently holds the position of William Robertson Chair of History at the University of Edinburgh, where she moved to in 2016. Her widely cited first book, No Bond but the Law: Punishment, Race and Gender in Jamaican State Formation, 1780-1870 (2004), was short-listed for the 2007 Elsa Goveia Prize of the Association of Caribbean Historians. Her article, 'Witchcraft, Poison, Law and Atlantic Slavery' won the Lester J. Cappon Award for the best article published in William and Mary Quarterly in 2012. She has also co-edited two collections of essays: Gender and Slave Emancipation in the Atlantic World (2005) and Obeah and Other Powers: The Politics of Caribbean Religion and Healing (2012). In 2014 she delivered the 30th Elsa Goveia Memorial Lecture at the University of the West Indies, on 'Small Charges: Law and the Regulation of Conduct in the Post-Slavery Caribbean'. She is a former chair of the UK Society for Caribbean Studies and an editor of History Workshop Journal.


Introduction; 1. The emergence of Caribbean spiritual politics; 2. Obeah and the slave-trade debates; 3. Creole slave society, obeah, and the law; 4. Obeah and its meanings in the post-emancipation era; 5. Obeah in the courts, 1890-1939; 6. Obeah prosecutions from the inside; 7. Protest, development, and the politics of obeah; 8. The postcolonial politics of obeah; Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.

Product Details

  • ISBN13: 9781107025653
  • Format: Hardback
  • Number Of Pages: 373
  • ID: 9781107025653
  • weight: 640
  • ISBN10: 1107025656

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