Archives of Conjure

Stories of the Dead in Afrolatinx Cultures

Solimar Otero

Columbia University Press

Archives of Conjure

Pub Date: March 2020

ISBN: 9780231194334

264 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $30.00£25.00

Pub Date: March 2020

ISBN: 9780231194327

264 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $90.00£74.00

Pub Date: March 2020

ISBN: 9780231550765

264 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $29.99£25.00

Archives of Conjure

Stories of the Dead in Afrolatinx Cultures

Solimar Otero

Columbia University Press

In Afrolatinx religious practices such as Cuban Espiritismo, Puerto Rican Santería, and Brazilian Candomblé, the dead tell stories. Communicating with and through mediums’ bodies, they give advice, make requests, and propose future rituals, creating a living archive that is coproduced by the dead. In this book, Solimar Otero explores how Afrolatinx spirits guide collaborative spiritual-scholarly activist work through rituals and the creation of material culture. By examining spirit mediumship through a Caribbean cross-cultural poetics, she shows how divinities and ancestors serve as active agents in shaping the experiences of gender, sexuality, and race.

Otero argues that what she calls archives of conjure are produced through residual transcriptions or reverberations of the stories of the dead whose archives are stitched, beaded, smoked, and washed into official and unofficial repositories. She investigates how sites like the ocean, rivers, and institutional archives create connected contexts for unlocking the spatial activation of residual transcriptions. Drawing on over ten years of archival research and fieldwork in Cuba, Otero centers the storytelling practices of Afrolatinx women and LGBTQ spiritual practitioners alongside Caribbean literature and performance. Archives of Conjure offers vital new perspectives on ephemerality, temporality, and material culture, unraveling undertheorized questions about how spirits shape communities of practice, ethnography, literature, and history and revealing the deeply connected nature of art, scholarship, and worship.
Archives of Conjure is a poetic, fluid, and compelling book. By producing an 'archive of conjure' pieced together through interwoven elements of ethnography, literature, archival notations, bolero music, poetry, and other Afrolatinx inspirations, Solimar Otero provides humanities scholarship with a new, transdisciplinary technique and approach. This is a powerful intervention and must read! Aisha M. Beliso-De Jesús, author of Electric Santería: Racial and Sexual Assemblages of Transnational Religion
Going beyond academic analysis and theorizing, Archives of Conjure highlights the power of ethnography that is an act of resistance and empowerment as well as sustenance for the researcher and the community. Otero’s own life experiences along with the experiences of those she works with—both in the spirit world and in the physical world—become part of the archival research that elucidates the role of vernacular religion in contemporary world. This book is a gift of magic. Norma E. Cantú, coeditor of meXicana Fashions: Politics, Self-Adornment, and Identity Construction
In Archives of Conjure, Solimar Otero calls forth a profound new vista on how the dead make life matter. Led by her teachers among the living and the dead in Cuba, Haiti, and Brazil, Otero vitalizes history and quotidian materials to bring us closer to the scintillating poetry of African-inspired creativity in the Black Atlantic. At once a work of ingenious scholarship and skillful piece of writing, Archives of Conjure is an invitation to worlds where what is most important—kin, dreams, memories and views into the future—is made and unmade by the surging potentials of the dead. Todd Ramón Ochoa, author of A Party for Lazarus: Six Generations of Ancestral Devotion in a Cuban Town
Archives of Conjure is at times a hypnotic séance conjuring such ancestors as Reinaldo Arenas, Lydia Cabrera, Edouard Glissant, Ruth Landes, and Fernando Ortiz and at times a siren call to attune our scholarship to the feminist, queer, subaltern spiritual 'work' of performance and its archival traces, hidden in plain sight. Through the generative metaphors produced by narratives of 'the two waters,' personified in the orichas Yemayá and Ochún, Otero explores critical engagements between circum-Caribbean scholarship and religious practice. I recommend Otero’s brilliant book as required reading for folklorists, anthropologists, literary scholars, and all who would better understand 'redoubled' global-Caribbean histories that manifest in and through vernacular Afrolatinx spiritual perspectives. Kristina Wirtz, author of Performing Afro-Cuba: Image, Voice, Spectacle in the Making of Race and History
Acknowledgments
Introduction: Archives of Conjure
1. Residual Transcriptions
2. Crossings
3. Flows
4. Sirens
Conclusion: Espuma del Mar, Sea- Foam
Notes
References
Index

About the Author

Solimar Otero is professor of folklore in the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology at Indiana University. She is the author of Afro-Cuban Diasporas in the Atlantic World (2010) and coeditor of Yemoja: Gender, Sexuality, and Creativity in Latino/a and Afro-Atlantic Diasporas (2013).