Electric Santería

Racial and Sexual Assemblages of Transnational Religion

Aisha M. Beliso-De Jesús

Columbia University Press

Electric Santería

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Pub Date: September 2015

ISBN: 9780231173179

304 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $32.00£27.00

Pub Date: September 2015

ISBN: 9780231173162

304 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $95.00£79.00

Pub Date: September 2015

ISBN: 9780231539913

304 Pages

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List Price: $31.99£27.00

Electric Santería

Racial and Sexual Assemblages of Transnational Religion

Aisha M. Beliso-De Jesús

Columbia University Press

Santería is an African-inspired, Cuban diaspora religion long stigmatized as witchcraft and often dismissed as superstition, yet its spirit- and possession-based practices are rapidly winning adherents across the world. Aisha M. Beliso-De Jesús introduces the term "copresence" to capture the current transnational experience of Santería, in which racialized and gendered spirits, deities, priests, and religious travelers remake local, national, and political boundaries and reconfigure notions of technology and transnationalism.

Drawing on eight years of ethnographic research in Havana and Matanzas, Cuba, and in New York City, Miami, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Bay area, Beliso-De Jesús traces the phenomenon of copresence in the lives of Santería practitioners, mapping its emergence in transnational places and historical moments and its ritual negotiation of race, imperialism, gender, sexuality, and religious travel. Santería's spirits, deities, and practitioners allow digital technologies to be used in new ways, inciting unique encounters through video and other media. Doing away with traditional perceptions of Santería as a static, localized practice or as part of a mythologized "past," this book emphasizes the religion's dynamic circulations and calls for nontranscendental understandings of religious transnationalisms.

Aisha Beliso-De Jesús allows us to see the densely intertwined modes of becoming that include the racing, sexing, and engendering of bodies. Electric Santería is an exciting and timely addition to the series Gender, Theory, and Religion.

Solimar Otero, author of Afro-Cuban Diasporas in the Atlantic World, and coeditor of Yemoja: Gender, Sexuality, and Creativity in the Latina/o and African Diasporas

An inspiring—even astonishing—piece of anthropological research.

John L. Jackson Jr., author of Thin Description: Ethnography and the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem

A brilliantly coherent and insightful contribution to the way that we think about the complexities and nuances of new transnational formations. This artfully mastered ethnography is bound to become an influential staple for a range of actors: Santeria practitioners, academics, and cultural critics. Not only does it demand from its readership a rethinking of our ontologies of knowing, but it also requires that we take seriously affective practices in clarifying the way we make sense of our world. This is a must read for all!

Kamari Clarke, University of Pennsylvania

Ethnographically rich and theoretically audacious, Beliso-De Jesús's Electric Santería breathes fresh air into the scholarship on Afro-Cuban ritual praxis. Her principled refusal of an analytic of transcendence, her spirited critique of conventional approaches towards mediation, her focus of the sensorium, and her mobilization of black feminist and queer theory give us a handle on problems that anthropologists of religion and religious studies scholars have yet to pay full attention to.

Stephan Palmié, author of The Cooking of History: How Not to Study Afro-Cuban Religion

In this brilliant, theoretically exciting, and innovative ethnography, Beliso-De Jesús explains Santería in Cuba in terms of a transnational, diasporic geo-ontology. Critiquing the ubiquity of religious universals-based Christian notions of transcendence and transubstantiation, she reveals Santería's 'trans' as an assemblage of co-presences, in which nationalisms, gender, and sexuality are mediated through sound, image, and sense. Electric Santería is a new 'classic' for religious studies and for African diaspora studies.

Inderpal Grewal, Yale University

An innovative exploration of a protean and complex religious phenomenon, Electric Santería presents a powerful challenge to the longstanding dominance of the Abrahamic within anthropological scholarship on religion. Drawing on her own vast ethnographic archive, Beliso-De Jesús carries us along the historical and transnational peregrinations of people, spiritual forces, racial formations, and nationalist projects that together constitute the relational ontology of Santero worlds. This is a work of considerable insight and theoretical daring, a rare accomplishment that deserves to be widely read.

Charles Hirschkind, University of California, Berkeley

Electric Santer´ia should be required reading for ethnographers of not only Cuba and African-inspired religious traditions, but any new religious movements that challenge Western theories of being in the world.

Nova Religio

This book is a major breakthrough in the conceptualization of transnational religious ontologies be they in Cuba or not.

American Anthropologist

This book is an important contribution to writing stories that are not nationally bounded but also that work to look beyond binary dualisms.

Author's Note
Preface: Despedidas
Introduction: Transnational Santería Assemblages
1. Electric Oricha
2. Transnational Caminos
3. Pacts with Darkness
4. Scent of Empire
5. Contaminating Femininities
Epilogue: A Death at Dawn

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Winner, Albert J. Raboteau Book Prize for the Best Book in Africana Religions from the Journal of Africana Religions

About the Author

Aisha M. Beliso-De Jesús is associate professor of African American religions at Harvard Divinity School. A cultural and social anthropologist, she studies media, circulation, and religious travel of African diaspora religions from a transnational feminist approach.