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Obeah, Resistance and the Question of Gender in the Caribbean

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Abstract:

This paper will examine the use of African-based spiritual traditions in organized resistance throughout the Caribbean. Special attention will be paid to obeah, practiced mainly in British-held territories. Obeah was a critical tool used to fight oppression, and both men and women wielded it in the name of freedom.
Obeah practitioners facilitated organized insurrection by creating protections for those who would be engaging in armed struggle, using mediumship and other metaphysical gifts to impart guidance to the rebels from the spiritual realm, conducting rituals that would either galvanize the rebels or harm the oppressors, or directly assaulting slaveholders with poison.
Though written, first-hand accounts of enslaved Africans in the Caribbean are difficult to locate, much can be gleaned from colonial laws, trial records and plantation documents, about how obeah was used, its prevalence among enslaved people, and even its effectiveness. Whites’ fear of obeah, and the various measures they took to eradicate it, illustrate its centrality to Africans’ resistance ethos.
Another critical point of inquiry is the gendered nature of whites’ descriptions of obeah. Obeah women were at times, viewed as a greater threat than obeah men. This notion corresponds to prevailing Euro-American stereotypes about women generally, and about women of African descent, specifically. Enslaved African women were viewed as coldblooded, promiscuous and dishonest. These notions combined with European folk beliefs about witches, witchcraft and African culture, and produced a high level of anxiety about the black obeah woman.
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Association:
Name: 96th Annual Convention
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http://www.asalh.org


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URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p521970_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Ichile, Iyelli. "Obeah, Resistance and the Question of Gender in the Caribbean" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the 96th Annual Convention, TBA, Richmond, VA, <Not Available>. 2014-11-25 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p521970_index.html>

APA Citation:

Ichile, I. "Obeah, Resistance and the Question of Gender in the Caribbean" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the 96th Annual Convention, TBA, Richmond, VA <Not Available>. 2014-11-25 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p521970_index.html

Publication Type: Invited Paper
Abstract: This paper will examine the use of African-based spiritual traditions in organized resistance throughout the Caribbean. Special attention will be paid to obeah, practiced mainly in British-held territories. Obeah was a critical tool used to fight oppression, and both men and women wielded it in the name of freedom.
Obeah practitioners facilitated organized insurrection by creating protections for those who would be engaging in armed struggle, using mediumship and other metaphysical gifts to impart guidance to the rebels from the spiritual realm, conducting rituals that would either galvanize the rebels or harm the oppressors, or directly assaulting slaveholders with poison.
Though written, first-hand accounts of enslaved Africans in the Caribbean are difficult to locate, much can be gleaned from colonial laws, trial records and plantation documents, about how obeah was used, its prevalence among enslaved people, and even its effectiveness. Whites’ fear of obeah, and the various measures they took to eradicate it, illustrate its centrality to Africans’ resistance ethos.
Another critical point of inquiry is the gendered nature of whites’ descriptions of obeah. Obeah women were at times, viewed as a greater threat than obeah men. This notion corresponds to prevailing Euro-American stereotypes about women generally, and about women of African descent, specifically. Enslaved African women were viewed as coldblooded, promiscuous and dishonest. These notions combined with European folk beliefs about witches, witchcraft and African culture, and produced a high level of anxiety about the black obeah woman.


Similar Titles:
Gendered Resistance: Caribbean Slave Women’s Sexualities as Modes of Resistance

Rearticulating Resistance as Concept in the Field of Media Studies: A Case Study on the Resistance Against Hegemonic Gender Identities in Popular Visual Culture

A Dialogue of Resistance: Comparing Bakhtin and Foucualt on the Question of Resistance

Doing Gender in the Interview: Gender Differences in "Don't Know" Responses to Political Attitude Questions


 
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