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Dissertation Defense, Shanti Zaid, “A Dog Has Four Legs But Walks In One Direction:” Multiple Religious Belonging And Organic Africa-Inspired Religious Traditions In Oriente Cuba
April 23 @ 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
“A Dog Has Four Legs But Walks In One Direction:” Multiple Religious Belonging And Organic Africa-Inspired Religious Traditions In Oriente Cuba
If religion is about social cohesion and the coordination of meaning, values, moods, and motivations of a community or society, how do communities meaningfully navigate the religious domain in an environment of multiple religious possibilities? Within the range of socio-cultural responses to such conditions, this dissertation empirically explores “multiple religious belonging,” a concept referring to individuals or groups whose religious identity, commitments, and/or activities may extend beyond a single coherent religious tradition. The project evaluates expressions of this phenomenon in the eastern Cuban city of Santiago de Cuba with focused attention on practitioners of Regla Ocha/Ifá, Palo Monte, Espiritimso Cruzado, and Muertería, four organic religious traditions historically evolved from the efforts of African descendants on the island. With concern for identifying patterns, limits, and variety of expression of multiple religious belonging, I employed qualitative research methods to explore how distinctions and relationships between traditions are articulated and produced in practice and how do people navigate them? These methods included directed formal and informal personal interviews and participant observations of ritual spaces, events, and community gatherings in the four traditions. I demonstrate that the dynamism of religious practice in eastern Cuba complicates conventional single religious objects of analysis or considerations of religious syncretism that scholars or even practitioners themselves use to describe sacred activity. The research contributes to a more critical understanding of the complexities of Cuban religious expressions and religious traditions of the African Diaspora. Moreover, the project aims to enhance the conceptual literature around multiple religious belonging with data from the Caribbean island of Cuba.