Current Institutional Affiliation
Doctoral Candidate, University of California / Los Angeles

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2013
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, University of California / Los Angeles
Yorùbá at the Crossroads: Ritual Commodification and Cultural Exchange between Lagos and Salvador da Bahia, 1808–1890

This project investigates the structures of conjunction involving òrìsà worship that informed the creation and maintenance of trans-Atlantic relationships between the Yorùbá-speaking community in contemporary Lagos, Nigeria with those Afro-Brazilians in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, many of whom repatriated to Lagos during the nineteenth century. Through multi-sited research that combines oral histories, archival research and analyses of symbolic clusters within performance and visual genres, my dissertation reconceptualizes and retemporalizes Lagosian òrìsà worshippers' contact with Afro-Brazilians who practiced Candomblé—Brazil's creolized derivative religion whose roots rest in Yorùbá òrìsà tradition—as central to the early development of Yorùbá-centric local and trans-Atlantic discursive and material networks. Thus, this dissertation argues that indigenous Yorùbá notions of change and exchange dictated the circum-Atlantic ritual commodification of goods. In this context, "ritual commodification" refers to the investment of religious objects with various forms of exchange value through the enmeshment of ritual and capitalist symbolism and practice. I hypothesize that these "structuring structures" shaped local Yorùbá-speaking òrìsà worshippers' social and economic interactions with Afro-Brazilian Candomblé practitioners and returnees during the first half of the nineteenth century, directing these groups' late nineteenth-century dealings and discourses surrounding politics of identity in Lagos. As follows, the historical question that directs my research is: How did Yorùbá-speaking people capitalize on Atlantic ritual commodification—modeled from these indigenous notions of change and exchange embodied within the structure of òrìsà ritual and practice—to negotiate existing fields and forge new spaces of economic, social, and political distinction throughout the nineteenth--century in Lagos, despite these people's marginalization under British imperial rule?