Current Institutional Affiliation
Associate Professor, Anthropology, University of Houston

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 1998
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, Emory University
Ecstasy in Exile: Divinity, Power, and Performance in Two Trinidadian Possession Religions

The proposed research will investigate the changing meanings and experiences of race and ethnicity in Trinidad through an ethnographic comparison of two possession-oriented religions currently active on the island. Recent literature, as well as my pilot research, suggests that two contemporary Trinidadian possession religions – one African-derived, one Hindu-derived – may have begun to attract individuals in ways that transcend conventional racial boundaries. I propose to examine these two ethnically-associated religions in order to describe and compare their current forms and to investigate how and why "Africans," "East Indians," and African­Indian "mixed" Trinidadians get involved in both possession traditions. The research will pay particular attention to persons who seem to be crossing racial boundaries and thus transforming their identities through their religious experiences. Given the rigid rhetoric of race in Trinidad that reifies notions of discrete groups, this study may be able to provide data which highlights practices in which the essentialisms of racial categories are undermined. This project complements two of the most crucial domains of Caribbean studies (race and kinship) in a conceptually innovative way by examining transformations in racial identity through the ritual reworking of kinship in religious arenas, and their consequences in everyday behavior.