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Oduduwa's ChainLocations of Culture in the Yoruba-Atlantic$
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Andrew Apter

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226506388

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226506555.001.0001

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Beyond the Mirror of Narcissus

Beyond the Mirror of Narcissus

(p.152) Afterword Beyond the Mirror of Narcissus
Oduduwa's Chain

Andrew Apter

University of Chicago Press

The preceding explorations of the “Yoruba-Atlantic” reveal systematic patterns and historical trajectories that resonate with my Yoruba research in Nigeria, highlighting revisionary strategies and regenerative schemes that—I have argued—are grounded in Yoruba culture. Against the seasoned trend of the last quarter century “decommissioning” if not deconstructing African origins in the Black Atlantic, I have sought something of a restoration—not of a cultural ancien régime harking back to bygone privileges, but of a critically reformulated culture concept, in this case distinctively Yoruba, which designates something real, somewhat knowable, eminently historical, and even indispensable for certain kinds of Atlantic research. I have proceeded by selective illustration, revisiting classic topoi in Afro-American studies such as Herskovits’s syncretic paradigm, the Petwo paradox in Haitian Vodou, the historical conditions of orisha cult clustering, remappings of gender in plantation societies, and the rise of Lucumí and Nagô houses in Cuba and Brazil, in each case offering new interpretations based on cognate dynamics in Yoruba land. In the beginning of this odyssey, my goal was merely corrective. It was clear to me from my Nigerian research that many of the foundational studies of Yoruba-related religions in the Americas were based on a false comparison with a fixed hierarchy of deities and a clear one-god-per-cult correspondence that never actually existed in Yorubaland, but which served as a foil for patterns of New World fragmentation and indeterminacy that remain deeply ingrained within African diaspora narratives. Rather, such patterns of fusion and fragmentation, I have argued, are fundamental characteristics of orisha cults and pantheons mediating the dialectics of political competition both within and between historical kingdoms. As my subsequent Atlantic forays have revealed, the very deconstructive and reconstructive strategies at the core of Yoruba ritual reproduction and cosmological ...

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