Conference on Latin American History 20
Interrogating power and authority across geographic, linguistic, and imperial boundaries the panel foregrounds a history of secret knowledge in the production of political, social, and economic loyalties. Derby investigates how indigenous healing practices were incorporated into slave and creole practices during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and became core activating components of Haitian and Dominican sorcery from demonic animal spirits that generate illness, to cemis (indigenous spirits) and botellas (medicinal bottles) used to remove it. Mobley investigates the specialized knowledge that Kongo slaves brought with them to Saint Domingue, Haiti, and its survival in the ritual knowledge of Vodou. To understand the dynamics of building community, Mobley uses this “Vodou archive” to rewrite the history of the Haitian Revolution from the point of view of the African majority by paying close attention to the multiplicity and diversity of the people, ideas, and goals of the African and African descendants. Tamboli contemplates questions of loyalty by revisiting the history of ethnic soldiering and marronage in the Guianas, reconfiguring the history of 'Carib' military units from the Essequibo used to hunt rebel African slaves in the 1763 Berbice Slave Rebellion. Tamboli places this discussion of indigenous slave hunters in direct relation to the practice of assault shamanism and figure of the sorcerer-assassin that emerged through imperial conflict in the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century.
As important as the unseen dimensions of power are in constructing affective bonds—in generating loyalties, and, in turn, communities—they have remained under-explored within the historiography. This panel thus interrogates the historical methodologies for accessing these otherworldly and secret dimensions of power, demonstrating their integral role in determining the contours of economic and political history of the New World and the very loyalties that bind together creole societies across the globe.