Paper $46.00 ISBN: 9780226076102 Published October 2003

Santeria Enthroned

Art, Ritual, and Innovation in an Afro-Cuban Religion

David H. Brown

Santeria Enthroned

David H. Brown

440 pages | 16 color plates, 114 halftones | 8-1/2 x 9-1/4 | © 2003
Paper $46.00 ISBN: 9780226076102 Published October 2003
Ever since its emergence in colonial-era Cuba, Afro-Cuban Santería (or Lucumí) has displayed a complex dynamic of continuity and change in its institutions, rituals, and iconography. In Santería Enthroned, David H. Brown combines art history, cultural anthropology, and ethnohistory to show how Africans and their descendants have developed novel forms of religious practice in the face of relentless oppression.

Focusing on the royal throne as a potent metaphor in Santería belief and practice, Brown shows how negotiation among ideologically competing interests have shaped the religion's symbols, rituals, and institutions from the nineteenth century to the present. Rich case studies of change in Cuba and the United States, including a New Jersey temple and South Carolina's Oyotunji Village, reveal patterns of innovation similar to those found among rival Yoruba kingdoms in Nigeria. Throughout, Brown argues for a theoretical perspective on culture as a field of potential strategies and "usable pasts" that actors draw upon to craft new forms and identities—a perspective that will be invaluable to all students of the African Diaspora.

American Acemy of Religion Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion (Analytical-Descriptive Category)
List of Illustrations
Part I: Institutional and Ritual Innovation
1: Black Royalty: New Social Frameworks and Remodeled Iconographies in Nineteenth-Century Havana
2: From Cabildo de Nación to Casa-Templo: The New Lucumí, Institutional Reform, and the Shifting Location of Cultural Authenticity
3: Myths of the Yoruba Past and Innovations of the Lucumí Present: The Narrative Production of Religious Cosmology, Hierarchy, and Authority
Part II: Iconographic Innovation
4. Royal Iconography and the Modern Lucumí Initiation
5: "The Palace of the Obá Lucumí" and the "Creole Taste": Innovations in Iconography and Meaning
Review Quotes
Jualynne E. Dodson | North Star
"Brown’s book sets a benchmark in clarifying most issues related to Regla de Ocha/Lucumí, aka Santería, as it has evolved through Havana and into eastern parts of the United States."
Elizabeth Pérez | History of Religions
Santería Enthroned has now set a new standard for scholarship on the aesthetic dimensions and historical development of this fascinating initiatory tradition. . . . Santería Enthroned gives much food for thought; indeed, this generously illustrated and superbly designed volume is a banquet for the eye as well as the intellect. . . . The fruit of twenty years’ labor, Brown’s study will stand the test of time and is easily the best account of Santería as created, lived, and lovingly elaborated to date. Glancing at the honey-toned cover . . . one is reminded that sometimes what glitters does turn out to be a full twenty-four carats, or at least to be worth its weight in gold.”
Solimar Otero | International Journal of African Historical Studies

“A densely layered and beautiful book. Brown's work on the unique innovations and incorporations of Spanish and Catholic royal elements into "Yoruba" religious aesthetics is nuanced. The comparative work with religious iconography, and material culture like initiation gowns and altars, pays close attention to both Yoruba philosophical models and the development of Lucumi Yoruba Cuban innovations. . . . Santeria Enthroned is an ambitious book that achieves a dense, textured understanding of Orisha traditions located in multiple, local Diasporas: New Jersey in the late twentieth century, Havana in the nineteenth century, and so on. Readers get a sense of the shifting strategies that help Santeria practitioners and artists negotiate their history and their present creativity.”

Martin Holbraad | Journal of Latin American Studies
"Brown's tome is a definitive work of scholarship and should become a standard reference for anyone interested in the diaspora of West African religion. While the guiding argument about the invented character of tradition is well rehearsed in anthropology, what makes this book so impressive is the subtlety and richness with which this process is described."
Lesley A. Northup | Revista Europea de Estudios Latinoamericanos
"Using virtually every extant secondary source on Afro-Cuban culture, formalistic and imagistic evidence from the tradition itself and, crucially a plethora of oral narratives, Brown reconstructs the history of Santería from Africa to Cuba to Miami in luxurious detail. , , . This wealth of information is firmly undergirded by a rigorous yet ground-breaking theoretical perspective. . . . A truly prodigious achievement, a remarkably coherent compilation of vast resources, and a major contribution to the field."
Kamari Maxine Clarke | Transforming Anthropology
"Brilliantly constructed, theoretically sophisticated. . . . Brown's text exemplifies how we might use historical data for theoretical innovations that shed new light on the complexities of race, legitimacy, and people's struggles over the authenticity of social and cultural change."
Joseph M. Murphy | Theological Studies
"A deep and rich ethnographic treatment of this distinct religious tradition."
Michael Stone | H-Net Review
"Santeria Enthroned presents an ambitious blend of archival research, visual analysis, oral-historical interviews, ethnography, ethnohistory, and the techniques of art history, applied to the problematic tension between continuity and innovation in Afro-Cuban religion. The book will stand as an essential reference for decades to vcome."
Kristina Wirtz | Museum Anthropology Review
"[Brown] combines the methods and materials of anthropology, art history, and social history among other disciplines, to consider what this case can contribute to the ongoing debate over the source of African diasporic cultural forms. . . . His analysis shatters any simplistic dichotomy of change versus continuity, and in doing so goes beyond any previous work on Santería to provide the most careful and historically nuanced account of this religion's origins and contemporary practices yet written. . . . While it is essential reading for specialists in African diasporic and Caribbeanist history, comparative religion, visual anthropology, and ethnography, it would be most useful . . . for advanced undergraduate and graduate seminars. And yet I am tempted to press it upon anyone expressing any curiosity about Santería, precisely because it so carefully dissects and questions the assumed wisdom."
Heather Shirey | African Arts
"Brown's text is tremendously full, monumental in its scope, and seminal as a study of historical change over time . . . Essential reading for scholars of African-Caribbean art and religion. . . . It is also a key text for scholars of the African Diaspora."
Roger Sansi | Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
"In this masterful volume, Brown has skilfully shown how innovation and tradition are, in many ways, reversible terms."

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