Title

CONJURING SOCIAL CONTROL & CULTURAL CONTINUITY

Presenter Information

Joshua Kieser

Presentation Type

Presentation

Abstract

The institution of slavery in the southern United States attempted to fully control the lives of slaves, but many slaves actively defied this feigned standard, seeking management of their own lives. Many African Americans gained such agency through the use of conjure, also referred to as Hoodoo or “Root-Doctoring.” Practitioners of conjure used charms, words, and actions to ensure their own and others’ fortune or misfortune. Using conjure, both as practitioners and clients, African Americans attempted to take control of and to improve the oppressive socio-political conditions of slavery. Utilizing a number of primary sources, including interviews with practitioners and believers of conjure conducted and recorded by Harry Middleton Hyatt, this project attempts to further academic discussions of conjure led by scholars like Yvonne Chireau and Jeffrey E. Anderson. The project will relate the overarching structural continuities and specific spiritual and material contextual changes between African and African-American conjure practices to show how African Americans gained socio-political and cultural control. To do so, this project explores the belief system in which conjure functioned and compares conjure in the American context to the West and Central African context, particularly in regards to the interplay between conjure and African-American Christian experiences. Analyzing these relationships, this project further demonstrates how African Americans deliberately changed some spiritual and material aspects of conjure even while maintaining others. Both strategies resulted in greater personal agency for slaves despite oppressive realities in the 18th and 19th century American South.

Category

Humanities

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Apr 15th, 4:20 PM Apr 15th, 4:40 PM

CONJURING SOCIAL CONTROL & CULTURAL CONTINUITY

UC 331

The institution of slavery in the southern United States attempted to fully control the lives of slaves, but many slaves actively defied this feigned standard, seeking management of their own lives. Many African Americans gained such agency through the use of conjure, also referred to as Hoodoo or “Root-Doctoring.” Practitioners of conjure used charms, words, and actions to ensure their own and others’ fortune or misfortune. Using conjure, both as practitioners and clients, African Americans attempted to take control of and to improve the oppressive socio-political conditions of slavery. Utilizing a number of primary sources, including interviews with practitioners and believers of conjure conducted and recorded by Harry Middleton Hyatt, this project attempts to further academic discussions of conjure led by scholars like Yvonne Chireau and Jeffrey E. Anderson. The project will relate the overarching structural continuities and specific spiritual and material contextual changes between African and African-American conjure practices to show how African Americans gained socio-political and cultural control. To do so, this project explores the belief system in which conjure functioned and compares conjure in the American context to the West and Central African context, particularly in regards to the interplay between conjure and African-American Christian experiences. Analyzing these relationships, this project further demonstrates how African Americans deliberately changed some spiritual and material aspects of conjure even while maintaining others. Both strategies resulted in greater personal agency for slaves despite oppressive realities in the 18th and 19th century American South.