Feeling the Heat of Afro-Atlantic Cosmologies
Session type: 

The U.S. academy inherits a scientific secularism that was structured by a centuries-long portrayal of African and indigenous religions as “fetishes”—cosmologies, as we might call them rather than religions, deemed by Euro-Enlightenment gatekeepers of Reason to be irrational, hyper-sensual, animalistic forms of relation largely because the divinities in these worlds were plural, mutable, multiversal. Across Western theory, this trope of fetishism has exploited Afro-Atlantic cosmologies as the perverted foil to Rationality, depicting them as uniform and static primitivisms. Yet this question-driven panel considers the evolving contemporaneity of such ongoing modes of relation and worldmaking as found in Candomblé, Santería/Lucumí, Vodou, and others. The central question is this: in what ways do contemporary texts, theories, and media index Afro-Atlantic cosmologies in such a way that transforms modes of knowing, sensing, and relating in the 21st century? We encourage submissions that engage objects which may not be obviously associated with Afro-Atlantic cosmologies but that evoke their effects on broader and emergent 21st century onto-epistemologies, aesthetics, and social worlds. We are just as keen on presentations that play with Afro-Atlantic cosmologies as epistemological reference points as we are on those that may evaluate or question the exigency of this panel’s guiding question. In pursuing the contemporary of Afro-Atlantic cosmologies in U.S. cultures, this panel aims to pressure the persistent epistemologies that define Reason in contrast to concepts of fetish, blackness, magic, sensuality, and the divine.

Some of our inspirations include Omise’eke Tinsley’s tracing of the orisha Ezili’s presence in pop-cultural figures like Azealia Banks, Aisha M. Beliso-de Jesús’s locating of “electric Orichas” in film media that transport Santería/Lucumí rituals, and Roberto Strongman’s linking of trance possession to a cherishing of sexual and gender variance.  We also view the ASA 2022 setting, New Orleans, that syncretic gathering place of Creole Voodoo cultures, as a sacred, ecstatic, heated grounds for this panel’s provocations.

Topics may include the following:

  • syncretic genres/digital aesthetics
  • objects dealing with indigeneity, raciality, migratoriness, disability, debility
  • porn genres or other media thematizing erotics, gender, and queerness
  • children’s books and films
  • museum or gallery exhibits
  • experimental poetry, fiction, and film
  • other ephemera

Prospective panelists should send 300-word abstracts to cfrisbie@gradcenter.cuny.edu by January 22, 2022.

Current contributors: 
Chad Frisbie