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Society of the dead - Todd Ramn Ochoa

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Society of the dead - Quita Manaquita and Palo praise in Cuba
Todd Ramn Ochoa
Paperback / softback
University of California Press
UK Publication Date

In a riveting first-person account, Todd Ramn Ochoa explores Palo, a Kongo-inspired "society of affliction" that is poorly understood at the margins of Cuban popular religion. Narrated as an encounter with two teachers of Palo, the book unfolds on the outskirts of Havana as it recounts Ochoa's attempts to assimilate Palo praise of the dead. As he comes to terms with a world in which everyday events and materials are composed of the dead, Ochoa discovers in Palo unexpected resources for understanding the relationship between matter and spirit, for rethinking anthropology's rendering of sorcery, and for representing the play of power in Cuban society. The first fully detailed treatment of the world of Palo, Society of the Dead draws upon recent critiques of Western metaphysics as it reveals what this little known practice can tell us about sensation, transformation, and redemption in the Black Atlantic.

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Todd Ramn Ochoa is a cultural anthropologist and Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

"[Ochea's] work is unlikely to be superseded. . . . Highly recommended."


" interesting book in a number of ways. Most importantly, it is truly a work of participant observation. As a work of ethnographic folklore, Ochoa's book details the spiritual practices he studies from informants' perspectives while reflectively challenging ways that his own worldview could potentially color the narrative. . . .Because he has been honest with all parties concerned, my belief is that Ochoa made an excellent choice in his fieldwork. His writing is detailed, but far from sensationalist, and his approach allowed for a very intense study of Palo."

Journal of American Folklore

"...throughout this excellent ethnography, Ochoa takes the reader inside Palo, providing the best account available to date of its felt reality and its actual practices, songs, and sayings, as well as the textures of gender, ritual family, race, and class; the struggles of everyday Cuban life (and death); and all the emotional and interpersonal dramas that play out in and through Palo."

Current Anthropology

Keyword Index
Palo (Cult)|Afro-Caribbean cults - Cuba.|Cuba - Religious life and customs.|Cuba - Religion - 20th century.
Country of Publication
Number of Pages

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