After Haiti's recent earthquake, various American commentators - from Pat Robertson to David Brooks - joined a long tradition of blaming Vodou for the country's woes. "The Spirits and the Law" examines that vexed history, asking why, from 1835 to 1987, Haiti banned many popular ritual practices. To find out, Kate Ramsey begins with the Haitian Revolution and its aftermath. Fearful of an independent black nation inspiring similar revolts, the United States, France, and the rest of Europe ostracized Haiti. Successive Haitian governments, seeking to refute the image of Haiti as primitive as well as to contain popular organization and leadership, outlawed 'spells' and, later, 'superstitious practices'. While not often strictly enforced, these laws were at times the basis for attacks on Vodou by the Haitian state, the Catholic Church, and occupying U.S. forces. Beyond such offensives, Ramsey argues that in prohibiting practices considered essential for maintaining relations with the spirits, anti-Vodou laws reinforced the political marginalization, social stigmatization, and economic exploitation of the Haitian majority.
At the same time, she examines the ways communities across Haiti evaded, subverted, redirected, and shaped enforcement of the laws. Analyzing the long genealogy of anti-Vodou rhetoric, Ramsey thoroughly dissects claims that the religion has impeded Haiti's development.
Publisher: The University of Chicago Press
Number of pages: 424
Weight: 739 g
Dimensions: 229 x 152 x 36 mm