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On Spirituality: The Parallels between Black Pentecostalism and Hoodoo Practices in the United StateS

So quick disclaimer: I'm an undergraduate student and although knowledgeable on this topic, I do not consider myself an expert in the field. 

In November 2022, I presented my research as an undergraduate at the American Anthropological Association annual meeting in Seattle, Washington.

Abstract

This study is based on my experience as a Black Pentecostal and young anthropologist. In 2021, I took an independent study course in Anthropology called “Black Magick: The Spirituality of the West African Diaspora.” The course focused on the origin, spread and influence of Afro-diasporic spirituality and healing practices in the Caribbean and United States. Having limited knowledge in other spiritual practices besides my own, this study introduced me to a wide range of knowledge concerning the influence of the Atlantic slave trade on Afro-diasporic spiritual practices. Using my personal experience as a member of the Pentecostal faith alongside visiting Black Pentecostal churches, my research relies on participant observation, semi-structured interviews, focus groups, and analysis of Pentecostal practices. This study also explore these religious practices in relation to Hoodoo spiritual practices. During my independent study, I reviewed literature relating to Hoodoo, Voodoo, and the spiritual churches which provides a foundation for noticing these similarities. My research transverses subjective and objective methodologies pertaining to the story of both Hoodoo and Black Pentecostalism as I engage in “homework” as an observant participant (Wacquant 2004). Ultimately, this study explores parallels visible between Hoodoo practices and Black Pentecostalism in the United States. I explore the influence and evolution of dance referred to as “Ring Shout” in Hoodoo, and “shoutin’” in church. By studying dance practices in both spiritual communities, I trace the impacts of slavery, freedom, and structural changes in the church. This study will contribute to the works pertaining to Black spiritual practices in the Southeast and to broader discussions on performance and Black spiritual traditions. It will also serve as a source for understanding similarities between two spiritual practices and their influences within the United States’ Black community.

Diversity Statement

This study will contribute to an underrepresented field of research regarding parallels between black churches and other spiritual practices in the Southeastern U.S.. This study also contributes to the limited knowledge available on Hoodoo practices to non-practitioners. By conducting semi-structured interviews, practitioner performance, and literature review analysis on Hoodoo, I hope to draw attention to the significant influence of its spiritual practices in the Black community and United States. As a young Black Pentecostal and anthropologist, I can conduct ethnographic research within my own spiritual community and use my knowledge to make observations between my faith and Hoodoo practices. Overall, this paper contributes to the diversification of research involving spiritual practices in anthropology and research by an emerging, Black anthropologist.