This book explores representations of Obeah – a name used in the English/Creole-speaking Caribbean to describe various African-derived, syncretic Caribbean religious practices – across a range of prose fictions published in the twentieth century by West Indian authors.
In the Caribbean and its diasporas, Obeah often manifests in the casting of spells, the administration of baths and potions of various oils, herbs, roots and powders, and sometimes spirit possession, for the purposes of protection, revenge, health and well-being. In most Caribbean territories, the practice – and practices that may resemble it – remains illegal. Narratives of Obeah in West Indian Literature analyses fiction that employs Obeah as a marker of the Black ‘folk’ aesthetics that are now constitutive of West Indian literary and cultural production, either in resistance to colonial ideology or in service of the same. These texts foreground Obeah as a social and cultural logic both integral to and troublesome within the creation of such a thing as ‘West Indian’ literature and culture, at once a product of and a foil to Caribbean plantation societies. This book explores the presentation of Obeah as an ‘unruly’ narrative subject, one that not only subverts but signifies a lasting ‘Afro-folk’ sensibility within colonial and ‘postcolonial’ writing of the West Indies.
Narratives of Obeah in West Indian Literature will be of interest to scholars and students of Caribbean Literature, Diaspora Studies, and African and Caribbean religious studies; it will also contribute to dialogues of spirituality in the wider Black Atlantic.
Table of Contents
Introduction. Obeah as cultural signifier
Chapter 1. "Too much row an' contention is in this yard:" Contemplating Cacophony in Minty Alley and Black Fauns
Chapter 2. "Part of the narrative of modern art yet not central enough to be considered constitutive:" "Primitive Modern" in Banana Bottom and Wide Sargasso Sea
Chapter 3. "It is the reader who constructs a story:" Obeah and Cultural Identity in the Mid-century West Indian Short Story
Chapter 4. Obeahmen as Heroes, in "a zone of direct contact with developing reality"
Chapter 5. "The peace of those she must touch and who must touch her:" Obeah as Healing in Erna Brodber’s Myal
Conclusion. Hearing Obeah
Janelle Rodriques is an assistant professor in the English Department of Auburn University, Alabama.