In the last decades African-American religions have become immensely popular and respectable beyond their original contexts. They are becoming transnational religions, crossing national, racial and class borders. The objective of the workshop is to explore the effects of this expansion.
The field of Black Atlantic and African-American religions has changed substantially in the last decades. We could summarise these transformations in three points: firstly, from being secret and persecuted by the authorities, these religions have become public and respectable. In Latin American and African countries such as Brazil, Cuba and Benin they have become publicly recognised as culture, and their practitioners have acquired a new social status: from sorcerers they have become respectable intellectuals and artists with an international reputation. The result of this popularity is that many people from totally different social backgrounds are being initiated, many middle-class white intellectuals, and many foreigners, especially Europeans and North Americans, who are exporting these religions to their countries. Nowadays we can find Candomblé Santería practitioners in many countries of Europe. Is this growing international popularity changing the practices and values of these religions? Secondly, this international popularity has produced a growing interconnectedness between different local ritual traditions: Brazilians initiate Cubans into their complex processes of making saints, while Cubans or Nigerians initiate Brazilians in the secrets of Ifa. How are these ritual innovations reintegrated into the rigid ritual frames of these religions and their strong claims to authenticity and tradition? Thirdly, the growth of Pentecostal Christianity and its combative confrontation of traditional religions is challenging the local base of these religions. While they become internationally famous, their reputation in Brazil and Africa is being challenged by Pentecostal preachers who accuse them of Devil Worship. How are they reacting to these attacks? The ultimate objective of this workshop is to build a network which so far does not exist, bringing together scholars working in the field of Black Atlantic religions throughout Europe.