As exemplified in songs from Nina Simone’s enchanting 1964 rendition of “I Put a Spell On You” to Jidenna’s 2019 “Sufi Woman,” and many others before and in between, the mystery of magic-making in African and African Diaspora religions has long inspired intrigue. “Magic” often has negative connotations in the Western world, which frequently associates Africana religious traditions with harmful “black magic” and “witchcraft” or illogical “hocus pocus”. In truth, Black people’s magic embodies sacred knowledge and encodes the wisdom of ritual technology that African descendants have used to navigate the challenges of this world and achieve the miraculous. This conference will explore themes of magic, miracles, and mystique in Africana religions with attention to how we conceptualize magic in our own communities, and how the concept is often misunderstood by insiders and outsiders alike.
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