On 6 June 2012 the annual UCLA Lecture at Utrecht University will be given by Prof. Andrew Apter and Dr Lauren Derby of the Department of History, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). In this presentation, titled ‘The Gender of the Curse: Witchcraft and Sorcery in Afro-Atlantic History’, they relate West African concepts of witchcraft and fertility to female power and agency throughout the Afro-Atlantic world.
Apter and Derby argue that occult anxieties associated with childbirth, lactation, abortion, cannibalism and menopause reflect women's economic activities in the marketplace and home. Relating the blood of mothers — the irreducible “secret” of human reproduction — to the circulation of money and commodities in the body social, their lecture illustrates how witchcraft was “engendered” in West Africa and the Americas, where local markets developed as historically female domains in the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The lecture also illustrates why women were accused of being lougaroushape-shifters in the tent-camps of the 2010 Haitian earthquake.
Andrew Apter is Professor of History and Anthropology at UCLA, where he directed the James S. Coleman African Studies Center and a Mellon Faculty Seminar in Black Atlantic Studies. His books include Black Critics and Kings: The Hermeneutics of Power in Yoruba Society (1992); The Pan-African Nation: Oil and the Spectacle of Culture in Nigeria (2005) which won the 2007 Amaury Talbot Prize awarded by the Royal Anthropological Institute; and Beyond Words: Discourse and Critical Agency in Africa (2007), all with the University of Chicago Press. His current book project, supported by a Guggenheim Fellowship, is entitled History in the Dungeon: Atlantic Slavery and the Spirits of Capitalism. It argues that Atlantic genealogies of spirit possession manifest a range of Afro-European encounters that were central rather than marginal to capitalist modernity. Apter has conducted fieldwork in Nigeria, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ghana, and among Congolese refugees in Zambia.
Lauren Derby is associate professor of history at UCLA. She has worked on issues of memory, violence and rumor in the Dominican Republic and Haiti for two decades. Her publications include The Dictator’s Seduction: Politics and the Popular Imagination in the Era of Trujillo (Duke University Press, 2009), which won the Gordon K. and Sybil Lewis award from the Caribbean Studies Association, and the Bolton-Johnson Prize from the Council on Latin American History, American Historical Association. It also received honorable mention for the Bryce Wood Book Award from the Latin American Studies Association. She was also co-editor with Andrew Apter of Activating the Past: History and Memory in the Black Atlantic World (Cambridge Scholars Press, 2010). She is currently writing a book on demonic animal narratives in Haiti and the Dominican Republic and co-editing a reader on the Dominican Republic.
Since 2004 the Research Institute for History and Culture (OGC) at Utrecht University organises an annual lecture by a faculty member from UCLA, as part of the UCLA-Utrecht exchange programme. A similar lecture series (Van Tilburg lectures) is organised at UCLA.
Start date and time: 6/6/2012 15:30
End date and time: 6/6/2012 17:30
Location: Sweelinckzaal, Drift 21, Utrecht