Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Timothy Rommen


In Cuba, emergent circulations between Cuba and contemporary Yor�b�land, Nigeria are transforming the landscape of gender, belief, and state religious policy. This project examines this reencounter through the lens of the controversial Yorubization – or re-Yorubization – of the religions of Regla de Ocha, also known as Santeria, and If�. Through an ethnography of affective belonging and emancipatory desire in Havana, Santiago de Cuba, and the provinces of Holgu�n, Ciego de �vila, and Guant�namo, this work examines how “African Traditionalists” mobilize select aspects of the Yor�b� Traditional Religion (YTR) and Yor�b� language of Nigeria in order to circumvent Cuban prohibitions regarding gender and carve out novel spaces of religious autonomy and authority. Through a critical examination of the intersections of aurality and predications of Africanity in Nigerian-style If�-�r�şa, this work interrogates the ways in which women and men craft sound and listening in order to reshape gendered subjectivities and reconstitute the boundaries of �r�ṣ� worship in Cuba. In the realm of gender, which constitutes the most polemical break between Nigerian-style If�-�r�ṣ� and Cuban-style Regla de Ocha-If�, women have carved out access to the previously-prohibited tambores de a�a, or consecrated bat� drum set. Additionally, women break the gendered boundaries and taboos against female participation in If� by "speaking If�” as �y�n�f�, or divining priestesses. In the Il�-Ifẹ̀-rooted Aworeni lineage in Havana, the “�r�b� of Cuba” and other babal�wos (priests) mobilize the recently-imported d�nd�n "talking drums" of Yor�b�land as a means to “re-Yorubize” Cuban If� and to promote the spread of Nigerian-rooted institutions in Cuba. In eastern Baracoa and western Havana, all-male Eg�ng�n masquerade is additionally gaining prominence as a Yor�b�-inspired means of worshiping and "working with" the dead. This project interrogates how various forms of engagement with sound and listening inform – and, often, constitute – central practices of assertion for practitioners of Nigerian-style If�-�r�ṣ� in Cuba. In a larger sense, this project points to the ongoing ways in which the contemporary African continent continues to influence and transform the landscape of gender and belief in contemporary Cuba.

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