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Flashes of Spirit: Diasporic Desires & Doorways


Abstract for Online Program Book (maximum 1200 characters including spaces)

Robert Farris Thompson’s Flash of the Spirit, for my 19-year-old Haitian-Dyasporic self, was the door to a forbidden world. The text captured the ritual art forms and sacred rites left undiscussed and silenced in my Protestant home. The book has become one of my holy texts, revisited every few years with new information gleaned after reading. Yet, it has also caused me to question my politics of citation—the diasporic imperative to honor the scholarship (textual, embodied, and sacred) of Black-identified scholars. At times, unfairly to Thompson, I find myself frustrated with the white cultural gatekeepers of Africana sacred studies. In this work, I attend to these visceral responses to Thompson's oeuvre through a diasporic and performance optic in the hope of answering the question: How can these lessons create new doorways that uncover languages and sacred practices long-buried within Christianity's colonial projects? Ultimately, this project engages with performance ethnography and diaspora studies to reinvest and (re)turn to the sacred arts as doorways to indigenous knowledge(s) and decolonial thought.