Deterritorialization and Reterritorialization of the Orisha Religion in Africa and the New World (Nigeria, Cuba and the United States)


This article deals with the relationship of religion to space, ethnicity and political domination, through the case of the Orisha religion in Africa and the Americas. This religion originated in the south‐east of present‐day Nigeria and was first re‐implanted in the Americas as a result of the deportation of thousands of Yoruba slaves, especially to Cuba. Today, it is experiencing a second transplantation, resulting from Cuban emigration, mainly to the United States. These two moves, from Africa to Cuba and then from Cuba to the United States, have been associated with successive processes of territorialization and dissemination in very different social and political contexts, which are analysed in historical sequence. On each occasion, transmission through lineage and dissemination through proximity seem to have come into play, in varying degrees according to the socio‐political context. Even though religion and ethnic identity were closely linked in Africa, the Orisha religion has spread into populations of European and mixed‐race origin in Cuba. The United States is witnessing a form of ‘re‐ethnicization’ of this religion in the black population and in the Hispanic population, with notable differences between the East Coast and California.