Sarah Reynolds

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Tulane U.

Grant number

Gr. 10239

Approve Date

October 7, 2021

Project Title

Reynolds, Sarah (Tulane U.) "“C’est pas religieux, c’est spirituel”: Race, Religion, and Spirituality in Beninese Vodun "

SARAH REYNOLDS,then a graduate student at Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisianna, received a grant in October 2021 to aid research on “‘C’est pas religieux, c’est spirituel’: Race, Religion, and Spirituality in Beninese Vodun,” supervised by Dr. Adeline Masquelier. The research investigates how Beninese work to remake, reimagine, rebrand, revive, and relabel Vodun given its history of marginalization and unsavory representation. The researcher examines how the longue dur’e (roughly 3,000 years) of anti-African religious thought intersects with how Vodun is perceived, represented, and re-represented by Beninese citizens. In short, the researcher argues that Vodun is a critical dimension in social imaginaries of Dahomey and Benin, Africa, and Blackness more generally. They also investigate how Beninese work to place Vodun (which encompasses so many things) into the Western labels of ‘religion’ and ‘spirituality’. Methodologically, the researcher uses interviews of hounnons (Vodun priests and priestesses), vodunsi (Vodun practitioners), patients of Vodun amawato (traditional healers), Christian religious officials, and Muslim Imams to understand how Beninese perceive of Vodun. These methods enable the researcher to analyze how vodunsi, and Beninese in general, perceive and label: Vodun, other faiths, Beninese identity, Blackness, and racial difference.