Èṣù's Three-way Crossroads: The Future of Ancestrality in Uncertain Times


Thursday, October 29, 2020, 6:00pm to 7:30pm

This event is virtual, to register, click here.

Speakers: Luiz Rufino, PhD and scholar at UERJ; Sidnei Nogueira, Professor of and Coordinator of the Ilê Ará Institute; Rodney William, PhD, Anthropologist, and babalorixá
Moderated by: Joaquín Terrones, PhD and Lecturer of Literature at MIT

In recent times, a segment of academia has come to the realization that its institutions and disciplines currently produce knowledge in ways that are incapable of responding to the crises at hand. Systems of thought that have benefited from and given intellectual support to colonialism and anti-Blackness are being increasingly revealed as symptoms of a long-term project of cultural and environmental depletion. Afro-Atlantic traditions derived from Yoruba religion and philosophy, such as Brazilian Candomblé and Cuban Santería, perceive the present as a fraction of a much broader extension of events—far from being ‘unprecedented,’ world endings are constantly being overcome, and resurgences are always predicted.

By fashioning the structures of modern thought from annihilation, epistemicide has acted as a tentacle of racism. Epistemicide suffocates non-hegemonic modes of existence we might term “polysemic-Exuistic,” after the Yorùbá divinity of movement, possibilities, and transmutation, the one who is a collective and the collective which is one. At the crossroad’s center—a locus of entrances and exits, of multiple choices and re-choosings, convergences and divergences, possibilities—the lord of contradiction, Èṣù turns and issues his strident decolonial cry, calling for a world-sense focused on poly-existences as an alternative to worldviews stranded in the singular self. Our terreiro dialogue will take this crossroad as its starting point. The event aims to bring into the fold, into the roda, forms of knowledge strategically situated at the outskirts of Western culture and history: plural Black poetics and belief systems. Anti-racist struggle and the healing of a sick social body must begin by listening attentively to Èṣù’s cry. Following his lead, we must develop and experience an epistemology of nooks and corners and back alleys, one which might even re-potentiate the Yoruba “Mo wà” – I exist.

Although Candomblé has been the object of anthropological study for more than eight decades, scholars who operate at the crossroads of academia and terreiro communities are now deploying the latter’s theories and methodologies to investigate how whiteness and systemic racism have limited the production of knowledge in the former. Some of that work is taking place within North American academia but the bulk of it is being carried out by Brazilian scholars such as Nogueira, Luiz Rufino, Rodney William, Luiz Antonio Simas, Wanderson Flor do Nascimento, and Muniz Sodre.

This event will facilitate a conversation between three forefronting intellectuals of a movement that seeks to reconfigure the relationship between terreiros and the academy. In this proposed encruzilhada, modes to extend the ideas and practices that affirm black life and thought within sites of resistance like the terreiro into predominantly white spaces and institutions.

Prof. Luiz Rufino is a scholar at UERJ, where he received a PhD in Education, as well as a post-doctorate in Ethnic and Racial Studies. His latest book, Pedagogia das Encruzilhadas, is a groundbreaking work that focuses on radical decolonial practices informed by Afro-Brazilian religious, poetic, and political traditions. Prof. Rufino has also published in Histórias e Saberes dos Jongueiros, as well as co-authored "Fogo no Mato: a ciência encantada das macumbas" and "Flecha no Tempo," both in co-authorship with Luiz Simas.

Prof. Sidnei Nogueira received his PhD in Semiotics and General Linguistics from the University of São Paulo (USP). He was a fellow at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), conducting research on the ways in which traditional Afro-Brazilian religious communities retained the tonality of Yoruba through the use of melodic pitch in their chanting and texts. Currently, he is coordinator and faculty member of Ilê Ará (Instituto Livre de Estudos Avançados nas Religiões Afro-brasileras) as well as leader of the CCRIAS terreiro (Comunidade da Compreensão e da Restauração: Ilé Asé Sàngó).

Dr. Rodney William received his PhD in Social Sciences with an emphasis in Anthropology from the Pontifícia Universidade Católica (PUC-SP). He writes a column for the magazine Carta Capital, and has published "A bênção aos mais velhos: poder e senioridade nos terreiros de candomblé" and "Palavras de Axé." His most recent book, "Apropriação Cultural," addresses practices of cultural appropriation and value in Brazil. Dr. William is a spiritual leader (babalorixá) of Ilê Obá Ketu Axé Omi Nlá. As a researcher, he is interested in racial and religious connections in Afro-Brazilian religions.

Dr. Joaquín Terrones received his PhD in Romance Languages and Literatures at Harvard University. His research focuses on contemporary literature and film in the Americas. He is currently working in a book about the representation of disease in Latin American literature and visual culture during the last two decades of the twentieth century. He is a lecturer in Literature at MIT.

Event Organized by Prof Josiah Blackmore Ana Laura Malmaceda, Eduarda Araujo, João Marcos Copertino, Omar Salomão