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Melvin Stephens, Estimating Program Benefits

Secretism and the apotheosis of Duvalier

Archived Abstract of Former PSC Researcher

Johnson, Paul C. 2006. "Secretism and the apotheosis of Duvalier." Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 74(2): 420-445.

"Secretism" refers to the active invocation of secrecy as a source of a group's identity, the promotion of the reputation of special access to restricted knowledge, and the successful performance or staging of such access. This essay examines a case in which a secretist religion became a public force. The case is that of Haiti and the religion of Vodou, as it was merged with political objectives by Franois Duvalier during his tenure as "president-for-life" from 1957 to 1971. Duvalier represented himself in his discourse as being possessed of the historical spirit of the revolutionary hero Jean-Jacques Dessalines, and in his style impersonated the Vodou Gede spirit, Baron Samedi. Since his death he has by some reports himself become a spirit, Loa 22 Os. Whereas much previous work has endeavored to explain states' control of secret religions, this essay considers secretist religion's capacity for infiltrating procedures and esthetics of the State and its uses in totalitarian rule.

DOI:10.1093/jaarel/lfj088 (Full Text)

Country of focus: Haiti.

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