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Three Paths to Legitimacy: African Diaspora Religions and the State

Archived Abstract of Former PSC Researcher

Johnson, Paul C. 2004. "Three Paths to Legitimacy: African Diaspora Religions and the State." Culture and Religion, 6(1): 79-105.

What are the routes by which African diaspora religious groups gain legal legitimacy in modern nation-states of the Americas? African diaspora religions, once prohibited under slave laws, remain predisposed to conflict with the ‘culture of legality’ that is constitutive of the contemporary modern world-system. In negotiating this conflict, different legitimating tactics are called upon in different nation-states, depending on the type of national mythology and level of legal-rational development present. Two legitimating tactics exercised by African diaspora religions are described here: ‘simulation’ in the United States, and ‘sedition’ in Honduras. A third path toward legitimacy, which I call the strategy of ‘seduction’, occurs when states appropriate African diaspora religions as a form of symbolic capital communicating depth and authenticity. Examples of this path are drawn from Brazil and Haiti.

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