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Fellow Seminar: The Power of Prophecy: Obeah, Spiritual Baptism, and Robert Alexander Young’s Ethiopian Manifesto

February 15 @ 12:00 pm - 1:15 pm

Fellow seminar with Nicholas Andersen, postdoctoral fellow.

About the Talk:

On February 13, 1829, Robert Alexander Young self-published an incendiary pamphlet in New York City that prophesied the coming of a Grenadian messiah who would lead Africans throughout the world in revolt against slavery. While widely celebrated, the pamphlet has long posed a historiographical problem for scholars of Black religious and political thought, owing in large part to difficulties with Young’s life and vocabulary. This talk offers a new historical redescription and conjectural interpretation of Young’s pamphlet, focusing particularly upon his invocation of Psalm 68:31 and the Afro-Caribbean traditions of obeah and Spiritual Baptism. Andersen argues that Young’s citation of the verse can be said to rely upon certain ritual and linguistic norms associated with these traditions, which inform his attempts to call into existence a worldwide African community. On Andersen’s interpretation, Young’s textual performances of prophecy and messianism constitute a kind of obeah, that is, an analysis of power relations and conceptual frame rooted in Africana traditions, through which another world may be imagined and enacted.


February 15
12:00 pm - 1:15 pm


Center for the Humanities


Fung House
48 Professors Row
Medford, MA 02155 United States
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