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Afro-Atlantic Empiricism and the Circulation of Bodily Knowledge in the Seventeenth Century Spanish Caribbean

A Caribbean Epistemologies Seminar presented by the CUNY Center for the Humanities

Pablo Gomez, History & Geography, Texas Christian University

Friday, December 9
2 pm

The Graduate Center, CUNY
365 Fifth Ave, Room C203

Please join us to discuss this paper by Pablo Gomez (History & Geography, Texas Christian University) which explores the routes followed by ideas and rites about the body emerging in seventeenth century black Atlantic Caribbean locales like Cartagena de Indias and Havana. Data related to the circulation of bodily knowledge in the Spanish Caribbean evinces a largely ignored process in which black ritual practitioners experimented with new materials and techne they found in the Americas and transmitted a corpus of “bodily knowledge” during the sixteenth and seventeenth century. Perambulating and interconnected black health practitioners, using oral tradition, performance, and material culture, functioned as the primordial links for the diffusion of black ideas about corporeality in the Spanish Caribbean. Within their epistemological realms, these healers probed the Caribbean landscape for medical products and explored the particular socio- cultural make up of the places where they would deploy their practices. As their European counterparts, seventeenth century Spanish Caribbean ritual practitioners of African origin –– coming from Europe and Africa or born in the New World –– engaged in procedural, conceptual, material, and social practices that had the specific objective of inquiring about the human body. Through these practices Caribbean black communities entered a larger conversation about the very nature of knowledge in the early modern era.

Our discussant for this paper will be Professor Tamara Walker (History, University of Pennsylvania).

Reading Required. Professor Gomez’s essay is available on the seminar website:

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