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Book Talk Lectures Focus on African-Derived Religions’ Aesthetics

Colin Dayan

The aesthetics that emerge from the spiritual practices of “African-derived” religions will be the focal point of The City College of New York Division of Interdisciplinary Studies Fall 2011  Book Talk Lecture Series. Presenters include Guggenheim Fellows Donald Cosentino and Colin Dayan.

The series of nine lectures, which runs September 12 through December 12 and begin 7 p.m. Mondays, covers such topics as visual arts, anthropological methods, spiritual practices, dance, music, literature of Vodou, Santería and Candomblé, and Brazilian film.  Seven of the lectures will be presented at the Center for Worker Education, 7th Floor, 25 Broadway, Manhattan.  The others are at the CUNY Graduate Center and Barnard College.

African-derived religions – also known as “creolized” religions, “New World African” religions, or “syncretic” religions – have informed and continue to inform aesthetic practices in the Americas.  They have made their mark on the aesthetics of cultural spaces that developed in New York, New Orleans, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Brazil.

“It is exciting that this semester scholars such as Donald Cosentino, who curated the Vodou exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History, and Colin Dayan of Vanderbilt University, both Guggenheim Fellows are participating in the series,” said Dr. Juan Carlos Mercado, dean of CCNY’s Division of Interdisciplinary Studies. “We are also thrilled to have collaborations that include the CUNY Graduate Center, Barnard College, Columbia University and the Haitian Cultural Exchange.”

“We hope these events will spark a dialogue across disciplines,” added Jerry Carlson, a CCNY professor of film and video who specializes in cinema of the Americas and co-organized the series.  “Aestheticians, cultural theorists, humanists, and social scientists will talk with practitioners who carry forward the embodied systems of knowledge of Santería, Vodou, Candomblé and Palo Monte.”

His fellow co-organizer, Alessandra Benedicty, assistant professor of Caribbean and Francophone Literatures at the Division of Interdisciplinary Studies, will teach a course associated with the lecture series.

This series is made possible thanks to major funding from The City College of New York, the Offices of the President and Provost, and President Lisa S. Coico.
For more information on the series, go to

Schedule for Fall 2011 Book Talk Lecture Series

September 12: Mama Lola and Donald Cosentino, “Global Vodou: Mama Lola and Donald Cosentino in Conversation,” Center for Worker Education.

September 26: Yvonne Daniel, “Corporeal Consequences of Dancing Divinity,” Center for Worker Education.

October 3: Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert, “Gade nan mizè-a m tonbe: Vodou and Haiti’s Environmental Catastrophe,” CUNY Graduate Center, Room TBA.

October 31: Ned Sublette and Alexander LaSalle, “Canga Mundele: Tracing the Secret of Bomba from Saint-Domingue to New Orleans to Puerto Rico,” Center for Worker Education.

November 7: Stephen Selka, “Catching Spirits on Film: Representations of Candomblé in Brazilian Cinema,” Center for Worker Education.

November 14: Lyn Di Iorio, “Writing Palo Monte: Lyn Di Iorio in Conversation with Jerry W. Carlson on her new novel “Outside the Bones,”” Center for Worker Education.

November 21: Colin Dayan, “The Gods in the Trunk, or Chauvet’s Remnants,” Barnard College, Sulzberger Parlor, Third Floor, Barnard Hall.

November 28: Carlyle Van Thompson and Rachael Miller Benavidez, “The Trickster: Performing, Passing, and Masquerading in ‘America.’ A Conversation between Carlyle Van Thompson and Rachael Miller Benavidez,” Center for Worker Education.

December 12: Berta Jottar and Roman Díaz, “Acoustic Bodies: The Aesthetics of Religious Embodiment within the Regla the Osha Abakuá Societies,” Center for Worker Education.

Division of Interdisciplinary Studies contact:
Elena Romero, 212-925-6625, x258,



Ellis Simon
p: 212.650.6460