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Title: Shadow worlds and "superstitions" : an analysis of Martha Warren Beckwith's writings on Jamaican folk religion, 1919-1929
Author: Sparkes, Hilary R.
ISNI:       0000 0004 5357 8965
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2015
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My doctoral research is an examination of the pioneering nature of Martha Warren Beckwith’s writings on Jamaican folk religion. Beckwith, an American anthropologist and folklorist, visited Jamaica four times between 1919 and 1924. During her visits she recorded aspects of African-Jamaican folk life ranging from stories, songs and proverbs to rites of passage, children’s games and plant lore, as well as various forms of folk religion. She is regarded as pioneering in choosing Jamaica for her fieldwork at a time when the Caribbean was overlooked by many American and British anthropologists. In this thesis, I argue that in her methodology and treatment of her subject matter she was also ahead of her time. Beckwith is still often cited in modern writings on African-Jamaican religions with little or nothing in the way of background or context. Using close textual analysis, I examine both the nature of Beckwith’s research and exactly how ground-breaking it was when compared to those commenting on African-Jamaican spiritual beliefs in the same era. Although a variety of people wrote about African-Jamaican folk religions, my focus is on the way these faiths were covered by anthropologists and folklore collectors as a distinct group. This was also a period when both anthropology and folklore studies had moved away from being the preserve of amateurs and were developing as academic disciplines. An analysis of the works of late post-emancipation researchers such as Beckwith gives an insight not only into how African-Jamaican folk religions were practised and perceived at that time but also how changes in folklore and anthropology theory and practice impacted on such perceptions.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: F1201 Latin America (General)