• Founded 1972
  • Seminar Number 531

The Culture, Power, Boundaries Seminar is a forum for work and work-in-progress that strives for a critical analysis of contemporary power relations at local and global scales and how such power relations affect the analysis, reproduction, and transformation of inequality and its cultural expressions. The seminar began forty years ago with a focus on immigration and developed into a broad forum for critical social science. While the majority of seminar members are anthropologists, and presentations tend to focus on case studies, the seminar continues to welcome, as both guests and speakers, other social scientists interested in investigating the power dimension of cultural formations and the cultural aspects of inequality.

Professor Maria-Luisa Achino-Loeb

Professor Patricia Antoniello

Tania Ahmed

Meeting dates and locations are subject to change. Please confirm details with the seminar rapporteur.

Meeting Schedule

09/23/2019 Faculty House, Columbia University
7:00 PM
The Revolution Hurt the People, its Aftermath Hurt the Industries”: Work, Precarity and Militant Unionism in an Industrial Area in Nepal’s Highlands
Michael Hoffman, Martin Luther University, Halle, Germany

10/28/2019 Faculty House, Columbia University
7:00 PM
Crossing the borders of viral emergence: histories of HIV in the Congo River basin
Sephanie Rupp, Lehman College, C.U.N.Y

12/09/2019 Faculty House, Columbia University
7:00 PM
Boundary-work and cosmopolitan aspirations: Reconsidering European anthropology between epistemology and morality
Damián O. Martínez, University of Tübingen, Germany

02/10/2020 Faculty House, Columbia University
7:00 PM
Do Black Gods Matter?: Social Media, Orisa Religion, and the Negotiation of Diaspora
Akissi Britton, Rutgers University


This paper examines contemporary debates in Facebook groups around the race of Orisa, the deities of Orisa religious tradition. The religion originated with the Yoruba of present day Nigeria and came to the shores of the Americas with enslaved Africans, who then transformed the tradition into different denominations. Contemporary migration from places like Cuba and Nigeria beginning in the twentieth century brought the religion to the United States. With its origins in Yoruba-land, the religion and its deities are seen as African, and by extension, for some, as Black; particularly by those who self-identify as Black. Today the religion, via its many denominations, is practiced by millions of people of all races and multiple ethnicities around the world. The accessibility of the religion to multiracial and multiethnic congregations of practitioners, who increasingly participate in social media platforms like Facebook groups dedicated to Orisa tradition, provides fertile ground for debates about the universality of the religion and how this multiracial group translate Orisa and its concepts to fit their varied cultural and racial experiences. In these Facebook groups which include diverse adherents, debates around the race of the Orisa take on salience that is reminiscent of the struggles African Americans faced when they converted to the religion in the late 1950s. This paper will examine the context of these debates and how they highlight what I call diaspora in motion, a process by which members negotiate and navigate their differences to create and maintain diasporic religious community. These disputes offer a productive lens through which we can explore those contested moments where the contours of diaspora get hashed out through arguments over ideas of proper religious practice and theology.

03/09/2020 Faculty House, Columbia University
7:00 PM
meeting cancelled

04/27/2020 Faculty House, Columbia University
7:00 PM
Free Agents and Fated Futures: History, Personhood, and Cosmic Consciousness in Western Astrology
Omri Elisha, Queens College, C.U.N.Y