Rooted and grounded : spiritual-revival churches in contemporary Panama
Hutchinson, David Daniel
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The Panamanian state has historically marginalized West Indian people and excluded them from its national narrative. This thesis focuses on one particular kind of West Indian institution, the Spiritual-Revival churches, and utilizes ethnographic methods to recover the history, theory, and politics of contemporary Panamanian Revivalism. Chapter One traces the interpellation and self-making of black people in Panama from the sixteenth century to the present day, engaging with elite and subaltern discourses on race, citizenship, and diaspora. Chapter Two discusses the arrival of the Spiritual-Revival churches in Panama and provides an in-depth survey of the beliefs, practices, and rituals of the religion. Chapter Three explores Revivalist thought on blackness, diaspora, and citizenship in the present political moment. I explore the possible epistemological contributions of Spiritual-Revival churches to the black movement and to the wider Panamanian polity. The Spiritual-Revival churches form part of a long and contiguous, black radical tradition on the isthmus that speaks to the historical and present marginalization of black Panamanians. Revivalist theology and ritual practice not only affirm spiritual teachings, but also form an integral part of what the faithful believe it means to be West Indian, black, and autonomous. Currently, Revivalists are at a crossroads as they attempt to navigate and various discourses on tradition, orthodoxy, culture, and identity while establishing their own counter-discourses.