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Smith College (Northampton, MA 01063-6304)
Patricia Gonzalez (Project Director: November 2018 to present)
Lydia Cabrera’s ‘The Abakua Secret Society’ and its West African Sources

Preparation of an English translation of La Sociedad secreta Abakua (The Abakua Secret Society), Cuban writer Lydia Cabrera’s (1899-1991) landmark study of the Afro-Cuban Abakua religious society. (36 months)

We propose a scholarly English translation of La sociedad secreta Abakuá - Lydia Cabrera's landmark study of the Cuban Abakuá initiation society. Researched in Havana and Matanzas from 1938 to 1959 and published in Spanish in Havana in 1959, the book is a primary document about the adaptation of a specific African heritage to the Caribbean region. This monograph is the most substantive document of the speech and cultural history of any diasporan group originating from the West African Cross River area, yet it remains inaccessible to English-speaking scholars including the very Nigerian and Cameroonian specialists most qualified to identify the sources and meanings of Abakuá terms and practices. The Abakuá example is also important to Americanists more generally, as it demonstrates the expansion of an African-derived identity into the wider population of European, Asian and Amer-Indian descendants, evolving from a racial/ethnic category into a cultural community.

[Grant products]

Project fields:
African Studies; Latin American Studies; Linguistics

Scholarly Editions and Translations

Research Programs

$283,150 (approved)
$283,150 (awarded)

Grant period:
10/1/2019 – 9/30/2022