cover image The Deepest Dye: Obeah, Hosay, and Race in the Atlantic World

The Deepest Dye: Obeah, Hosay, and Race in the Atlantic World

Aisha Khan. Harvard Univ., $39.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-67498-782-1

In this illuminating work, anthropologist Khan (Callaloo Nation) explores themes of race and religion within the West Indies—primarily the Guianas, Jamaica, and Trinidad. Taking what she calls a “parallax view” of Hosay (a Muslim Indo-Caribbean commemoration) and obeah (a system of healing and moral practices popular among Afro-Caribbean people in the West Indies), Khan shows how the mingling of race and religion in both was viewed as “a sin of the deepest dye” and a danger to colonial Caribbean powers. African and Indian people who practiced obeah and Hosay were seen as savage “rogues” and “simple people” by colonialists, she writes, and came to be perceived as threats. From the “space of overlap between the end of slavery and the beginning of indenture in the West Indies” to the present day, Khan traces crisscrossing narratives of obeah and Hosay, scrutinizes how they are referenced in contemporary creative arts and legal systems, and explores how the Hosay festival has become a well-known staple of Caribbean creole culture. Khan’s sophisticated and complex analysis will challenge readers to reconsider concepts like “race” and “religion,” inviting them to revisit how the terms came to exist in the first place. Anthropologists, theologians, and scholarly readers alike can glean much from Khan’s sweeping exploration. (July)