Elizabeth McAlister

2023 Crossroads Research Fellow


Elizabeth McAlister is Professor of Religion and African American Studies at Wesleyan University. Her research focuses on Afro-Caribbean culture, religion, and music, with a focus on Haiti. She is author of Rara! Vodou, Power and Performance in Haiti and its Diaspora, a book and CD published by University of California Press in 2002 which is an ethnography of a musical, religious, and political festival in Haiti. Her second book, Race, Nation, and Religion in the Americas (Oxford University Press, 2004), is a volume co-edited with Henry Goldschmidt, which theorizes race and religion as co-constituted, intersectional constructs. McAlister produced compilations of Afro-Haitian religious music: Rhythms of Rapture, and Angels in the Mirror. In her efforts to make Afro-Caribbean religions and music better understood by the public, McAlister has written for the Washington Post and Forbes, been interviewed by Terri Gross on “Fresh Air,” and consulted for media projects such as CNN Believers, Afropop Worldwide and Throughline on Public Radio.


Crossroads Research Fellows Project

Documenting & Collaborating with the Sacred Vodou Temple Na-Ri-VéH 777

This project builds a team in collaboration with the Crossroads project “Digitizing the art and soul of the Sacred Vodou Temple Na-Ri-VéH 777.” For that project, Jean-Daniel Lafontant, the Sevitè (spiritual servant) of the Temple, will expand the Espas Milokan website, which carefully presents images and video of the sacred material culture of the Haitian Vodou temple Na-Ri-VéH in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Founded near an historic maroon enclave, the space still serves as a place of fugitivity from gang violence and anti-queer violence, and a place of treatments for illness. The provenance of many objects and artifacts trace from ancestral lakou (family compounds) and some objects date from the Amerindian period, the colonial period, and the Haitian Revolution. Contemporary works of art are installed next to sacred objects, including pieces by Myrlande Constant, Frantz Jacques aka Guyodo, and Dubréus Lhérisson. This linked project brings together Haitian scholars and students at the Université d’Etat in Port-au-Prince (names TBA) to annotate and provide context for the images and films of sacred objects and contemporary art pieces at the Temple. Our collective will interview spiritual servants who work in healing and initiation at the Temple, and will create an archive of the various interviews, podcasts, films, and scholarly articles connected to the Temple. This digital platform will be presented in English, French and Haitian Kreyòl to provide access for a diverse audience to learn about this misunderstood tradition.

Lewis A. Clorméus

McAlister will be collaborating with Dr. Lewis A. Clorméus, who holds a doctorate in Sociology from École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris and the Université d’État d’Haïti. He currently teaches for the Faculté d’Ethnologie at the Université d’État d’Haïti. His work focuses on the religious and intellectual history of Haiti, intellectual and religious writings on Haitian Vodou from the 19th to 21st centuries, and the relationship between the state and religion. He is secretary of the Haitian Society of History, Geography and Geology; member of the Haitian committee of the International Council of Museums; and abroad correspondent for the Center for Studies in Social Sciences of Religion of the EHESS. He is author of Le vodou haïtien, entre mythes et constructions savantes (Riveneuve, 2015); Duverneau Trouillot et le vodou (CIDIHCA, 2016) ; and Le vodou, le prêtre et l’ethnologue (Maisonneuve & Larose/ Hémisphères, 2020).