Tubman talk looks at Western constructions of gender, deities and Yoruba life

The next talk in the Tubman Speaker Series, Wednesday, will focus on a central figure in Yoruba cosmology, how it is masculinized and how that fits with Western constructions of gender in Yoruba life, thought and experience.

Temitope Adafarakan, who teaches sociology at the University of Toronto’s Transitional Year Program,  will discuss “Yoruba Worldsense: Conceptualizing Gender in Indigenous Yoruba Contexts through the Example of Papa Legba/Esu” on Nov. 20, from 3:30 to 5pm at 305 Founders College, Keele campus. The talk is presented by The Harriet Tubman Institute.

The deity Papa Legba-Orisa is a central figure in Yoruba cosmology that is revered amongst many of the Orisa spiritual traditions in Yorubaland and its diaspora, but which is largely seen as “the devil” locally and transnationally.

In this talk, Adefarakan will discuss the various constructions of Legba/Esu amongst Yoruba peoples and its diasporic communities.

Through tracing and exploring this deity amongst Yoruba diasporic communities, Adefarakan will argue that notions of Legba as “the devil” are historical and contemporary manifestations of religious fundamentalism through a Eurocentric Christian cultural logic that has locked this deity into an essentialized masculine imaginary. This has resulted in an ideological and spiritual displacement of Legba in the Yoruba cosmological system and a large part of Yoruba social life.

The figure of Samuel Ajayi Crowther – a Yoruba man who translated the English Bible into Yoruba and became the first bishop of Africa – is also used to demonstrate how the figure of Esu is masculinized in Eurocentric essentialist terms and defamed unto the devil.

Finally, analysis of interpretations from Adefarakan’s research participants, as well as her own personal experiences as a Yoruba woman in the African diaspora, will be used to further complicate and move beyond such hegemonically derived fictions about this dynamic Orisa.

Adefarakan holds a PhD from the Collaborative Doctoral Program in the Department of Sociology and Equity Studies and the Women and Gender Studies Institute at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto. The topic of her doctoral dissertation is Yoruba Indigenous Knowledges in the African Diaspora: Knowledge, Power and the Politics of Indigenous Spirituality.

Her research focuses on equity, diversity, exploring how African indigenous spirituality is formulated in Canadian law and the intersections of spirituality, indigenous thought and black feminist theories.

For more talks in 2014, the Tubman Speaker Series for 2013/2014 website and the Working Paper Series website.