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7232: RE: 7203: Re: 7187: SCHOLARS AND VODOUN, BEBE QUESTIONS. , (fwd)

From: Gary Burlington <gburling@lccs.edu>

I think I see two questions here and they are both good ones.  Why do
outsiders study Vodou and what do they leave behind for the good of the
community where they study?  Here are my answers, based on a recent trip I

On the why question:  In my case it is because I teach in a small
mid-western "Bible college". Students and other stake-holders in this school
are predisposed to "demonize" vodou.  The best challenge to this mentality
is vodou and vodouisants.  We spent 3 nights and four days at a rural ounfo,
observed ceremonies, and interacted with people about vodou, their daily
lives, and the connection between the two.  It is doubtful that my students
will ever embrace vodou, but it is just as doubtful that they will ever
again be able to understand it as demonic, satanic, or evil either.  They
learned to appreciate Haitians who serve the lwa as fellow human beings who,
like themselves, seek the transcendent, try to root their values and
community in it, and find value and meaning in life.  That's grounds for
dialogue and mutual edification.  A small measure of understanding and a
larger measure of appreciation developed in my students.

On the question of contributing to the community:  We agreed with the
houngan on fees.  These were pretty steep, but not out of reason.  I
confess, I don't know what if any distribution to the wider community took
place with respect to these fees.  However, in addition to those fees other
gifts of food and cash were given to dancers, drummers, and local hosts and
If this trip had been one connected to my dissertation, an article, or book
that might also advance my career, then in addition I think I would feel a
moral obligation to make some kind of on-going commitment to the houngan and
the community involved as well.

Gary Burlington
Lincoln Christian College
Lincoln, IL