Call for Papers

KOSANBA, A Scholarly Association for the Study of Haitian Vodou

International Colloquium X

Harvard University

Friday, October 18th – Sunday, October 20th, 2013

When Earth Meets Sky:
Healing Rites & Sacred Knowledge in Haiti & Beyond

Under the Aegis of Danbala, the Serpent, and the Rainbow, Ayida Wedo

“There is a thing passing in the sky; some thick clouds surround it; the uninitiated see nothing.”
-Mende Proverb

Conference Highlights:
Opening Remarks
Professor Jacob K. Olupona, Harvard University

Professor Donald J. Cosentino, University of California, Los Angeles

Professor Gina Athena Ulysse, Wesleyan University


On January 12th, 2010, the Haitian earthquake known as “Goudougoudou” claimed 300,000 souls, and left at least ten million people mourning in Haiti as well as beyond its national borders. Though this catastrophe would deeply scar the island of Hispaniola, it also brought to the fore the country's collective capacity for healing and renewal in the invocation of its vibrant Neo-African religious traditions. This type of holistic healing revealed once again the importance of divine knowledge that is skillfully guarded by priests and adept healers.

In Vodou, as in other African derived religions, intuitive knowledge coupled with wisdom from the ancestors—what we call konesans—is regarded as sacred and worthy of much protection. Metaphysical eyes so-to-speak allow participants in these traditions to become more alert, and to recognize the presence of the divine in the everyday as well as in otherworldly planes they might enter. When humans attempt to make contact with the divine realm, when spirits and ancestors arrive to meet the requests of living souls, we recognize this as the moment when spiritual integration takes place, when healing—individual and collective—happens. These occurrences suggest a humble moment when mortals witness divinity and a flash of the spirit, an instance when earth meets sky.

The Congress of Santa Barbara's 10th International Colloquium highlights the healing mission inherent in Haitian Vodou and in other African-derived religious systems in the Americas, in indigenous African religions, and within the scope of recent studies in alternative and complementary medicine in the West. These religious and secular communities have continued their healing practices refined over centuries of experience. We wish to underscore how this substantial and significant compendium of traditional methods and recent innovations have proven largely effective in spiritual and corporeal healing over time, for individuals as well as the collective.

In its 10th colloquium, KOSANBA aims to inspire conversations and discussion on healing practices and divine knowledge across the Atlantic. This forum hopes to include the contributions of researchers, scholars, and practitioners in Vodou and other African-derived systems, as well as secular modes of healing. We meet this year in Boston, a center for religious, philosophical, and anthropological scholarly studies. KOSANBA welcomes papers/presentations on issues such as, though not limited to:

  • Worldviews and "world sense" in the context of healing
  • Shifting religious practices and ideology over time
  • New and old literary/theoretical lenses and frameworks for discussing sacred     knowledge
  • “Spirit injury,” mental illness and similar “invisible” ailments
  • Arts and other curative practices used for healing and restoring universal balance
  • Environmental concerns and secular healing practices
  • Religious healing in the face of natural disasters (i.e. Haitian Vodou post-    earthquake and New Orleans Vodou post-Katrina)
  • Importance of mortuary rites and burial practices in maintaining cosmic order
  • Dynamics of religious communities in new nations and peyi blan, the transformation of lives for new converts and initiates

Please submit a whole panel of no more than four presenters (a fifth person may chair or moderate a panel), or an individual paper by 31 May 2013 to the Program Committee. Each presentation should be no more than fifteen minutes (2,000 words or 7-8 pages in length), allowing time for discussion. An abstract of approximately 300-500 words with the title of the paper should be submitted on one page; on a separate cover page, the name(s) of the presenter(s), together with institutional affiliation(s) if applicable and the title of the presentation(s) should also be included.  Full panel submissions should submit one file with all of the applicants’ abstracts and required information. Additionally, applicants must provide current contact information such as mailing address, telephone numbers and e-mail address, also to be submitted by 31 May 2013. Completed papers are due by September 1, 2013 to allow panel members time to read those papers before the conference. All proposals will be peer-reviewed, and you shall be informed of a final decision on participation by 30 June, 2013.

Papers should be submitted online to the Program Committee Co-Chairs Gina Athena Ulysse and Roberto Strongman at

One must be a member of KOSANBA to present a paper at the conference. Registration is also required for all presenters. Registration fees are required for non-members to attend the conference. All those who are scholars and/or practitioners are invited to submit an application in order to join the association.

Membership Fees are as follows:
General membership:
US $60.00
US $35.00

Conference Registration:
US $75.00
US $25.00  (Before August 1, 2013)
On-site Conference Registration (after 8/1/13)

US $45.00 

KOSANBA—A Scholarly Association for the Study of Haitian Vodou, is headquartered at the Center for Black Studies Research at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

All Fees should be made payable to UC Regents. In the Memo Section write:
KOSANBA Membership and/or Registration. Mail to:

C/o Center for Black Studies Research
University of California, Santa Barbara,
Santa Barbara, CA 93106

Please refer any questions to or transmit all relevant documents to the Program Committee Co-Chairs, Gina Athena Ulysse (Wesleyan University) and Roberto Strongman (University of California Santa Barbara) at

Or visit the or phone (805) 893-3914