Colgate Alumna Dr. Tracy Hucks Speaks to Colgate about African Religions

Lindsay Wasserman

On Thursday, February 9, Scholar-in-Residence Dr. Tracey Hucks ’87, Chair of the Africana Studies Department at Davidson College, led a Heretics Club discussion titled “African Diasporic Religions: Healing, Resistance, and Weaponry.” The talk focused on her ongoing research exploring “diasporicity” and Atlantic-inspired nationalisms and citizenships.

Hucks discussed the role that Hollywood and the media have played in developing the public’s perception of African traditions. She explained that by exploiting aspects of cultures from around the world and using them for Western consumption, Hollywood has created a platform for stereotypes. A notable example of cultural appropriation includes the West African religion of Vodun.

It is from this religion that the idea of “voodoo” originated, but, as Hucks explained, Hollywood has transformed the idea from its original meaning.

Senior Grace Western spoke to the importance of understanding the intended meaning of various religions.

“I think [Dr. Hucks] speaking about religion and the way we have demonized religions that aren’t founded in whiteness (such as the mis-creation of the word ‘voodoo’) was so important because often that is not an argument or theme that is focused on but is still so telling of larger systemic issues and values in society,” Western said.

Providing the example of Lisa Bonet, famously known for her role as Denise Huxtable on “The Cosby Show,” Dr. Hucks further explained how it is possible for the stereotypes surrounding African religions to limit one’s career and development within their field.

Western further commented on Hucks’ effort to link African diasporic religions in the Americas to popular culture in the United States.

“I love how she tied it back into pop culture and Hollywood and how, even without knowing, we perpetuate systems that degrade communities and knowledges that are so intrinsic in others lives and well being,” Western said.

Students enjoyed learning about the West African religion of Vodun and hearing insights from a Colgate alumna who has spent her career studying African diasporic religions. Junior Maria Dascalu enjoyed what she considered to be Hucks’ fresh approach to a relatively unstudied topic.

“I thought the talk was fascinating; I’ve always been interested in religions and human culture, and being able to learn, at least on the surface, about something so foreign to me was really eye-opening,” Dascalu said.

Hucks will lead another discussion on Thursday, February 16 titled “Religion, Race, and the Black Body in the Americas.