CLACS and the History Department at NYU will be hosting a presentation by Brazilian historian João José Reis titled “Alufa Rufino, A Man of Faith and Sorcery on the Periphery of Islam.”
Brazil, and particularly Bahia, was arguably the destination of most African Muslims deported from West Africa to the Americas on board slave ships during the first half of the nineteenth century. They were mainly Hausas, Nupes, and Yorubas who, once in Brazil, were involved in several slave revolts. This is a well-known story. What is less well-known is that parallel to this militant Islam, there were other, more accommodationist forms of Islam that also flourished among African slaves and freed people in Brazil. This lecture is about a man who represented this form of Islam. A devout Muslim, Abuncare (a.k.a, Rufino José Maria) nonetheless dedicated himself to divination and other unorthodox practices that he learned in Africa and either reproduced in Brazil or adapted to Brazilian belief systems.
About the speaker:
João José Reis received his PhD in History from the University of Minnesota and is currently a Professor of History at the Universidade Federal de Bahia (UFBA) in Brazil. He is the author of Slave Rebellion in Brazil: The Muslim Uprising of 1835 in Bahia and Death is a Festival: Funeral Rites and Popular Rebellion in Nineteenth-Century Brazil, which earned the 1996 Clarence H. Haring Prize from the American Historical Association and the 1992 Jabuti Prize for nonfiction from the Brazilian Book Council. From 1996 to 2004, he served as editor for the Afro-Ásia journal published by UFBA’s Centro de Estudos Afro-Orientais. He has been a Visiting Scholar at the University of London and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, as well as a Visiting Professor at the University of London, Princeton University, University of Michigan and Brandeis University. In 2004, he was awarded the Comenda da Ordem Nacional do Mérito Científico by the Brazilian Government. While at Harvard during the spring semester, he taught in the Department of History and presented several public lectures including Divining Slavery and Other Diseases: An African Priest in Nineteenth Century Brazil and Social Mobility among Slaves in Bahia, Brazil: The Case of Manoel Ricardo.