Tubman Speaker Series: Dr. Temitope Adafarakan talks about gender identity in indigenous Yoruba contexts

The Tubman Institute is pleased to present Dr. Temitope Adafarakan as this week’s guest speaker in the Tubman Speaker Series: Dr.Adafarakan will talk about “Yoruba Worldsense: Conceptualizing Gender in Indigenous Yoruba Contexts through the Example of Papa Legba/Esu” on Wednesday Nov. 20th from 3:30-5:00 in 305 Founders College.

While Papa Legba-Orisa is a central figure in Yoruba cosmology—and it is revered amongst many of the Orisa spiritual traditions in Yorubaland and its diaspora, this deity largely remains “the devil” both locally and transnationally. In this talk Dr. Adefarakan discusses the various constructions of Legba/Esu amongst Yoruba peoples and its diasporic communities, namely how this deity is masculinized to bring to light the normalization of Western constructions of gender in Yoruba life, thought and experience. Through tracing and exploring this deity amongst Yoruba diasporic communities, Dr. Adefarakan argues that notions of Legba as “the devil” are historical and contemporary manifestations of religious fundamentalism through a Euro-centric Christian cultural logic that has locked this deity into an essentialized masculine imaginary, rendering 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 utilized to demonstrate how the figure of Esu is masculinized in Eurocentric essentialist terms and defamed unto the devil.   Finally, analysis of interpretations from Dr. Adefarakan’s research participants, as well as Dr. Adefarakan’s own personal experiences as a Yoruba woman in the African diaspora will be utilized to further complicate and move beyond such hegemonically-derived fictions about this dynamic Orisa.

Dr. Temitope Adefarakan is faculty teaching Sociology at the University of Toronto’s Transitional Year Program.  She 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 (OISE/UT). 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 (AIS) is formulated in Canadian law and the intersections of spirituality, indigenous thought and Black feminist theories. 

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

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