Sacred trash: the paradox of ritual objectification in Yorùbá orature

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Sacred trash: the paradox of ritual objectification in Yorùbá orature

Speaker: Oluwabunmi Bernard, Centre of African Studies, University of Cambridge and Obafemi Awolowo University


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Sacred has been described as the totality of humans’ religious experiences and trash as profane. In order to explain the concept of sacred and trash in the Yorùbá orature (oral literature) as it pertains to eco-justice, this study seeks to provide answers to the following questions: What is sacred? What is trash? Can trash be considered sacred? Can sacred also be trash? If it is trash, then it may not be sacred and if it is sacred, it should not be perceived as trash. Can what was once sacred become trash? Also, can the sacred be both sacred and trash simultaneously? Using an ethnographic lens, this study interrogates the improper disposal of ritual objects and items in the Yorùbá sacred and ritual spaces and their agency in entrenching environmental degradation. It also argues that agents within and outside sacred spaces are also part of the problem. The study demonstrates that though indigenous knowledge mined from sacred orature cum ritual performances may help in creating meaningful solutions to the current global environmental crisis, it also contributes to the problem. 



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Oluwabunmi BERNARD, Ph.D. teaches Yorùbá literature and culture at Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria. Her research interest includes Yorùbá literature, gender and sexuality, postcolonial, and environmental studies. She has authored and co-authored papers in these areas. She won the prestigious UMAPS fellowship at the University of Michigan and the A.G. Leventis fellowship at SOAS, University of London respectively in 2020. She is currently a visiting research fellow at the Centre of African Studies University of Cambridge. 






Part of the African Languages, Literatures and Cultures Network events