Dancing the River

Fluidity of Eros and Gender in Music and Dance of African Diasporic Spiritual Traditions


  • David Hatfield Sparks College of Alameda




homoeroticism, gender-diversity, gay, lesbian, transgender, Santeria, Voudu, Candomble, African Atlantic Religion, music, dance, performativity


The ideas presented in this paper, inspired by poet Audre Lorde's lines, “I will become myself an incantation, dark, raucous, many-shaped,” explore sacred performative roles and elements associated with gender/sexual diversity, including transgender behavior and same-sex eroticism in African-Atlantic religions, as practiced at the crossroads of American multicultural communities. These linkages interweave to form a tapestry of queer-cultural, including religious and aesthetic, categories (or “domains”). Among these categories are: spiritual forces or deities (orisha) having multiple, including queer, caminos (roads); music/song texts and dances/gestures performed in a ritual context that speak to diversity and fluidity of gender and sexuality; the embodiment of spiritual forces in “possession” or enthusiastic trance by which the initiated convey gendered and sexed behaviors and identities that may correspond to or contest those they inhabit in everyday life.

Author Biography

David Hatfield Sparks, College of Alameda

David Hatfield Sparks, M.M. (Ethnomusicology), M.L.I.S., is a instructor of world music and Head Librarian at the College of Alameda in Alameda California. He is also a writer and co-author of the Encyclopedia of Queer Myth, Symbol, and Spirit (Cassell, 1997) and of Queering Creole Spiritual Traditions, (Haworth, 2004). His essay, “Hecklers and Christians” appeared in the anthology First Person Queer: Who we are (so far ) published in Canada in 2007.


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How to Cite

Sparks, D. H. (2010). Dancing the River: Fluidity of Eros and Gender in Music and Dance of African Diasporic Spiritual Traditions. Postscripts: The Journal of Sacred Texts, Cultural Histories, and Contemporary Contexts, 4(3), 367–388. https://doi.org/10.1558/post.v4i3.367