Beyond occult economies: Akan spirits, New York idols and Detroit automobiles

Jane Parish


While it has been extensively recorded how the West African occult economy allows for a metanarrative critique of modernity, this article analyzes a convergence between witchcraft discourses and the capitalist market, looking through the local lens of Akan spirit shrines in New York City. Rather than being in awe of the “mysterious workings” of the marketplace, Akan occult practices fully engage with American mass production and neoliberal orthodoxy. In this process, the American automobile, the object par excellence of the American dream, embracing an ideology of escapism and individualism, has become, I argue, a local symbol against the extravagant consumerism worshipped in New York and at more established shrines. Young shrine priests, I explain, hold up as an alternative beacon of opportunity an age of Detroit automotive production in order to spiritually manufacture a different type of industrialism—the (re)cycling by Akan shrines of the iconic Pontiac automobile.


Akan spirit shrines, cosmology, capitalism, witchcraft, automotive

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.14318/hau5.2.009