Black Digital Devotions: Ethno-Religious Transnationalism and Data Gathering in the Era of Pandemic Travel Restrictions

UCSB Center for Black Studies Research presents: Associate Professor Roberto Strongman

This talk explores the creation of a virtual devotional space for the Black Christ of Portobelo that would enable an alternative continuation of the pilgrimages that devotees and researchers have been proscribed by the pandemic-related travel restrictions. For individual devotees, the website I seek to create will address the spiritual and political need to connect to other devotees through this cultural icon at a time in which they cannot do so in person. The website will strengthen links between Black Panamanian devotees in Panama and greater New York City, where diasporic communities in Brooklyn and Long Island have recreated the tradition. Moreover, these transnational Black Panamanian devotees will be able to make global connections to other Black Christ devotional communties in the Americas, Spain and the Phillipines. The construction of all these links via the website will provide a large part of the material for my upcoming book, particularly as it allows the devotees to enter anonymized data about their social, political and spiritual motivations to partake in the devotion of the Black Christ.