Date of Award

Summer 8-7-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dr. Elizabeth J West

Second Advisor

Dr. Michele B Reid-Vazquez

Third Advisor

Dr. Cassandra White


This project focuses on African American and Afro- Hispanic literature and folklore. Specifically, I employ Fernando Ortiz’s theory of transculturation. Ortiz makes the case that a new Afro- Cuban identity is created with the intermingling of African, Spanish and native inhabitants of Cuba. Using Ortiz’s critical framework as the foundation of my study, I undertake a new critique of Zora Neale Hurston’s portrayal of African American identity. Analyzing Hurston’s work through the model of transculturation, I examine the parallel between her work and that of Lydia Cabrera, a Cuban ethnographer whose work represents Afro-Cuban identity as a transcultural one. Establishing this comparison, I reflect on the similarities and differences among their strategies of representing Transculturation in African- based identities. I look at their works from a womanist lens to analyze how their female anthropologist status influenced their folkloric portrayals and how they enacted a political agenda that emphasized female agency. I also analyze the oral aesthetic of their texts; in my opinion, Hurston and Cabrera reproductions of the spoken are ways to represent transcultural dialogue. Finally I compare their ethnographic studies of the African- based spiritual systems of Santeria and Voodoo.