Ishmael Reed American Literature Analysis
An understanding of Reed’s fiction must begin with his concept of “Neo-HooDoo.” The term “hoo doo,” sometimes spelled and pronounced “voodoo,” is derived from the East African religion of vodun. In his fiction and poetry, Reed traces the influence of this religion, brought to America by the slave trade, in American popular culture. Reed’s Neo-HooDoo seeks to capture the spirit of this African religion and integrate it with the concerns of modern America.
Reed’s first expression of his theory was “Neo-HooDoo Manifesto,” published in the Los Angeles Free Press on September 18-24, 1970, and reprinted several times. “Neo-HooDoo is a ’Lost American Church’ updated,” the manifesto begins. Reed describes the integration of African and Western cultures in Neo-HooDoo:Africa is the home of the loa (Spirits) of Neo-HooDoo although we are building our own American “pantheon.” Thousands of “Spirits” (Ka) who would laugh at Jehovah’s fury concerning “false idols” (translated everybody else’s religion) or “fetishes.” Moses, Jehovah’s messenger and zombie swiped the secrets of VooDoo from old Jethro but nevertheless ended up with a curse.
Western culture’s “swiping” of African culture through Judaism during the Egyptian exile is a common theme in Reed’s fiction, which is an important vehicle for popularizing the discoveries of anthropologists in this area.
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