John M. Janzen
Religion and healing are modern scholarly constructs that are perhaps useful to summarize, consolidate, and interpret a myriad of details from 15th to 19th century African-Atlantic experience, although they do not appear per se in the myriad of self-perceptions of those people and groups covered here. Likewise, the views of scholars and other observers of these phenomena (the historiography) shift from one era and author to the next so as to appear unrecognizable, one to the other. For heuristic purposes, religion is understood as the worldviews, rituals, and personified beings that represent ultimate reality; healing is the understanding of, and responses to, affliction and misfortune, and the struggle to achieve wholeness and wellbeing. Combining these two dimensions in an overview of the African diaspora experience means considers the following: original African worlds, in a number of regional contexts in Western and Western Central Africa (e.g., Senegambia; Upper Guinea; Southern Guinea; Kongo-Angola); the traumatic Middle Passage and refracted in the “broken mirrors” of memory (e.g., in slavery narratives); how this memory is mixed and reinterpreted with the New World experience of slave markets, plantations, and maroon settlements; the impact of this experience within the diversity of Portuguese, British, French, and Dutch colonial settings, and Catholic, Protestant, and Muslim religious orientations.
Chris S. Duvall
Cannabis and tobacco have longstanding roles in African societies. Despite botanical and pharmacological dissimilarities, it is worthwhile to consider tobacco and cannabis together because they have been for centuries the most commonly and widely smoked drug plants. Cannabis, the source of marijuana and hashish, was introduced to eastern Africa from southern Asia, and dispersed widely within Africa mostly after 1500. In sub-Saharan Africa, cannabis was taken into ethnobotanies that included pipe smoking, a practice invented in Africa; in Asia, it had been consumed orally. Smoking significantly changes the drug pharmacologically, and the African innovation of smoking cannabis initiated the now-global practice. Africans developed diverse cultures of cannabis use, including Central African practices that circulated widely in the Atlantic world via slave trading. Tobacco was introduced to Africa from the Americas in the late 1500s. It gained rapid, widespread popularity, and Africans developed distinctive modes of tobacco production and use. Primary sources on these plants are predominantly from European observers, which limits historical knowledge because Europeans strongly favored tobacco and were mostly ignorant or disdainful of African cannabis uses. Both plants have for centuries been important subsistence crops. Tobacco was traded across the continent beginning in the 1600s; cannabis was less valuable but widely exchanged by the same century, and probably earlier. Both plants became cash crops under colonial regimes. Tobacco helped sustain mercantilist and slave-trade economies, became a focus of colonial and postcolonial economic development efforts, and remains economically important. Cannabis was outlawed across most of the continent by 1920. Africans resisted its prohibition, and cannabis production remains economically significant despite its continued illegality.