OAH Distinguished Lecturer Profile

OAH Distinguished Lectureship program 40 years 1981-2021

Kate Ramsey

Portrait of Kate Ramsey

Kate Ramsey is an associate professor of history at the University of Miami. Her first book, The Spirits and the Law: Vodou and Power in Haiti (2011), examines the history and legacies of penal and ecclesiastical laws against the Vodou religion in Haiti. It won the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians First Book Prize, the Elsa Goveia Book Prize from the Association of Caribbean Historians, the Haitian Studies Association Haiti Illumination Project Book Prize, and a Médaille Jean Price-Mars from the Faculté d’Ethnologie, Université d’État d’Haïti. Ramsey is co-editor with Louis Herns Marcelin of Transformative Visions: Works by Haitian Artists from the Permanent Collection (2015). She has also published on mid-twentieth-century dance anthropology, focusing on choreographer Katherine Dunham’s research in the Caribbean, and the staging of folklore performance in Haiti. She was the recipient of a 2015-2018 UM College of Arts and Sciences Gabelli Senior Scholar Award. Her next single-authored book project studies how Afro-Caribbean religions became a touchstone in the fields of mind-body medicine and psychology in the late eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Atlantic world. It centers, first, on how early writings about Afro-Caribbean spiritual practices shaped and were shaped by medical ideas about the imagination during the final decades of slavery in the British Caribbean. It goes on to examine how following emancipation, and with the arrival of asylums across the region, colonial elites pathologized Afro-Caribbean religions in increasingly psychological terms. Focusing on mid- to late nineteenth century Jamaica in particular, the study analyzes how religious communities rejected and reversed such diagnoses, combatting colonial pathologies through spiritually-empowered forms of political struggle. Ramsey’s current research centers, as well, on the history of Vodou objects confiscated by U.S. marines during the 1915-1934 occupation of Haiti, and thereafter donated or sold to anthropology, natural history, and military museums in the United States and beyond. Based on collaborative research with Rachel Beauvoir-Dominique, this project spotlights the interlinked histories of Afro-Caribbean religion, U.S. imperialism, and museum collecting during the early to mid-twentieth century.

OAH Lectures