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Keith McNeal

Keith McNeal

Associate Professor of Anthropology
Comparative Cultural Studies
Ph.D., Emory University

On Leave, 2023-2024 
Visiting Senior Lecturer, University of the West Indies – Trinidad & Tobago | CV

Biographical Summary

I am an anthropologist with specialization in Caribbean ethnology and Atlantic cultural history and a long-term focus on Trinidad and Tobago. My first book — "Trance and Modernity in the Southern Caribbean: African and Hindu Popular Religions in Trinidad & Tobago" (2011, 2nd ed. 2015) — is a comparative historical ethnography of African and Hindu traditions of trance performance and spirit mediumship in the southern Caribbean, as well as the postcolonial politics of race, religion, diaspora, nationalism and multiculturalism. I have also reconstructed the history and cultural politics of Indo-Trinidadian mortuary ritual, “Death and the Problem of Orthopraxy in Caribbean Hinduism: Reconsidering the Politics and Poetics of Indo-Trinidadian Mortuary Ritual,” which is the subject of my first documentary film project. I am currently completing a book on men, sexuality, queer globalization and the politics of citizenship in TT, entitled "Queering the Citizen: Dispatches from Trinidad and Tobago," in relation to which I have also conducted research in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands and published several papers on queer and trans refugeeism and the political economy of Caribbean asylum-seeking in Europe. I am also working on a third book project on Trinbagonian Hinduism, "The Lotus in the Oil Drum: Anthropocene Hinduism in a Caribbean Petrostate." My research, teaching and activist interests have been moving steadily in the direction of climate change and the Anthropocene in the Caribbean. Finally, growing out of my engagement with migration and asylum studies, I am also now starting to work in collaboration with Ecuadorian geographer/anthropologist Soledad Álvarez Velasco on the political economy of im/mobility in the Americas, with a specific focus on Venezuelan migratory movements. I am also a member of the advisory board of Houston’s Climate Justice Museum.

Selected Publications


2011  Trance and Modernity in the Southern Caribbean: African and Hindu Popular Religions in Trinidad and Tobago, Gainesville: University Press of Florida – “New World Diasporas” Series. (Revised paperback published in 2015)  


2019  “Confessions of an Ambivalent Country Expert: Queer Refugeeism in the United Kingdom and the Political Economy of (Im)Mobility In and Out of Trinidad and Tobago,” Anthropological Theory, 19(1): 191-215—“Politics in a Time of Post-Politics: Political Anthropology for the 21st Century,” eds. N. Postero & E. Elinoff.

2012  “Seeing the Eyes of God in Human Form: Iconography and Impersonation in African and Hindu Traditions of Trance Performance in the Southern Caribbean,” Material Religion, 8(4): 490-519.

1999  “Behind the Make-Up: Gender Ambivalence and the Double-Bind of Gay Selfhood in Drag Performance,” Ethos 27(3): 1-36. (1998 Richard Condon Award for best graduate student paper in Psychological Anthropology)

Book Chapters

2021  “Between Homonationalism and Islamophobia: Comparing Queer Caribbean and Muslim Asylum-Seeking in/to the Netherlands,” co-authored with Sarah French Brennan, in Queer Migration, Diaspora and Asylum, ed. R. Mole, University College of London Press, pp. 162-183. 

2020    “Level 5: Betwixt-and-Between ‘Homophobia’ in Trinidad and Tobago,” in Beyond Homophobia: Centring LGBT Experience in the Caribbean, ed. M. Anderson & E. MacLeod, University of the West Indies Press, pp. 56-79. 

2018    “Death and the Problem of Orthopraxy in Caribbean Hinduism: Reconsidering the Politics and Poetics of Indo-Trinidadian Mortuary Ritual,” in Passages and Afterworlds: Anthropological Perspectives on Death in the Caribbean, ed. Yanique Hume & Maarit Forde, Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press, pp. 199-224.

2013    “Hindu Healing Traditions in the Southern Caribbean: History, Sociology, Praxis” (primary author – co-authored with Kumar Mahabir & Paul Younger), for Caribbean Healing Traditions: Implications for Health and Mental Health, ed.  P. Sutherland, R. Moodley, R. & B. Chevannes, New York: Routledge, pp. 176-187. 

2010    “Pantheons as Mythistorical Archives: Pantheonization and Remodeled Iconographies in two Southern Caribbean Possession Religions,” in Activating the Past: History and Memory in the Black Atlantic, ed. Andrew Apter and Lauren Derby, Cambridge Scholars Press, pp. 185-244.

2003    “Doing the Mother's Caribbean Work: On Shakti and Society in Contemporary Trinidad,” in Encountering Kali: In the Margins, At the Center, In the West, ed. Rachel Fell McDermott and Jeffrey Kripal, Berkeley: University of California Press, pp. 223-248.

Primary Research & Teaching Interests

Caribbean ethnology, Atlantic history, Caribbean religious studies, ritual and performance studies, Indian and African diaspora, historical anthropology, person-centered ethnography, queer and trans studies, Trinidad and Tobago, migration and asylum