Available on JSTOR at: doi.org/10.2307/3336925

Abstract

This article is based on data first collected in October and November 1977 in Oyotunji for a graduate seminar on field methods taught at UCLA by the late Arnold Rubin. The material was incorporated into my master's thesis, which Arnold supervised in 1979, and it opened up areas of study that eventually led to not only the Ph.D. but a complete change in my religious practices and beliefs. I later returned to Oyotunji in March, April, and June of 1989 for comparative research. My seminar project focused on the ear and nose piercing, hair braiding, and general African-oriented body adornment that was popular among African Americans. My research quickly led me to people participating in subcultures and alternative lifestyles in various areas of Los Angeles. One day, while driving home after an interview, I suddenly heard the loud music and singing of African drums and ritual chants. Following my ears, I found myself in an open courtyard where a “Bembe” for Esu (the deity of the crossroads and unpredictability) was taking place. As it turned out, I was in the home of an offshoot group of Yoruba from Oyotunji who were living in Los Angeles. At that Bembe, I met my godfather, Baba Efundeji, and one thing led to another. Arnold became very interested in the research, especially the piercing aspect. This article honors his quest for the unpredictable and unconventional in research. It also honors Kabiyesi, Iya Orite, and all the present and past residents of Oyotunji who were of such help to me.