Opening a window on a dynamic realm far beyond imperial courts,
anatomical theaters, and learned societies, Pablo F. Gomez examines
the strategies that Caribbean people used to create authoritative,
experientially based knowledge about the human body and the natural
world during the long seventeenth century. Gomez treats the early
modern intellectual culture of these mostly black and free
Caribbean communities on its own merits and not only as it relates
to well-known frameworks for the study of science and medicine.
Drawing on an array of governmental and ecclesiastical
sources—notably Inquisition records—Gomez highlights
more than one hundred black ritual practitioners regarded as
masters of healing practices and as social and spiritual leaders.
He shows how they developed evidence-based healing principles based
on sensorial experience rather than on dogma. He elucidates how
they nourished ideas about the universality of human bodies, which
contributed to the rise of empirical testing of disease origins and
cures. Both colonial authorities and Caribbean people of all
conditions viewed this experiential knowledge as powerful and
competitive. In some ways, it served to respond to the ills of
slavery. Even more crucial, however, it demonstrates how the black
Atlantic helped creatively to fashion the early modern world.