Todd Ramón Ochoa

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Todd Ramón Ochoa

Associate Professor


Ph.D., Cultural Anthropology, Columbia University, 2005
M.Phil., Cultural Anthropology, Columbia University, 1998
M.A., Cultural Anthropology, Columbia University, 1995
B.A., Political Science, University of Michigan Ann Arbor, 1992


  • African-inspired Societies and Religions in Latin America and the Caribbean
  • Cuba
  • Materiality
  • Racialization, Creolization, and Hybridity
  • Contemporary Theory and Philosophy
  • Critical Ethnographic Practice


I write about African-inspired communities in Cuba. My first book, Society of the Dead (University of California, 2010), is an ethnography of a Cuban-Kongo society of affliction, and its healing-harming practices at the turn of the 21st century. In that book I describe the materiality of the dead in Cuban-Kongo life, and ask readers to consider the concrete, creative, and collective efforts required to shape fate. Society of the Dead is an engagement with anthropology’s rendering of sorcery, and an exploration of sensation, transformation, and redemption in the African Diaspora.

My forthcoming book, A Party for Lazarus: Six Generations of Ancestral Devotion in A Cuban Town (University of California, May 2020), is an ethnography about an African-inspired community in rural central Cuba. Based on field research conducted since 1999, the book describes the healing feasts, called bembés, which focus and intensify relationships in a small town. It is an engagement with materiality, cultural recombination, and excess in Cuban life.

My writing and teaching are inflected by social theory and contemporary philosophy, and by a commitment to writing as a critical and creative scholarly practice. My articles are more theoretical than my books, and my teaching is oriented to helping students grasp social theory as a resource for scholarly creativity in the study of religion.


  • RELI 121 Introduction to Religion and Culture
  • RELI 140 Religion in America
  • RELI 236 Creolization: Latina/o Religious Transformation in the US-Mexico Borderlands
  • RELI 345 Black Atlantic Perspectives
  • RELI 700 Pro-seminar in Religious Studies
  • RELI 720 Affirmation and Negation


A Party for Lazarus: Six Generations of Ancestral Devotion in A Cuban Town. University of California Press, May 2020 (forthcoming).

Society of the Dead: Quita Manaquita and Palo Praise in Cuba.  University of California Press. 2010.

“Prendas-Ngangas-Enquisos: Turbulence and the Influence of the Dead in Cuban-Kongo Material Practice.” Cultural Anthropology, Vol. 25, No. 3, August, 2010.

“Versions of the Dead: Kalunga, Cuban-Kongo Materiality, and Ethnography.” Cultural Anthropology Vol. 22, No. 4, November, 2007.