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The Experiential Caribbean

Creating Knowledge and Healing in the Early Modern Atlantic

By Pablo F. Gómez

314 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 3 halftones, 2 maps, 5 tables, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-3087-8
    Published: April 2017
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-3086-1
    Published: April 2017
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-3088-5
    Published: February 2017

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Opening a window on a dynamic realm far beyond imperial courts, anatomical theaters, and learned societies, Pablo F. Gómez 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. Gómez 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—Gómez 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.

About the Author

Pablo F. Gomez is assistant professor in the Department of Medical History and Bioethics and the Department of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
For more information about Pablo F. Gómez, visit the Author Page.


“Gómez explores the relationship between localized knowledge creation and the practice of health and healing in the early modern Atlantic. Recommended.”--Choice

“Pablo F. Gómez’s deep knowledge of the early modern Atlantic is built on a rock-solid documentary core that brings to light remarkable individuals and their stories. His depiction of an early Afro-Caribbean subculture with powerful male and female healers as respected and often feared figures is fully convincing, and the book makes a significant contribution to the history of science and medicine as well as the history of the Caribbean and the African diaspora.”--Kris Lane, Tulane University

The Experiential Caribbean represents a stunning scholarly achievement, engendering novel ways to think about cultural formation at the levels of both method and epistemology. Gómez’s history of the production and circulation of medical knowledge in the crucible of the Caribbean firmly engages the cultural and intellectual histories of an expansive Atlantic world. Reading this book has been a mind-bending experience.”--Herman L. Bennett, The Graduate Center, City University of New York