Saint Tupac

Michael Ralph, Aisha Beliso De Jesús, Stephan Palmié

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Widespread fascination with Tupac Shakur's 2012 holographic resurrection at the Coachella music festival provides the occasion for theorizing human possibility in the context of Afro-diasporic religions. In considering Tupac's life and legacy, we refer to the spiritual power of his resurrection as an apotheosis, or divine ascendency toward sainthood. However, instead of restricting our discussion to the familiar context of Catholic sainthood, we draw upon Afro-Cuban religious cosmologies (espiritismo, santería, and palo monte) to explore the complicated relationship of spirit copresences who are also described of as “angel guardians” or santos (saints). We consider how these logics shift the role Tupac plays for hip hop. Tupac as guardian angel of hip hop acts as an Afro-Cuban santo who guides and protects his constituency from death. In addition, we complicate this dynamic by exploring how the Tupac hologram in particular might be akin to the palo monte practice of enslaving dead spirits for economic gain in the form of a spiritual cauldron (nganga). In this way, we explore Tupac's resurrection through multiple Afro-diasporic logics in order to theorize how the rebel spirit of this murdered rapper continues the fight against systematic oppression, even as he is potentially resurrected by different parties for different reasons.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)90-102
    Number of pages13
    JournalTransforming Anthropology
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - Oct 2017


    • capitalism
    • diaspora
    • hip hop
    • race
    • religion

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Anthropology


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