Dr. Deryck Murray


A lecturer at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, with research interests in the history, sociology, anthropology and philosophy of ways of knowing or the sciences.


He has published on the history of Obeah in the British West Indies and has found it necessary to re-conceptualise the existing models of creolisation. He calls his new approach to understanding how formerly enslaved Africans in the diaspora constructed new lifeways using existing materials and old epistemes, “Tukontology.”


Treating Obeah as way of knowing which informed everything from resistance movements of the enslaved to their medical practices, Dr Murray argues against the tendency to privilege western science as the only path to real knowledge while treating other epistemologies merely as cultural beliefs. He has also written on the tendency of western history, under the influence of western science, to de-spiritualise African practices and artefacts when recalling their function or displaying their attributes.


Dr. Murray is the Director of the Government of Barbados’ Commission for Pan-African Affairs.


Dr. Murray speaks on the topic “The African Spirit in our Tangible Heritage.” The blinding success of western mechanistic philosophy and its derivative methods of science impacts on heritage studies so as to formally exclude notions of spirit. This western way of understanding the world has significantly influenced the descriptions, display and regard of tangible artefacts which were fashioned in the context of African societies with pervasive spiritual lifeways.


Using specific examples, the presentation will note the widespread and problematic impact of the process of western “despiritualisation” on the interpretation of history and its artefacts. A remedy to this problem is especially relevant where heritage is linked to tourism in a manner which risks perpetuating insensitive, sanitized and exoticised myths about African diasporic reality. Therefore, a symmetrical epistemological approach to western science and “African technologies of spirit” will be proposed as one solution.