Dr. Annette L. Williams received the 2016 Kore Award for Best Dissertation, for Our Mysterious Mothers: The Primordial Feminine Power of Àjẹ́ in the Cosmology, Mythology, and Historical Reality of the West African Yoruba written for the California Institute of Integral Studies.
Established in 2010 by ASWM co-founder Patricia Monaghan, the Kore Award recognizes excellence and relevance in dissertation research. The award was conferred at the 2016 ASWM Conference, via Skype due to schedule conflicts.
The text of Dr. William’s award letter reads,
You write that among the Yoruba, àjẹ́ is the primordial force of causation and creation. It is the power of the feminine, of female divinity and women, and the women themselves who wield this power. Unfortunately, it has been translated as “witch” or “witchcraft” with attendant malevolent connotations. Though the fearsome nature of àjẹ́ cannot be denied, it is actually a richly nuanced term. Examination of Yoruba sacred text, Odu Ifa, reveals a spiritual and temporal power exercised in religious, judicial, political, and economic domains throughout Yoruba history.
Your dissertation explores the many factors contributing to the duality in attitude towards àjẹ́, forcing an intense representation of their fearsome aspects to the virtual disavowal of their positive dimensions. You were able to interview people with knowledge of àjẹ́ both in Yorubaland in Africa, and in the United States. You employed transdisciplinary methodologies and multiple lenses, including hermeneutics, historiography and critical theory to tease out the place of àjẹ́ within Yoruba cosmology and historical reality. You critically read the influence both of sexist patriarchy and colonialist British imperialism in the culture and in the reading of the Odu Ifa.
You write, “In our out-of-balance world, there might be wisdom to be gleaned from beings that were given the charge of maintaining cosmic balance. Giving proper respect and honor to “our mothers” (awon iya wa) who own and control àjẹ́, individuals are called to exercise their àjẹ́ in the world in the cause of social justice, to be the guardians of a just society.”