Mumbo Jumbo Themes

Mumbo Jumbo Themes


Ishmael Reed is a satirist and novelist, and his works tend to involve the misuse of time. Basically, Reed builds a slightly modified reality for each of his novels where anachronism doesn't matter. Also, the novel deals with timelessness as a central theme. The main argument of the novel is that the introduction of 1970's funk is essentially similar to the Jazz age in New York, and the Harlem Renaissance.

Religion and power

One obvious element of the novel is the blatant use and misuse of religion (and also magic). One way this theme appears is that the novel's rendition of the Bible varies wildly from the real Bible. Then there is the Voodoo element of the novel, which comes from the Afro-centric communities in Harlem (especially Islamic black militants). In other words, the novel ties many religious and philosophical issues to the rift between Europe and Africa. The novel depicts religion as a tool to oppress unique cultures.

Racial issues

The novel makes the case that racism against black people began not with the slave trade, but even before that. The novelist paints a picture of Africa as a victim of European aggression, and in the novel's depiction of 1920's America, that hasn't really changed. The novel also features the oppression of Afro-centric religions at the hands of monotheists. Much of the disdain against African culture (including Islam) seems to be purely racial.

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