In a history spanning five centuries, a cast of surprising deities helps to shed light on the thorny questions of how our modern concept of "religion" was invented. From nationalist uprisings in India to Nigerien spirit possession cults, Anna Della Subin explores how deification has been a means of defiance for colonized peoples.
Accidental Gods is one of those carefully researched books of nonfiction guaranteed to make you feel smarter by the end ... Underneath its fascinating parade of ideas and historical snippets, the structure and sequencing are truly elegant ... This is not a book formed around a single, facile thesis, but instead a complex stitching of evidence. And while many of these chapters make for satisfying stand-alone essays...the sum is much greater than the parts. With all this sacred ground to cover, Subin keeps a fast clip, sometimes verging on breakneck speed, keeping most of her sources in the notes to foreground the driving narratives. It’s a grand, cinematic style at first, but we get more close-ups as the chapters build upon one another, and the result is powerful and persuasive.
... riveting ... The book is replete with such astonishing details. Subin, who combines fierce analytic intelligence with powerful storytelling, has here synthesized vast amounts of abstruse information. While another might run the risk of prurient or condescending anthropological interest in such behaviors, Subin deftly places them in the broader context of imperialism ... The challenge Subin’s book presents—and for which it provides, in its last pages, a beautiful but idealized posthumous vision—is how to find a better array of myths.
Subin, who studied at Harvard Divinity School, clearly delights in...curious details, and Accidental Gods is brimming with them—though in addition to the strange, almost scriptural stories she tells, she also has some connections and ideas to explore ... roving and ambitious ... If there is a pattern that emerges in this book, it has to do with divinization’s double-edge ... Accidental Godsmeanders at times, delineating some connections that are less plausible than others; but then the book is less a straightforward historical study than an irreverent bible in its own right, a sort of celestial thought experiment.