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The Seeing Eye is the Organ of Tradition

By Paul Ryer, Consumption & material culture, Cultural production, daily life, Globalization, greater Cuba, Miami, urban life, youth cultures No Comments »

Since the 1990s, U.S. flag-themed hats, shirts, pants, and especially bodysuits have seemingly been popular fashion among ordinary Cubans. More precisely, given that the Cuban flag has a white star on a red background, with blue stripes, it is at minimum clear that this fashion does not signify Cubans’ own national banner, and while conceivably referencing Puerto Rico’s bandera, it is fair to say that both foreign visitors and Cuban residents interpretNYT-image-12-14 CROPPED the symbolic referent to be Old Glory. And this, I think, is where things get interesting, since images of U.S. flag-wearing Cubans are a recurrent feature of stories of post-Soviet Cuba in the U.S. media and press, as if to visually confirm pro-U.S. popular sentiments among the population, Q.E.D., obviously political, no further exegesis necessary. One can find this pattern from the cover of Christopher Hunt’s superficial travelogue Waiting For Fidel in 1997, right to the present day. Consider, for instance, the framing of “If Not David to the U.S. Goliath, Cuba Asks What Its Role Is Now,” by Damien Cave and Victoria Burnett, published in the New York Times on December 20, 2014 as part of the barrage of that month’s NYT-led diplomacy. As seen here in cropped form, the lede image of the accompanying slide show, “Cuba Braces for the Winds of Change,” I submit, was carefully chosen to evoke exactly this sort of reading in the U.S.-based readership of the Times.

A century ago, the founder of American anthropology, Franz Boas, taught his students that we see what we are prepared to see: the seeing eye is the organ of tradition. When I first encountered U.S. flag-themed sartorial choices throughout Cuba as a novice ethnographer living in Havana in the mid-1990s, I also initially read them this way, as startlingly clear and overt statements of personal political preference.  What else could they possibly mean, in a context in which images of both Cuban and U.S. flags had for decades saturated state media in clearly politicized ways? And yet… and yet, the more I learned about the people and contexts in which these styles appeared, the more inadequate that initially obvious reading seemed. Not necessarily (or always) wrong, but certainly partial, superficial, and misleading. Many pro-revolutionary grandparents, Party members, and apolitical youth were equally crazy for this stuff!  Over time, I became both more interested in and puzzled by the possible meanings of this style, until one day in 2002 in a small town in central Cuba, I ran into two eight or nine year old girls, holding hands; one was wearing a new-to-me variant of the U.S. flag-themed shirt (see Ryer 2006). I stopped them to ask where the shirt was from, and the girl wearing it beamed and said: “Oh, I am from here, and this is my cousin visiting from Florida, and she brought it for me as a gift, isn’t it great?” (my translation). This simple exchange highlighted an overlooked if obvious point: all of this U.S. themed clothing is imported not in official state-controlled shops, of course, but is hand-delivered by close family or friends abroad. In other words, wearing it also marks one as having familia en exterior, family abroad. As I have argued elsewhere, beyond symbolizing the United States, since the 1990s wearing Stars and Stripes apparel in Cuba is a marker par excellence of one’s privileged access to increasingly important transnational remittance circuits.

Even long before the work of Victor Turner, anthropologists have understood that there are multiple meanings to any symbol, and that is certainly true in the case of enduringly popular U.S. flag-themed apparel in post-Soviet Cuba. But to only see the political, pro-American image as intended by the U.S. popular press, generates, I believe, a dangerously simplistic and even misdirected reading of the sort which once led American planners to anticipate massive Cuban popular support for their epically misjudged Bay of Pigs invasion. Even in 2014, not all meanings are global, nor are they necessarily obvious to the casual observer or photographer.

 

UPDATE:

The re-opening of the embassies and ongoing limited rapprochement between the two governments has kept up the drumbeat of these sorts of images, including more from the New York Times, but also from the international press.  Consider, for instance, this story & images from the Guardian, and this recent cover from the Mexican edition of Revista Letras Liportadamexico_1000_1bres.

In Memoriam: Katherine Hagedorn, Divine utterances: The performance of Afro-Cuban santería (2001)

Cultural production, daily life, music, Religion, Tales from the field No Comments »

 

Hagedorn cover  As many scholars of contemporary Cuba have learned to their shock and grief, we have recently lost one of our dearest colleagues, Katherine Hagedorn.  While a more comprehensive memorial to her life and work is available here, suffice it to say that Katherine was not only a creative, honest, and insightful scholar, but also an extraordinarily generous being, and we are left much diminished by her absence and with deepest sympathies for her family.  Having recently re-read her book as my own personal memorial to Katherine, I remembered all over how delightful it was to read in the first place, and how many of her insights rang true ethnographically even to someone not particularly well versed in either ethnomusicology or Cuban religious practices.  With that in mind, I write this post to recommend that you either take the time to read, or re-read, this rich text, Divine utterances: The performance of Afro-Cuban santería.  It will, I promise, be time well spent.

 

 

New book, Trumpets in the Mountains: Theater and the Politics of National Culture in Cuba, by Laurie Frederick, Duke Univ Press 2012

Cultural production, daily life, new book No Comments »

It is such a thrill to report that Laurie Frederik’s new book, Trumpets in the Mountains: Theater and the Politics of National Culture in Cuba, Duke University Press, 2012, is now available.  Congratulations Laurie, look forward to reading it!

Description

Trumpets in the Mountains is a compelling ethnography about Cuban culture, artistic performance, and the shift in national identity after 1990, when the loss of Soviet subsidies plunged Cuba into a severe economic crisis. The state’s response involved opening the economy to foreign capital and tourism, and promoting previously deprecated cultural practices as quintessentially Cuban. Such contradictions of Cuba’s revolutionary ideals elicited an official preoccupation with how twenty-first-century cubanía, or Cubanness, was to be understood by its citizens and creatively interpreted by its artists. The rural campesino was re-envisioned as a key symbol of the future; the embodiment of socialist humility, cultural pureness, and educated refinement; potentially the Hombre Novísimo (even newer man) to replace the Hombre Nuevo (new man) of Cuban communist philosophy.

Campesinos inhabit some of the island’s most isolated areas, including the mountainous regions in central and eastern Cuba where Laurie A. Frederik conducted research among rural communities and professional theater groups. Analyzing the ongoing dialogue of cultural officials, urban and rural artists, and campesinos, Frederik provides an on-the-ground account of how visions of the nation are developed, manipulated, dramatized, and maintained in public consciousness. She shows that cubanía is defined, and redefined, in the interactive movement between intellectual, political, and everyday worlds.

 

Truth in motion: The recursive anthropology of Cuban divination, Martin Holbraad, U Chicago Press, 2012

Cultural production, new book, Religion No Comments »

Joining a growing collection of anthropological work on Cuban religious practice, Martin Holbraad’s Truth in Motion: The Recursive Anthropology of Cuban Divination, U Chicago Press 2012, has just been released.  More than simply presenting ethnographic data, Holbraad sets out to use his ethnographic insights to rethink disciplinary presumptions of anthropology as well.

From the web:

Embarking on an ethnographic journey to the inner barrios of Havana among practitioners of Ifá, a prestigious Afro-Cuban tradition of divination, Truth in Motion reevaluates Western ideas about truth in light of the practices and ideas of a wildly different, and highly respected, model. Acutely focusing on Ifá, Martin Holbraad takes the reader inside consultations, initiations, and lively public debates to show how Ifá practitioners see truth as something to be not so much represented, as transformed. Bringing his findings to bear on the discipline of anthropology itself, he recasts the very idea of truth as a matter not only of epistemological divergence but also of ontological difference—the question of truth, he argues, is not simply about how things may appear differently to people, but also about the different ways of imagining what those things are. By delving so deeply into Ifá practices, Truth in Motion offers cogent new ways of thinking about otherness and how anthropology can navigate it.

 

Review comments:

Andrew Apter
Truth in Motion is very much an intellectual journey, a rigorous engagement with Cuban divination and theories of meaning. It is extremely original, innovative—indeed daring and radical—in its invitation to replace our entire bedrock of representational semantics (and its associated distinctions between words and objects, signifiers and signifieds, judgments and facts, substances and attributes, etcetera) with a more generative ontology of ‘inventive definitions.’”–Andrew Apter, University of California, Los Angeles

Read the rest of this entry »

Brotherton, Revolutionary Medicine: Health and the Body in Post-Soviet Cuba, Duke 2012

Cultural production, daily life, Health, new book No Comments »

Congratulations to Sean Brotherton for his just-released book, Revolutionary Medicine: Health and the Body in Post-Soviet Cuba!  The volume is certain to set a new standard for theoretically sophisticated and ethnographically sustained  research on Cuban health systems and practices, about which there has until now been relatively little published beyond Whiteford & Branch and Hirshfeld’s work.  Meanwhile, here is the publisher’s description:

Revolutionary Medicine is a richly textured examination of the ways that Cuba’s public health care system has changed during the past two decades and of the meaning of those changes for ordinary Cubans. Until the Soviet bloc collapsed in 1989, socialist Cuba encouraged citizens to view access to health care as a human right and the state’s responsibility to provide it as a moral imperative. Since the loss of Soviet subsidies and the tightening of the U.S. economic embargo, Cuba’s government has found it hard to provide the high-quality universal medical care that was so central to the revolutionary socialist project. In Revolutionary Medicine, P. Sean Brotherton deftly integrates theory and history with ethnographic research in Havana, including interviews with family physicians, public health officials, research scientists, and citizens seeking medical care. He describes how the deterioration of health and social welfare programs has led Cubans to seek health care through informal arrangements, as well as state-sponsored programs. Their creative, resourceful pursuit of health and well-being provides insight into how they navigate, adapt to, and pragmatically cope with the rapid social, economic, and political changes in post-Soviet Cuba.

 

Music in the Hispanic Caribbean, by Robin Moore (2010)

Cultural production, Globalization, music, new book No Comments »

  In case you have missed it, Robin Moore has a new book exploring the music of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic.  Rather than focusing narrowly on a single island nation, the wider Caribbean focus is welcome, and as always, he writes elegantly and succinctly.  And the book includes a sleeve with full-length CD as well!  Music in the Hispanic Caribbean: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture, 2010, Oxford University Press.

Publisher’s description:

The Spanish-speaking islands of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic make up a relatively small region, but their musical and cultural traditions have had a dramatic, sweeping impact on the world. The first brief, stand-alone volume to explore the music of these three islands, Music in the Hispanic Caribbean provides a vibrant introduction to diverse musical styles including salsa, merengue, reggaeton, plena, Latin jazz, and the bolero.

Ethnomusicologist Robin Moore employs three themes in his survey of Hispanic Caribbean music:

  • The cultural legacy of the slave trade
  • The creolization of Caribbean musical styles
  • Diaspora, migration, and movement

Each theme lends itself to a discussion of the region’s traditional musical genres as well as its more contemporary forms. The author draws on his extensive regional fieldwork, offering accounts of local performances, interviews with key performers, and vivid illustrations.

A compelling, comprehensive review, Music in the Hispanic Caribbean is ideal for introductory undergraduate courses in world music or ethnomusicology and for upper-level courses on Caribbean and Latin American music and/or culture.

Packaged with a 70-minute CD containing musical examples, the text features numerous listening activities that actively engage students with the music. The companion website (www.oup.com/us/globalmusic) includes supplementary materials for instructors.

Timba in Drag: Alida Cervantes

art, By Ariana Hernandez-Reguant, Cultural production, Gender & sexuality 4 Comments »

It is not so common for heterosexual women to dress in drag, as men, and mock gender stereotypes.  Not in the Cuban context. That is not to say that macho men mannerisms are not the objects of jokes and comic skits, like The Pichy boys do -to just name one example among many;  (some of their videos, aired at Miami’s canal 41, are on youtube and are hilarious. But Alida Cervantes, a San Diego-based, Tijuana-native, painter and an MFA candidate at UCSD, has a discourse about it that goes beyond the mere mockery and seeks to expose male domination and subvert Cuban -and Latin- machismo.  She does not propose to transcend the biologies of gender nor their social value -hers is not a queer performance. What she seeks is to destabilize the cultural associations that are attached to the male-female opposition in Latin societies. Alida is intimately acquainted with Afro-Cuban culture, partly via her life partner Silfredo La O Vigo, who is a supporting character in her “El Puro” series, pa’ que luego no digan de los hombres cubanos. She directly confronts the expectations surrounding heterosexual and interracial erotic desires by performing the various characters that conform this gendered universe. She dresses in drag and impersonates timba stars who, in turn, have made a career out of  glorifying their hyper machismo. She also takes on the role of the sexually voracious woman demanded by the macho man.

Alida uses play back to perform some of their most popular dance numbers, which, at the same time, she makes into video pieces. Here are two examples. In the first, she is performing Manolito y su Trabuco’s Te Dejo Libre, a song about a woman who, left by the man, will remain a spinster. In the second video, she performs all the characters, male and female, in a song by NG La Banda.

Ultimate Chivichana – Cuba on Red Bull wheels!

By Ariana Hernandez-Reguant, Consumption & material culture, Cultural production, News and Views, Sport, traditions and folklore, youth cultures 2 Comments »

Since 2004, Red Bull has been sponsoring in Cuba ultimate sports on wheels. They first built a skating park in the Parque Almendares, with ramps for skate boarding, and this year they have taken to convert a quintessential guajiro activity into an ultimate sport, what we might call “Ultimate Chivichana”!  A Chivichana competition just took place the day before yesterday in Playas del Este, and some pics were sent via cable to various papers [thanks AA].

Red Bull, as you know, is an Austrian maker of power drinks, whose marketing strategy revolves around the sponsorship of ultimate sports. Here’s their Cuba promo:

And here is a video of a June 2010 Chivichana competition that took place in Paseo de Cojímar, in Havana. Watch the home-made board devices because you will soon see them in museums. The chivichanas are going to go the way of the surf boards, new materials, new designs… can’t wait!

For comparison purposes, you might want to watch Cuban filmmaker Waldo Ramírez‘s documentary La Chivichana on the use of this “thing” as a mode of transportation in Oriente. The video won a Coral award in 2000.

Cuba Haiti: Musical Dialogues (II). Martha Jean-Claude

By Ariana Hernandez-Reguant, Cuba Haiti, Cultural production, music No Comments »

Martha Jean-Claude was a Haitian singer who moved to Cuba in 1952, fleeing persecution from the Magloire government. She married a Cuban, journalist Victor Mirabal, had four children with him, and developed a career in the Havana of the 1950s, appearing in radio, television and nightclubs. She joined the Revolution and continued to perform her brand of political song. She often toured internationally, including to war-torn Angola, on behalf of the Revolution and along with other Cuban musicians, always speaking up against the Duvalier regime.  She finally returned to Haiti in 1986, after the fall of Duvalier, and died in 2001 at the age of 83.

While in Cuba, she starred in Humberto Solás’ 1974 film Simparele, a 30 minute documentary re-enactment of Haitian history- which  Solás described in an interview with Julienne Burton (currently at UC-Santa Cruz), as an experimental and “interpretive documentary about the history of the people’s struggle in Haiti.” A good review of the film was published in Jump Cut in its december 1978 issue.

(If somebody has a copy of it or knows how to get one, please send it my way)

Here is the first minute of the film, which I found on Youtube.

Over the years, she performed with many Cuban musicians, like singer Celia Cruz (before the Revolution) and pianist Guillermo Rubalcava,  and shared the stage with many more, often Nueva Trova musicians like Noel Nicola, Sara Gonzalez and Pedro Luis Ferrer. In Cuba, she recorded several LPs, including:

1956 “Canciones de Haiti” (Songs of Haiti), GEMA. Havana, Cuba.

1969 “Canto Popular de Haiti” (EGREM- re-released in Mexico under license by Discos Pentagrama).  *[click here to download it].

1971 “Yo soy la cancion de Haiti” (I am Haiti’s song)

1972 “Martha canta a los niños” (Martha sings to the children). EGREM.

1975 “Agoe”, EGREM/Areito. Havana, Cuba

1993 “Mujer de dos islas” (Woman of two islands). SIBONEY, SANTIAGO.

But Martha Jean-Claude was not only a singer, but an accomplished composer. One of her most important compositions was in the repertoire of the Orquesta Aragon: C’est la vie mon cher (click on the title to hear part of it).

Here she is in 1952 in a duette with Celia Cruz (audio only): “Choucoune” (Haitian merengue)

(Thanks to Radio Cuba Canta for this link)

Cuban Poster Art

By Ariana Hernandez-Reguant, Cultural production 2 Comments »

In preparing a lecture on Leninist propaganda (part of an intro course on the social uses of the media that proceeds historically), I searched for Soviet posters and ended up indulging my weakness for Cuban matters.

On the subject of Cuban posters, a good place to start is the book written by Bay area native and UC-Berkeley librarian Lincoln Cushing. Revolution! Cuban Poster Art (Chronicle Books 2003). The book contains informational text to accompany the high quality reproductions and so far my Cuban film course undergraduates have very much enjoyed it. Cushing also has a webpage with many images, information and links called Doc Populi. Another recent book, limited to film posters, is the bilingual Spanish-English “El Cartel de Cine Cubano, 1961-2004,” recently published in Madrid, and sold at the outrageous price of $150. Cuba’s ICAIC has also published over the years a number of books devoted to the subject of film posters. Casa de las Americas, in turn, recently hosted a comprehensive exhibit on 20th century Cuban graphic design.

On the web, a good private collection with excellent images is “The Chairman Smiles” of the International Institute of Social History, located in the Netherlands. Their collection includes, in addition to Cuban materials, Soviet and Chinese political posters. Their site has a very good bibliography (on propaganda in general, and specific to Soviet, Chinese and Cuban poster art), and good links.

The Cuban Organization for Solidarity with the People of Asia, Africa and Latin America (OSPAAL) was a major producer of these posters within Cuba. Their webpage reproduces many of theirs spanning several decades. They also have both old and new reproductions for sale.

Finally, also in English, there is a British blog, associated with the Dulwich Poster Gallery collection, called Cuban Posters. It is a very informative blog, with up to date postings and information.

You can see a sample of Cuban political posters on this video (shown to very dramatic music!):

And below is an interview with designer René Azcuy about the making of his famous poster “Besos Robados”, made in 1970 to accompany the release of Truffeau’s Stolen Kisses film in Cuba.

(Thanks to Jorge Mata for this link)

Finally, if you are in the New York area, you might want to visit the exhibit held at the Center for Cuban Studies in March-April 2010, featuring about a hundred Cuban posters:

Los Rumbos de la Rumba

By Ariana Hernandez-Reguant, Cultural production, Images, Religion No Comments »

rumbos

Berta Jottar’s (Williams College, Latino Studies) newly released CD-Rom “Los Rumbos de la Rumba” has been followed by rave reviews in the specialized press and has been selected as editor’s pick in the prestigious Descarga website:

The Routes of Rumba stand out from the rest is that it is a “concept album” that takes the listener through the entire rumba experience, from the emotional to the physical, from the sacred to the profane. (…) Berta Jottar, PhD. Dr. Jottar, who is a professor of Latino/a Studies at Williams College, asked Pedrito and Román to interpret rumba’s deep conceptual elements, tracing an arc from Africa to Havana to NYC and beyond, with each track clearly dedicated to different “psychic spaces” in the Diaspora.

I recommend you browse through the CD’s official website, as well as through Berta’s interactive webpage on rumba.

Berta’s latest article on the rumba guarapachanguera in Central Park was published last summer in the Latin American Music Review. The complete citation is:
The Acoustic Body: Rumba Guarapachanguera and Abakuá Sociality in Central Park
Latin American Music Review – Volume 30, Number 1, Spring/Summer 2009, pp. 1-24

Ariana Hernández-Reguant’s “Copyrighting Che” in The Anthropology of Globalization

By Paul Ryer, Cultural production, Globalization, new chapter/edited volume 1 Comment »

140513612xNote Ariana Hernández-Reguant’s article “Copyrighting Che: Art and Authorship under Cuban Late Socialism” in The Anthropology of Globalization: A Reader, 2nd Edition, Wiley-Blackwell, 2007.

New Book: CHE’S AFTERLIFE

By Ariana Hernandez-Reguant, Cultural production, Globalization, new book 1 Comment »

Che’s Afterlife. The Legacy of an Image. By Michael Casey Random House (forthcoming April 15th)

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I was interviewed by the author at one point. It sounds like the book might be useful for undergraduate classes on globalization, cultural circulation and the like. I copy the following from the book’s marketing webpage.

<<Part travelogue, part historical documentary, part social commentary, Che’s Afterlife traces the Korda image’s passage from casual snapshot to international symbol of rebellion as it evolves inexorably into a copyright-contested brand stamped on everything from T-shirts to condoms. With an eye for detail and for the forgotten moments of history that are all but lost on the cutting room floors of photography studios and newsrooms, Casey unravels the myths behind the image – not so much as an iconoclast unveiling an elusive truth but as a probing investigator who is mapping the icon’s DNA. As he follows it across the Americas and through cyberspace, he shows us why, after so many years, the mercurial Che icon still ignites passions, and then presents the image as a reflection on how we view ourselves. Che’s Afterlife is a unique, insightful commentary on the global capitalist economy and our information age, one that demonstrates the supremacy of images and brands within that system.>>

50 years of Revolution. Special Issues and Recent Ethnographies

Consumption & material culture, Cultural production, daily life, Gender & sexuality, Globalization, greater Cuba, Health, History, media, Miami, music, new article, new chapter/edited volume, Race, Religion, Sport, Tourism No Comments »

Journal of Latin American Studies

Latin American Perspectives

In addition you might want to check out the following recent publications:

* By Ruth Behar and Lucia Suárez, an edited volume: THE PORTABLE ISLAND: Cubans at Home in the World.  Palgrave 2008.

* By Ivor Miller, a book: Voice of the Leopard: African Secret Societies and Cuba, University Press of Mississippi.

* By Ariana Hernandez-Reguant:

Special guest edited issue of the Journal of Latin American Anthropology, including introduction (“Alternative Geographies”), and articles by Laurie Frederik Meer, P. Sean Brotherton, Kenneth Routon, and Helen Safa.

“Radio Taino and the Cuban Quest for Identi…que?“, in Doris Sommer’s Cultural Agency in the Americas, Duke University Press, 2006.

“Havana’s Timba. A Macho Sound for Black Sex.” In Deborah Thomas and Kamari Clarke. Globalization and Race. Duke University Press, 2006.

* By Kenneth Routon. “Conjuring the past: Slavery and the historical imagination in Cuba.”  American Ethnologist (p 632-649), Volume 35 Issue 4

* By Laurie Frederik MeerPlayback Theatre in Cuba: the Politics of Improvisation and Free Expression,” in The Drama Review, Winter 2007, Vol. 51, No. 4, Pages 106-120

* By P. Sean Brotherton.  “We have to think like capitalists but continue being socialists”: Medicalized subjectivities, emergent capital, and socialist entrepreneurs in post-Soviet Cuba.  American Ethnologist, Vol. 35, Issue 2, pp. 259-274.  June 2008.

* By Mette Berg:

Between Cosmopolitanism and the National Slot: Cuba’s Diasporic Children of the Revolution, Identities (vol. 16, issue 2), Pages 129 – 156.

“Homeland and belonging among Cubans in Spain.”  Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology, Vol. 14 no. 2, (pp. 265-290)

* By Katrin Hansing, (2009). “South-South Migration and Transnational Ties between Cuba and Mozambique,” in Transnational Ties: Cities, Migrations, and Identities. M. P. Smith and J. Eade. New Brunswick, Transaction Publishers: 77-90.

* Even if you are already familiar with Todd Ramón Ochoa‘s article, “Versions of the Dead: Kalunga in Cuban Kongo Materiality,” in Cultural Anthropology Vol. 22, No. 4, November 2007, you should check out this link from C.A., which includes study questions and an embedded video clip.

*By Kristina Wirtz:

Her book is entitled Ritual, Discourse, and Community in Cuban Santería: Speaking a Sacred World University Press of Florida, 2007.  (only on hard cover).

See reviews: McIntosh, Janet. “(Book Review) Ritual, Discourse, and Community in Cuban Santería: Speaking a Sacred World. University of Florida Press, 2007.” by Kristina Wirtz. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology vol. 18(1) 2009: 163-4. And a review byElina Hartikainen (citation only, full-text not available), in the Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology, Volume 13, Number 2, November 2008 , pp. 461-462(2). Also, here is another link to a review (again, citation only) by Paul Christopher Johnson in the Journal of Anthropological Research, vol. 64, no. 4.  If you know of other reviews, or have your own comments, please take a moment to leave an update or comment!

Kristina Wirtz, “Hazardous waste: the semiotics of ritual hygiene in Cuban popular religion,” in JRAI vol. 15, pp. 476-501, 2009.

Kristina Wirtz:  “Divining The Past: The linguistic reconstruction of “African” roots in diasporic ritual registers and songs,” in Journal of Religion in Africa Special Issue: “African diasporic religions.”  27(2): 240-272, 2007.  Introduced by Stephan Palmié.

Wirtz, K. (2007) Deep language and diasporic culture: Learning to speak the ‘tongue of the orichas’ in Cuban Santería. American Ethnologist 34(1): 108-126.  Her abstract:

“Enregistered memory and Afro-Cuban historicity in Santería’s ritual speech,” in Language & Communication special issue: “Temporalities of Text.” 27(3), 2007.

Finally, check out two related pieces by Wirtz, “Introduction: Ritual Unintelligibility” (pp. 401-407. Read introduction) and “Making sense of unintelligible messages: Co-construction of meaning in Santería rituals,” (435-462. Abstract) in a special issue of the journal Text & Talk on “Ritual Unintelligibility,” 27(4), 2007.

* By Tom Carter

(1)  “New Rules to the Old Game: Cuban Sport and State Legitimacy in the Post-Soviet Era,” in Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. 15 (2): 194-215, 2008.

(2)“Pitén en la Plaza: Some preliminary considerations on spatializing culture in Cuba” in Image, Power and Space: Studies in Consumption and Identity. Alan Tomlinson and Jonathan M. Woodham (eds). Aachen: Meyer & Meyer. Pp. 97-112.

(3)  “Of Spectacular Phantasmal Desires: Tourism and the Cuban State’s Complicity in its Commodification of its Citizens,” in Leisure Studies. 27 (3): 241-257, 2008.

(4) “Family Networks, State Interventions and the Experiences of Cuban Transnational Sport Migration,” in International Review of the Sociology of Sport. 42 (4): 371-389, (2007).

(5) “A Relaxed State of Affairs?: On Leisure, Tourism, and Cuban Identity” in The Discipline of Leisure: Embodying Cultures of “Recreation”. Simon Coleman and Tamara Kohn (eds). Oxford: Berghahn, pp. 127-145 (2007).

* By Martin Holbraad:

Definitive evidence, from Cuban gods,” in the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, special issue The Objects of Evidence,vol. 14, issue s1, April 2008. Based on evidence collected during fieldwork among practitioners of Afro-Cuban religion in Havana, this paper seeks ‘recursively’ to redefine the notion of anthropological evidence itself. It does so by examining ethnographically practitioners’ concern with the ‘evidence’ deities give (e.g. successful divinations, divine cures, etc.), by virtue of which people’s relationships with deities are cemented. To the extent that this indigenous concept of evidence is different from notions of evidence anthropologists take for granted in their own work, it occasions the opportunity to transform those very assumptions. But such a procedure is itself evidential – pertaining to the relationship between ethnography and theory. The paper sets out the virtues, both ethnographic and theoretical, of this circularity.

Thinking Through Things: Theorising Artefacts Ethnographically, ed. by Amiria Henare, Martin Holbraad and Sari Wastell.  Routledge 2007.  The volume, as well as this exchange about the book between Martin Holbraad and Daniel Miller, is surely of general interest to those of us with an interest in consumption, goods, and so-called material culture.  Additionally, Holbraad’s chapter, “The Power of Powder: Multiplicity and Motion in the Divinatory Cosmology of Cuban Ifá (or mana, again)” also ought to be of interest for many ethnocuba readers. The book is also reviewed at Savage Minds, here.

Roulette anthropology: the whole beyond holism,” in Journal of the Finnish Anthropological Society, 32 (2). pp. 29-47 (2007). The paper builds an argument about holism in anthropological theory by drawing an ethnographic contrast between divination and gambling in Cuba.  Outlining the contrasting modes of prediction in each case, it is shown that while diviners’ predictions draw on cosmological models of the world, gamblers’ seek to source the cosmos itself.  Their concern with going beyond cosmology is bound up with their orientation (obsessive sometimes) towards what they call ‘cábalas’ – attention-grabbing coincidences of everyday life.  A similar contrast can be drawn with regard to anthropological notions of ‘holism’.  Available versions of holism are ‘cosmological’ inasmuch as they pertain to the role of models in anthropology.  Nevertheless, anthropologists too are as concerned with accessing the cosmos, allowing ‘the field’ to speak for itself in ethnography.  Like the gamblers (and unlike colleagues in more disciplined disciplines), anthropologists find that it is only when they stop reasoning in terms of pre-conceived cosmologies that worlds begin to reveal themselves as such.  So anthropology goes beyond holism by becoming more holistic than it already thinks it is: from cosmology to the cosmos.  It is oriented towards the underbelly of reason par excellence, ventriloquising itself into the cosmos at ‘ethnographic moments’ – coincidences – that can only register as ‘alterity’.  So a defence of radical ‘holism’, it is argued, is also a defence of a radical ‘exoticism’.

Expending Multiplicity: Money in Cuban Ifá Cults,” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute vol. 11 (2), pp. 231-254.  2005.

* By Maria Gropas

“Landscape, Revolution and Property Regimes in Rural Havana,” 2006. Journal of Peasant Studies, vol. 33 issue 2, pp. 248-277

The Repatriotization of Revolutionary Ideology and Mnemonic Landscape in Present-Day Havana,”  in Current Anthropology 48 (4), 2007. Includes commentaries by Virginia R. Domíguez, Nadine Fernandez, Martin Hall, Martin Holbraad, and Mona Rosendahl, as well as a reply by the author.  The conversation has an amplified on-line version, with additional color images, here.
*By Matthew Hill, “Re-Imagining Old Havana: World Heritage and the Production of Scale in Late Socialist Cuba” in Deciphering The Global: Its Scales, Spaces and Subjects, ed. by Saskia Sassen (2007).
* By Miguel de la Torre. 2003. La Lucha for Cuba: Religion and Politics on the Streets of Miami, University of California Press, by Miguel A. De La Torre. Reviewed Here by Laurie Frederik Meer’s in e-misférica.
* By Amalia Cabezas.  “The Eroticization of Labor in Cuba’s All-Inclusive Resorts: Performing Race, Class and Gender in the New Tourist Economy,” in Social Identities, Volume 12, Issue 5 September 2006 , pages 507 – 521.

* By Amy L. Porter, “Fleeting Dreams and Flowing Goods: Citizenship and Consumption in Havana Cuba” in PoLAR vol. 31, no. 1, pp. 134-149.  May 2008.
* By Noelle Stout.Feminists, Queers and Critics: Debating the Cuban Sex Trade,” in the Journal of Latin American Studies, vol 40, pp. 721-742 (2008).
* By Rogelio Martínez Furé. 2007. Eshu (oriki a mi mismo)  y otras descargas.
* By Valerio Simoni, “‘Riding’ Diversity: Cubans’/Jineteros‘ Uses of ‘Nationality-talks’ in the Realm of their Informal Encounters with Tourists” in Tourism Development: Growth, Myths and Inequalities, ed. by Peter M. Burns & Marina Novelli, CAB International, 2008, pp. 68-84.

Cuba in the Special Period

Cultural production, new book 2 Comments »

New edited collection:

Cuba in the Special Period. Culture and Ideology in the 1990s

Edited by Ariana Hernandez-Reguant

PALGRAVE MACMILLAN. New Concepts in Latino American Cultures 240 pp. / 0-230-60654-7 / $74.95 cl. · 20% DISCOUNT ORDER FORM (Promo Code: P356ED)

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The book features contributions by anthropologists, literary, film and art scholars, and musicologists who frame the developments in Cuban arts, culture and ideological production in the island within the post-Soviet geopolitical landscape of the 1990s. A substantial introduction provides a complete overview of the cultural dynamics of the period.

Table of contents:

Writing the Special Period: An Introduction–Ariana Hernandez-Reguant * PART I: FOREIGN COMMERCE * Truths and Fictions: The Economics of Writing, 1994-1999–Esther Whitfield * Filmmaking with Foreigners–Cristina Venegas * Spiritual Capital: Foreign Patronage and the Trafficking of Santería–Kevin M. Delgado * PART II: PLURAL NATION * Multicubanidad–Ariana Hernandez-Reguant * Preemptive Nostalgia and La Batalla for Cuban Identity: Option Zero Theater–Laurie Frederik * Wandering in Russian–Jacqueline Loss * The Letter of the Year and the Prophetics of Revolution–Kenneth Routon * PART III: TRANSNATIONAL PUBLICS * El Rap Cubano: Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop the Movement!–Roberto Zurbano Translated by Kate Levitt * Audiovisual Remittances and Transnational Subjectivities–Lisa Maya Knauer * Ending the Century with Memories . . . : Paper Money, Videos, and an X-Acto Knife for Cuban Art–Antonio Eligio Fernández, Tonel.

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