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“1.5 generation” African-Cubans

By Paul Ryer, Ethnographic film, greater Cuba, new article, Space & Place No Comments »

As some of you know, a handful of scholars–including Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, Aisha Nibbe, Alissa Bernstein, Carol Berger, Sabine Lehr and myself–have been writing about the lives of Cuban-educated international students.  While most of us are ethnographers and anthropologists, because we have encountered these students in a wide range of contexts–anywhere from urban Cuba to refugee camps in the Sahara to rural Alberta–the work has not thus far been taken to represent or constitute a coherent or interrelated field of study.  Nor is it, generally speaking, considered to be within the purview of Cuban or Cuban diasporic studies.  In this post, building on some of my published or in-press work, I want to propose that the lives and experiences of Cuban-educated students pose interesting and worthwhile challenges to the commonsense understanding of Cubanness.  Or more specifically, to hyphenated Cubanness, since Cuban-educated students do not generally claim to be “Cuban” so much as something else–Cuban-Saharan, Cuban-Ghanaian, Cuban-Sudanese, etc–and have commonly been motivated to neologize their own identities, as “Cuban-Jubans,” “ESBECANOS,” “Cubarauis,” or the like.  These are people from among the tens of thousands of African and international students who have spend a decade or more–often half their lives–living, studying, and working in Cuba.  Having arrived to Cuba as adolescents, and having been thrown wholesale into a new language, culture, and environment, arguably these students constitute a 1.5 generation, but in reverse, as immigrants to Cuba, not emigrants.  One of these small and dispersed groups, the Cuban-educated students of the Western Sahara, has become the subject of a series of documentary films.  Directed by Spaniards for particular audiences, as described by both Fiddian-Qasmiyeh and myself, despite their obvious ideological biases, I believe that these films are richly provocative to think with, for those of us interested in Cuban identity, diaspora, home, and belonging.  Here is the trailer for the most recent documentary, El Maestro Saharaui (2011), directed by Nicolás Muñoz:

Maestro Saharaui image

(Complete Spanish-language and English subtitled streaming versions of El Maestro Saharaui (Muñoz 2011) are available for a small fee HERE). 

Now known to themselves and their saharaui (Saharan) kin as “cubarawis” or “cubarauis,” online, on facebook, on twitter and elsewhere, these former students are the principle authors, bloggers, dancers and poets of their distinctive experience, as well as documentary subjects.  See, for instance, this blog http://elporvenirdelsahara.blogspot.com , and click here for some  “salsa saharaui.”

Of the other “cubaraui” documentaries, Las Cubarauis (Márquez 2005) is most difficult to obtain; a portion of the film is available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oadqsTU7xJA .  However, the full-length version of Caribeños del Sáhara (Pérez 2007),  is available at: http://vimeo.com/11813252. , and a shorter version, Caribeños del Desierto (Pérez and Galdeano 2008) is available at: http://video.google.es/videoplay?docid=7949630530407106225&hl=es.

 

In any case, although we have had so much spam that we were forced to deactivate comments some time ago, I would love to hear the thoughts of colleagues about these documentaries, about Cuban-educated students, or about the work outlined above.

 

Paul

 

Transforming Anthropology and J. of Iberian & Latin American Research special issues on Cuba

By Paul Ryer, new article No Comments »

For those who missed it, in 2008 Transforming Anthropology: Journal of the Association of Black Anthropologists had a two-part special issue on Cuba, vol. 16 no. 1 (April 2008) and no. 2 (October 2008).  There are a total of eight short articles by colleagues like Marc Perry, Kaifa Roland, Andrea Queeley, and Amelia Rosenberg Weinreb (click in the links provided for full table of contents).

In December 2009, the Australia-based Journal of Iberian and Latin American Research published a special issue, vol. 15 no. 2, “Cuba Today: 50 Years On,” which included articles by anthropologists Thomas Carter and Adrian Hearn.  Note that this journal can be difficult to find; not only was it formerly known as the Journal of Iberian and Latin American Studies, but vol. 15.2 was also the last issue before the journal moved to a new home with the Taylor & Francis group of Routledge. Full Table of Contents after the jump:

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New Article on Cuban Kongo Culture

new article, Religion No Comments »

By Todd Ramon Ochoa in: Cultural Anthropology Vol. 25, # 3, pp. 387–420, Aug. 2010

ABSTRACT. In “Prendas-Ngangas-Enquisos: Turbulence and the Influence of the Dead in Cuban Kongo Material Culture,” Todd Ramón Ochoa queries the ontological status of complex “agglomerations of the dead that take the shapes of urns and iron cauldrons stuffed with healing and harming substances” called “prendas,” “ngangas,” and/or “enquisos,” and their role in Cuban Kongo affliction practices. The article includes a deep historical analysis of the negotiation of value in  nineteenth-century Cuban slavery and manumission, considered alongside what is known about pawn slavery among BaKongo people prior to and during the slave trade. Ochoa outlines the difficulties to explain prendas-ngangas-enquisos, most frequently considered as “fetish objects”  and points at “the influence generated in prendas-ngangas-enquisos as a problem for Euro-American materialism.”

Anna Pertierra, an anthropologist that warms your heart

bibliography, By Paul Ryer, Consumption & material culture, daily life, new article No Comments »

Impressive as the varied, proliferating scholarship on contemporary Cuba is, it is rare that I’ve found a piece as much of a page-turner, as provocative, personally risky, and so true to the experience of doing ethnography as this article, “Anthropology that warms your heart: on being a bride in the field,” by Anna Cristina Pertierra.  (Anthropology Matters Journal 2007, vol. 9 (1)).  As well as getting us thinking and talking about local (Cuban) entanglements, it could make an interesting starting point for a class on methods and ethics.  Thanks to Anna Cristina for writing and sharing this piece, which I find hard to classify; in some ways, in the mode of Behar’s Vulnerable Observer, but in other ways, not at all… The article is to be reprinted in a forthcoming Caribbean Studies Press volume (with other Cuba-related pieces as well), Field Identities in the Caribbean, ed. by Erin Taylor.

Other writings by Anna Pertierra include: “Creating order through struggle  in revolutionary Cuba.”In Anthropology and the Individual: A Material Culture Perspective, (Daniel Miller, ed) Macmillan 2010. “Private pleasures: Watching videos in post-Soviet Cuba,” International Journal of Cultural Studies, Vol 12, no. 2, pp. 113-130. This article traces circuits of distribution and consumption of videocassette recorders (VCRs) and videocassettes in Cuba, which until April 2008 were not available for retail sale, and were usually sourced through black market or informal means. Inventar: Recent Struggles and Inventions in Housing in Two Cuban Cities,” by Patricio del Real and Anna Cristina Pertierra, in Buildings & Landscapes, vol. 15 (Fall, 2008).  And “En Casa: Women and Households in Post-Soviet Cuba,” in the Journal of Latin American Studies (2008), 40:743-767. This paper argues that the household has become a renewed space of significance for Cuban women in the post-Soviet period. It draws from existing scholarship and ethnographic fieldwork conducted with women in the city of Santiago de Cuba to discuss the effect of post-Soviet crisis and reform upon women’s domestic practices, the management of domestic economies, and longstanding gender ideals that link women to the domestic sphere.

VQR, “Fidel’s Cuba,” special issue, winter 2009

new article 2 Comments »

VQR_2009Here is a general interest journal special issue on Cuba, with a range of articles: Virginia Quarterly Review, Winter 2009.  Much of it will be old hat to specialists, but in case you have not seen the issue, it’s worth a look at the table of contents at least, especially if you’re looking for up-to-date accessible readings for undergraduates.

Adriana Premat on Havana’s Urban Agriculture

By Paul Ryer, new article, Space & Place No Comments »

Just out this week is “State Power, Private Plots and the Greening of Havana’s Urban Agriculture Movement,” by Adriana Premat, in City & Society, vol. 21, issue 1, pp. 28-57.

Abstract:

Drawing on ethnographic research conducted over a decade from 1997 to 2007 in Havana, Cuba, this paper applies Henri Lefebvre’s insights on the social production of space to the processes involved in the creation of officially-sanctioned sustainable urban agriculture sites. Without denying the important function of the state in these processes, this paper highlights the significant role played by a range of non-state actors, and interests, largely left out from most scholarly accounts of Cuba’s recent agricultural developments. In this manner, the paper offers a more refined understanding of the influence and the limits of the Cuban state at the current historical juncture.


On Sex and Tourism. Amalia Cabezas and Jafari S. Allen

Gender & sexuality, new article, new book, Tourism No Comments »

cabezas-economies-of-desire-cover1Just out by Amalia Cabezas, here is Economies of Desire: Sex and Tourism in Cuba and the Dominican Republic.  Temple University Press, Philadelphia, 2009.  Having just taught Marc Padilla’s Caribbean Pleasure Industry: Tourism, Sexuality and AIDS in the Dominican Republic, I am looking forward to adding this to my summer reading list, and to thinking more broadly about Cuba’s entanglement in Caribbean currents.

And here is a link to Jafari Sinclaire Allen’s article, “Means of desire’s production: Male sex labor in Cuba,” in Identities 14 (1): 183-202.  This is an ethnographically grounded article which places male Cuban sex work in wider perspective–I am about to teach Marc Padilla’s book on male sex work in the Dominican Republic, for which this article ought to provide a cogent counterpoint.  It also presents a more in-depth perspective on the topic than Hodge’s shorter 2001 NACLA article.  I do wish that people working on male sex work in Cuba would reference the doctoral dissertation of David Forrest, Bichos, Maricones and Pingueros: an ethnographic study of “maleness” and “scarcity” in contemporary Socialist Cuba. (1999).  SOAS (Anthropology). London, University of London.  David and I overlapped in Havana for some months.  I believe he has left the (British) academy, unfortunately, and this is probably why his work has remained so rarely cited.  In any case, not only is David a mensh, but he took his work seriously and the dissertation is full of interesting material even though he was limited to less than a year of field research.  If anyone is looking for it, let me know if you’re having difficulty finding a copy.

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.
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