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Wizards and Scientists : Explorations in Afro-cuban Modernity and Tradition (02 Edition)by Stephan Palmie
Synopses & ReviewsPlease note that used books may not include additional media (study guides, CDs, DVDs, solutions manuals, etc.) as described in the publisher comments.
In Wizards and Scientists Stephan Palmié offers a corrective to the existing historiography on the Caribbean. Focusing on developments in Afro-Cuban religious culture, he demonstrates that traditional Caribbean cultural practices are part and parcel of the same history that produced modernity and that both represent complexly interrelated hybrid formations. Palmié argues that the standard narrative trajectory from tradition to modernity, and from passion to reason, is a violation of the synergistic processes through which historically specific, moral communities develop the cultural forms that integrate them.
Highlighting the ways that Afro-Cuban discourses serve as a means of moral analysis of social action, Palmié suggests that the supposedly irrational premises of Afro-Cuban religious traditions not only rival Western rationality in analytical acumen but are integrally linked to rationality itself. Afro-Cuban religion is as “modern” as nuclear thermodynamics, he claims, just as the Caribbean might be regarded as one of the world’s first truly “modern” locales: based on the appropriation and destruction of human bodies for profit, its plantation export economy anticipated the industrial revolution in the metropolis by more than a century. Working to prove that modernity is not just an aspect of the West, Palmié focuses on those whose physical abuse and intellectual denigration were the price paid for modernity’s achievement. All cultures influenced by the transcontinental Atlantic economy share a legacy of slave commerce. Nevertheless, local forms of moral imagination have developed distinctive yet interrelated responses to this violent past and the contradiction-ridden postcolonial present that can be analyzed as forms of historical and social analysis in their own right.
Questions the disciplinary assumptions of history and anthropology, and Western claims to “own” modernity, using Cuba and Afro-Cuban religion as a case study.
The present work articulates a very specific problematicandmdash;the ever-presence in Cuba of the figure of the authentic African, making appearances in restaurants, art galleries, folklore shows, everyday discourses, state propaganda, during Carnaval and, most interestingly, also in andldquo;actualandrdquo; spirit-possession performances. Wirtz argues that the figure of the traditional Afro-Cuban, typically characterized by a combination of rusticity, sincerity, and spirit-power, has a long pedigree, beginning in the time of Cervantes. She picks up the trope where it is launched in a particularly Spanish and then Cuban style, which emphasizes the force of the colonial process in the creation of even anti-colonial national narratives. After introducing key concepts of temporality, emplacement, memory, voicing, and imagery, Wirtz gives an account of the nature of race as a sign that is always in processandndash;a sign whose meaning shifts with context, even as racial categories are made to seem immutable. She then investigates how Blackness has become an essential marker of andldquo;folkandrdquo; performances in Cuba and how communities as well as the government mobilize folklore for local and national political purposes, paying careful attention to the tension between them. The result is something called andldquo;inclusionary exclusionandrdquo;andmdash;the strange situation of Cubaandrsquo;s national identity being tightly tethered to the very Africanness it tries so hard to distance itself from, as andldquo;the past.andrdquo; Wirtz also offers concluding thoughts on the future of Cuban racial politics as issues of racism finally seem to be receiving consideration in officially-sanctioned public discourse.and#160;
Over a lifetime of studying Cuban Santería and other religions related to Orisha worship—a practice also found among the Yoruba in West Africa—Stephan Palmié has grown progressively uneasy with the assumptions inherent in the very term Afro-Cuban religion. In The Cooking of History he provides a comprehensive analysis of these assumptions, in the process offering an incisive critique both of the anthropology of religion and of scholarship on the cultural history of the Afro-Atlantic World.
Understood largely through its rituals and ceremonies, Santería and related religions have been a challenge for anthropologists to link to a hypothetical African past. But, Palmié argues, precisely by relying on the notion of an aboriginal African past, and by claiming to authenticate these religions via their findings, anthropologists—some of whom have converted to these religions—have exerted considerable influence upon contemporary practices. Critiquing widespread and damaging simplifications that posit religious practices as stable and self-contained, Palmié calls for a drastic new approach that properly situates cultural origins within the complex social environments and scholarly fields in which they are investigated.
Visitors to Cuba will notice that Afro-Cuban figures and references are everywhere: in popular music and folklore shows, paintings and dolls of Santerand#237;a saints in airport shops, and even restaurants with plantation themes. In Performing Afro-Cuba, Kristina Wirtz examines how the animation of Cubaand#8217;s colonial past and African heritage through such figures and performances not only reflects but also shapes the Cuban experience of Blackness. She also investigates how this process operates at different spatial and temporal scalesand#151;from the immediate present to the imagined past, from the barrio to the socialist state.
Wirtz analyzes a variety of performances and the ways they construct Cuban racial and historical imaginations. She offers a sophisticated view of performance as enacting diverse revolutionary ideals, religious notions, and racial identity politics, and she outlines how these concepts play out in the ongoing institutionalization of folklore as an official, even state-sponsored, category. Employing Bakhtinand#8217;s concept of and#147;chronotopesand#8221;and#151;the semiotic construction of space-timeand#151;she examines the roles of voice, temporality, embodiment, imagery, and memory in the racializing process. The result is a deftly balanced study that marries racial studies, performance studies, anthropology, and semiotics to explore the nature of race as a cultural sign, one that is always in process, always shifting. and#160;
About the Author
Stephan Palmié is Assistant Professor of Caribbean History at the University of Maryland.
Table of Contents
1 Semiotics of Race and History
2 Image-inations of Blackness
3 Bodies in Motion: Routes of Blackness in the Carnivalesque
4 Voices: Chronotopic Registers and Historical Imagination in Cuban Folk Religious Rituals
5 Pride: Singing Black History in the Carabaland#237; Cabildos
6 Performance: State-Sponsored Folklore Spectacles of Blackness as History
7 Brutology: The Enregisterment of Bozal, from and#8220;Blackfaceand#8221; Theater to Spirit Possession
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