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American Ethnologist

Conjuring the past: Slavery and the historical imagination in Cuba

Authors

  • KENNETH ROUTON

    1. Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow Center for the Americas Wesleyan University 255 High St.Middletown, CT 06459 krouton@wesleyan.edu Visiting Assistant Professor Department of Sociology and Anthropology Christopher Newport University Newport News, VA 23606
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ABSTRACT

In this article, I examine the ritual mimesis of slavery in Cuban Palo Monte. Here, the past is not just a temporally situated arena in which to stake claims of identity and belonging but an invisible repository of material remains, objects, and substances whose magical capacities can be tapped to expand one's power to act on the world. My analysis not only addresses how marginalized ritual communities ingeniously defy those forces that conspire to silence the slave past and, thus, reduce the world's first system of globalization to a historical phantom. I also pay particular attention to how recent efforts by scholars, nation-states, and international aid organizations attempting to reverse this silence engender their own politics of memory that either ignore or seriously distort how local groups “represent the ghost.”[ritual, historical memory, slavery, fetishism, Cuba]

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