Navigation – Plan du site

Ethnography and Religious Anthropology of Cuba: Historical and Bibliographical Landmarks

La etnografía y la antropología religiosa de Cuba: puntos de referencia históricos y bibliografícos
Emma Gobin et Géraldine Morel
Cet article est une traduction de :
L’ethnographie et l’anthropologie religieuses de Cuba : repères historiques et bibliographiques

Résumés

The development that Cuban studies are undergoing today, particularly the ethnographic study of religious practices usually characterised as “of African origin”, is no coincidence. This introductory paper offers an overview of the socio-historical conditions that have favoured this renaissance, placing them in the Cuban ideological and political context. In order to establish a few reference points in a field of research that has become particularly dynamic, it also outlines some important trends in the scholarship on Cuban religions and briefly lists and comments on recent studies. Whether produced in Europe, the United-States or Cuba itself, these works often attest to distinct orientations which this introduction broadly touches upon before delving into the main features of the ‘Afro-Cuban’ religious field and the research themes emerging from this collection, which also reflect some important approaches of contemporary anthropology of religion.

Haut de page

Texte intégral

  • 1 While the papers that follow are in French and Spanish, it seemed to us a good idea to include this (...)

1This collection of essays is the result of a call for papers entitled ‘Emerging anthropologies of Cuba’. Initially launched by Valerio Simoni (University of Leeds) and Géraldine Morel (Université de Neuchâtel), the call was aimed at a network of ‘young researchers’, foreigners as well as Cubans, who mostly met in Cuba during scientific events and/or fieldwork. Of the fifteen contributions received, nearly half dealt with the topic of ‘Afro-Cuban religions’ and had been submitted by researchers from European universities. It therefore made sense to present these papers in a dedicated collection. While the recent development of Cuban religious studies in Europe can be seen in the context of a broader resurgence of Afro-American studies (Palmié, 2005; Capone, 2007), it is also closely linked to a combination of national factors specific to Cuba. Indeed, it is no coincidence that ethnographic research in this country, particularly on the topic of religion, has increased significantly in recent years. In this introductory paper, we present an overview of the socio-historical conditions that have favoured this renaissance, placing them in the Cuban political and ideological context. In order to create a few bibliographical reference points in an increasingly dynamic field of research, we will also attempt to outline some important trends in the scholarship on Cuban religions and summarize some recent works. Whether produced in Europe, the United States or Cuba itself, these studies often attest to distinct orientations which we will broadly touch upon before delving into the main features of the contemporary ‘Afro-Cuban’ religious field and the research themes emerging from the articles in this collection.1

1959 and 1991: two historic markers for Cuban and foreign research

  • 2 Among a few standard references in French and English, see Levesque, 1976; Kirk, 1985; Moore, 1988; (...)
  • 3 The widely publicised expulsion of O. Lewis and his team—who had initially obtained the agreement o (...)

2To understand Cuba’s contemporary history in all spheres, including the development of national and foreign research on this country and, a fortiori, the changing status of local religious practices, two dates are of great importance: the first is obviously 1959, which saw the advent of the Castrist Revolution with all its promises and hopes; the second is 1991, which marked the beginning of the notorious ‘Special Period in Peacetime’—i.e. the enduring time of crisis and depression following the demise of the USSR (Cuba’s major economic partner for decades), from which the country has barely recovered. In the period between these two major events, research in and on Cuba remained largely the preserve of national social scientists. Studies developed in Europe and North America in the meantime were mainly restricted to the fields of Cuban politics, economics or history,2 and understandably so. A handful of foreign anthropologists with a particular interest in religious studies had visited Cuba from time to time before 1959: W. Bascom (1950, 1952, 1953) conducted field studies around Havana in the 1940s; A. Métraux and P. Verger (1994) had also travelled to the island, compelled by comparative curiosity and at the invitation of Cuban fellow ethnographer Lydia Cabrera. However, after the Revolution and in the context of the Cold War, foreign and particularly Western scholars soon found it impossible to conduct fieldwork in Cuba, with a few notable exceptions (see for example Dumont, 1964 or Lewis et. al., 1977-1978).3

  • 4 The full history of these institutions is too complex to be included in this introduction, but the (...)
  • 5 This choice was also partially linked to Unesco programmes focused on the “African presence” in the (...)
  • 6 S.T. Díaz Fabelo (1967, 1969, 1970) was a particularly prolific author who has unfortunately remain (...)

3The new Castrist government aimed to direct and manage the gathering of empirical data and the production of scientific knowledge, which were considered necessary pillars of the Revolutionary (re)construction of Cuba. Research was then entrusted to national researchers (folklorists, ethnologists, musicologists and, to some extent, historians) who joined scientific and/or cultural State-run institutions created by the Revolution.4 They were assigned a variety of tasks responding to overt and sometimes paradoxical ideological concerns. In particular, they were expected to participate in the construction of a unique, unified national identity, to promote cultures that were previously considered subaltern but were now being reclaimed as constituent parts of the country’s non-European identity, as well as to identify and study practices and beliefs considered harmful to the socialist project, so that they could later be eradicated. In this context, maintaining relative continuity with the pre-Revolutionary writings of ‘founding fathers’ such as F. Ortiz ([1906] 1995, [1951] 1981), R. Lachatañeré ([1943-1949] 1992) or L. Cabrera (1954), a former figure of ‘Afro-Cubanist’ artistic movement, one of the first broad areas to be given attention was that of ‘Afro-Cuban’ religion, also referred to as religions ‘of African origin’.5 Before new research priorities were prescribed, numerous articles were published in national scientific journals, exploring and documenting general characteristics of local religions (theological, morphological and mythological aspects, hierarchies and social organisation, iconography and liturgical vocabulary etc., see Actas del Folklore, 1961, nos. 1-12; Etnología y Folklore, 1966-1969, nos. 1-9). A few full-length works—sometimes overlooked by later scholars because of their limited distribution—were also published, such as those of J. Luciano Franco (1959; 1961) and S.T. Díaz Fabelo (1960).6

  • 7 See for instance the re-publication of R. López Valdés’s texts (1985), most of which date back to t (...)
  • 8 For the first articles in scientific journals, see for example Sandoval, 1979; Martínez and Wetli, (...)

4Over the course of the 1970s, the ‘Afro-Cuban’ theme was gradually abandoned by Cuban scholars as the government reoriented its scientific policy. This moment also coincided with the death of Fernando Ortiz (1881-1969), the ‘father of Cuban social sciences’ who had encouraged the study of local religions and presided over the Academy of Sciences, an institution that had been overseeing national research projects since 1961. As indicated by the careers and the accounts of researchers working at that time, state policy then shifted its focus to promote extensive studies of provincial and rural ‘folk traditions’ (cultura popular tradicional). These were to be developed under the banner of an ambitious project known as the ‘Ethnographic Atlas of Cuba’ (Atlas Etnográfico de Cuba), which occupied the attention of the country’s scientific community for almost two decades, finally resulting in two belated publications (CIDCC/Centro de Antropología, 1999a, 1999b). The study of Afro-Cuban religion did not become entirely obsolete, however. A few Cuban scholars continued to publish occasional articles on the subject.7 Yet, somewhat ironically, it was in the United States—the great nemesis of the Cuban authorities—that this subset of research was pursued most vigorously. Several exiled intellectuals wrote on the matter, including L. Cabrera (1974; 1975; 1979; [1977] 1986; 1980) and J. Castellanos, who would later publish an anthology on Afro-Cuban religion with his daughter (Castellanos and Castellanos, 1992). Parallel to this, Cuban religious practices spread through the exiled Cuban communities of Miami and New York, as well as in certain American and particularly African-American communities. This phenomenon gradually attracted the interest of American researchers and their US-based foreign colleagues (from Cuba and from other countries).8 Thus these studies started to gain ground in American academic institutions. Since the island itself remained largely inaccessible until the 1990s, descriptions of Cuban religions were mostly based on data gathered within the US and second-hand (or old) Cuban data. Despite the later ‘opening’ of Cuba to the West (see below), most studies published today on this topic by US-based researchers still draw on data collected in the US. While a review of these lies beyond the scope of this paper, several works initially undertaken in this context merit close attention.

US-based research and the emergence of an ethnohistorical perspective

  • 9 Let us remember, in very simple terms, that Gilroy’s “Black Atlantic” concept—an expression first c (...)
  • 10 On this point, see also Holbraad (2012: 9-10) who rightly stresses the political and ethical determ (...)
  • 11 The recent volume published in the United Kingdom but edited by A. Apter and L. Derby (2010), both (...)

5Among the studies led by scholars in the United States, those of art historian D.H. Brown (1989, 2003a, 2003b) and anthropologist and historian S. Palmié (1986, 1991, 2002) have emerged as key contemporary references in the field, as much for the innovative empirical data they present as for their challenging and original epistemological insights. Initially based on field research undertaken in the US during the 1980s—in New Jersey and Miami respectively—both were among the first to draw on rich ethnographic and historiographic research carried out in Cuba from the 1990s onwards, especially on data stemming from local oral histories and from Cuban public and private archives. Brown’s and Palmié’s works are wide-reaching, multi-disciplinary studies with comparative aims, dealing with the historical emergence of several ‘Afro-Cuban’ religions and their forms of (re)production over time. Adopting constructivist premises sensitive to questions of innovation and agency in the formation of ‘traditions’, they have developed and expanded upon, in particular, concepts such as hybridity and modernity, which they contributed as substitutes for ‘African retentions’ or ‘African traditions’, which had traditionally defined Afro-Cuban, and more largely Afro-American, religions. Furthermore, their ethnographic and theoretical questions are broadly representative of an important tendency in contemporary Afro-American religious studies, an area of study that some researchers have incorporated into the field of ‘Afro-Atlantic’ studies (see Yelvington, 2006; Palmié, 2008), a label reflecting its subject’s sheer scale and historical rooting. Strongly influenced by the ideas of S. Mintz and R. Price (1992), by the ‘Black Atlantic’ paradigm proposed by British sociologist P. Gilroy (1993),9 as well as by a prominent trend of historical anthropology and ethnohistory well-represented in the US within the connected field of African Yoruba studies—see Apter (1992) and Matory (1994, 2005) with whom Brown and Palmié directly dialogue, and vice-versa—, these publications represent a kind of ‘historiographical turn’ characteristic of recent American research in these areas.10 With a few notable exceptions—e.g. linguist and anthropologist K. Wirtz’s book (2007) on the discursive dynamics involved in the internal construction of religious ‘communities’ in Cuba, or T.R. Ochoa’s monograph (2010), which examines the practical implications of some religious beliefs on the island—this ethnohistorical approach has become a dominant feature of American research on Cuban religions (see, among others, Ramos, 2000, 2003; Routon, 2005, 2008 or K. Hagedorn’s book, 2001, also centred, however, on the analysis of religious and folkloric performance).11 This aspect usually distinguishes these works from those recently produced in Europe or in Cuba, which, as we will see, are more concerned with the ethnography and/or the synchronic analysis of Afro-Cuban religions.

  • 12 Aside from special exchange programmes, these constraints apply to all American residents wishing t (...)

6We should add that although an understanding of the theoretical trends at work here can help us place some of these American works in context, another important element must be stressed. The American government places specific restrictions upon its own citizens and foreign residents, including students and researchers, when it comes to travelling and staying in Cuba for substantial periods of time, an essential requirement for ethnographic work.12 The most determined fieldworkers can (and have) by-pass(ed) this constraint—those mentioned above prove it. But, for American researchers, these restraints may still represent an obstacle to the greater development of extensive field studies in Cuba and, consequently, to the production of well-founded research works that examine the synchronic aspects and implications of local forms of religious expression, as well as their praxis dimension.

7The situation has been noticeably different for other overseas ethnographers, such as those based in Europe, who have in fact indirectly ‘benefitted’ from some of the Cuban economic and ideological reforms enacted at the beginning of the ‘Special Period’, reforms which have allowed them to specifically explore the contemporary Cuban religious field.

Europe-based research and the intensification of field studies

  • 13 Although there are still no research visas, today anyone paying membership fees to a Cuban scientif (...)

8After 1991, as the need increased to find new means of boosting the national economy and filling the government’s coffers in a time of crisis and scarcity, the Cuban authorities decided to develop mass tourism (as opposed to the former restricted, ‘ideological’ tourism). This made it much easier for foreigners to visit and even temporarily stay on the island, ultimately making it easier for European students who were eager to go to Cuba and conduct individual research.13 An earlier decriminalization of religious consciousness was also promulgated and consolidated at the Fourth Congress of the Cuban Communist Party in 1991. This decision—which resulted from the ‘process of rectification of errors and negative tendencies’ launched by Fidel Castro in April 1986, and from a new support strategy, in this case aimed at the Catholic Church—was formalised as part of the 1992 constitutional amendments, with obvious consequences. Firstly, many Cubans, individually or collectively, began overtly displaying their religiosity and specifically their commitment to the Afro-Cuban religious world (ritual outfits and gestures, self-presentation discourses, etc.). Secondly, it contributed to a ‘depoliticization’ of the subject of religion: since an open religious affiliation no longer jeopardised the career of a socialist militant, and was no longer seen as grounds for questioning an individual’s commitment to the Revolution (see below), Afro-Cuban religions acquired greater visibility in Cuban society. At the same time, it became possible to study them without directly and necessarily addressing political and ideological issues. Accordingly, it seems perfectly understandable that the first fieldworkers to come from Europe and be allowed to conduct research in Cuba took an immediate interest in ‘Afro-Cuban’ religions, as these had much earlier attracted the interest of the founders of Afro-American studies, and also seemed to be essential to the experience and everyday lives of social actors.

  • 14 Argyriadis’s descriptions of the unique atmosphere of the early days of the Special Period and her (...)

9In this respect, the pioneering work of K. Argyriadis (1999)—who began by studying Cuban dances (on the advice of Cuban authorities) and, as soon as it was ‘allowed’, focused her work on religion—is of great significance. Based on thorough ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Havana between 1990 and 1995, Argyriadis’ book (stemming from her doctoral dissertation) offers a detailed overview of the main religious traditions and practices prevalent in the Cuban capital. Underlying the deep unity and complementarity that characterize all the religious representations she studied, this author also placed particular emphasis on the ‘multifaceted’ processes of self-construction resulting from individual religious commitment, as well as on its therapeutic dimensions—in a broad and even sometimes psychological sense of the term.14 Shortly thereafter, a second French book on religion in Havana, also derived from a doctoral thesis, was published by E. Dianteill (2000). This sociologist of religion conducted his studies in 1994 and 1995, and focused on two more specific themes: the role of gender in understanding Cuban religious diversity, and, drawing on J. Goody’s general statements on orality and literacy, the role of writing in the partial formalization and—to a lesser extent—transmission of certain elements of ritual knowledge associated with Cuban religion.

  • 15 One exception should be mentioned here: Swedish anthropologist M. Rosendahl (1997), whose early eth (...)
  • 16 Other academic works based on European or (Meso‑)American field studies have also dealt with this a (...)

10In fact, within ‘Cubanist’ anthropology, which was then in its infancy in Europe, religion rapidly became a major research topic.15 Thus an old, aborted tradition began to be revived. This became particularly evident over the past decade, when the number of academic studies increased and the perspectives adopted became more diverse. In Sweden, Johan Wedel completed a PhD in 2002 in which he studied the healing and medicinal aspects of Afro-Cuban ritual practices, a topic to which he later devoted a whole book (Wedel, 2002, 2004). In the United Kingdom in 2002, Martin Holbraad also completed a PhD that has recently been expanded into an ambitious book-length study. Tackling issues relating to the ontology of ‘truth’ in the context of Ifá divination, it raises epistemological questions that go far beyond simple ethnographic or regionalist concerns (Holbraad, 2002, 2012). Further doctoral research works—most of which are still unpublished—have also recently been conducted in various Francophone, Anglophone and German-speaking European universities (see Testa, 2006; Panagiotopoulos, 2011; Rauhut, 2011, 2012), some of them by contributors to this collection (Konen, 2006, 2009; Espirito Santo, 2009; Kerestetzi, 2011; Morel, 2012; Gobin, 2012). Whereas in the United States and Cuba, santería (or regla de ocha) still often absorbs a great deal of researchers’ attention, their European counterparts have broadly expanded the scope of their empirical studies. To take a few examples already cited above: K. Argyriadis, E. Dianteill and A. Panagiotopoulos all wrote simultaneously on several modalities of religious practice (spiritism, palo monte, popular Catholicism, etc.). The works of M. Holbraad, A. Konen and E. Gobin focus more closely on the Ifá male ‘cult’, often treated as a simple divinatory corollary of santería, regardless of its own evidently distinctive dynamics. D. Espirito Santo and G. Morel have both given attention to practices that have been largely neglected from an ethnographic perspective. J. Wedel, S. Testa and K. Kerestetzi, who conducted their fieldwork respectively in the provinces of Matanzas, Ciego de Avila and Cienfuegos, eschew the ‘Havano-centrism’ that usually pervades the study of Cuban religion (see also Wirtz, 2007 on Santiago de Cuba). C. Rauhut approaches santería from the perspective of its ‘globalisation’, a theme which has gained ever-greater currency in the more sociologically oriented studies that focus on the so-called Afro-American ‘religious transnationalisation’—a phenomenon linked to migration and tourism, and which refers in this case to the exportation of Cuban practices outside their original context.16

map 1 – Cuba and its provinces, 2013

map 1 – Cuba and its provinces, 2013

This map includes the administrative redistribution of former province of Havana (2011), which has been divided into three: Havana (now limited to the capital and its suburbs), Artemisa and Mayabeque

Sandrine Soriano, CNRS–UMR7186, licence CC BY-SA 3.0 (sources : Daniel Dalet/d-maps.com, http://d-maps.com/​carte.php?num_car=38497&lang=en ; Rei-artur, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia commons)

11In parallel with the development of European research, and for some of the same reasons, Afro-Cuban religions have also attracted renewed interest in Cuba, within and outside academic institutions. Before considering this specific literature, we should provide a more thorough introduction to the Cuban religious practices we are referring to.

The ‘Afro-Cuban’ religious field: a dynamic world

  • 17 Although popular vernacular categorisations are more complex, there are three official racial categ (...)
  • 18 In the Cuban literature, however, the political considerations at stake in the study of these pheno (...)

12As we have just suggested, ‘Afro-Cuban’ religions are much more varied and diverse than the first visitors to the island accounted for through their writings, not to mention those who published on the subject using second-hand data (see Bastide, 1967 for example). We should stress that, in Cuba, the term ‘Afro-Cuban’ usually carries no racial connotation and is not connected to any particular ‘ethnic’ identity, contrary to what might be seen in other ‘Afro-American’ contexts. With the noteworthy exception of abakuá (see G. Morel’s article in this collection), these practices have been shared for decades by a large number of Cubans, regardless their educational level, social background or ‘racial’ identity as defined on the island.17 The expression, first coined in the field of social sciences in the early twentieth century by Fernando Ortiz ([1906] 1995), is still used in academic circles and in everyday language to designate certain cultural, artistic and especially religious forms of expression. While incorporating various exogenous elements (some of them of African origin) into a dynamic process, these have followed their own unique development and emerged as sui generis local productions. Furthermore, they all include recurrent dynamics of innovation and ritual creativity. As some Cuban scholars pointed out relatively early, one could legitimately describe these religious phenomena simply as Cuban.18

  • 19 Palo monte has been typically divided into three dominant variants (mayombe, kimbisa, brillumba) th (...)
  • 20 To date, the Beninese Brice H. Sogbossi (1998), who completed his higher education in Cuba, is the (...)
  • 21 The only book available on vodú is the largely prospective work of Cuban scholars James Figarola et (...)
  • 22 A typology of distinct and isolated Cuban spirit ‘traditions’ has been proposed. As in the case of (...)

13Among the so-called Afro-Cuban religions, the one with which ‘Cubanophiles’ around the world are most familiar by far is santería. Usually associated with ritual elements of Yoruba origin, santería is also referred to as ocha-Ifá (an etic term proposed by R. López Valdés, 1988) as it maintains an intrinsic link with Ifá. Santería is nonetheless just one component of a multifarious religious landscape that includes other no less popular practices. For example, palo monte, based on numerous elements of worship associated with a Bantu linguistic and cultural area, is present almost everywhere in Cuba, although it has not received the extensive study it deserves.19 Depending on the region considered, other important forms of religious expression have evolved along with these. Abakuá, which partly originates in the secret societies of the West-African Calabar region, is deeply rooted in the Western regions of Matanzas and Havana. The province of Matanzas, and to a lesser extent of Cienfuegos, is also a major centre of arará, which is said to include ritual elements of Ewe-Fon origin (old Dahomey), and has so far received little academic attention.20 In the Eastern regions of the island like Santiago de Cuba or Guantánamo and in towns that have seen an influx of Haitian immigrants from the eighteenth century to the present day, a form of voodoo known locally as vodú (also akin to arará) is practiced.21 In some places and even within certain specific families (see Basso Ortiz, 2005; Testa, 2005), we find other religious practices that, in the manner in which they are reproduced, significantly differ from those mentioned above. For instance, while the most widespread religious practices or traditions are based (at least today) on a system of ritual kinship, these involve transmission within the biological family. At a local level, these family-specific rites also play an important role in the negotiation of religious identities and statuses. Throughout the island, ritual practices based on communication with the spirits of the ‘dead’—sometimes known as muertería, sometimes as espiritismo—are widespread. In fact, Cuban spiritism, which was initially inspired by Western traditions but also encompasses African elements in its ‘scientific’ and ‘popular’ forms, has close ritual and conceptual links, with the practices mentioned above, and appears to be an essential component of the Cuban religious field.22 Finally, all of these religious expressions have developed against the backdrop of customary forms of Catholic saint worship (saints that have been identified with entities in santería’s own pantheon and, to a lesser extent, in that of palo monte). In this sense, they are all emblematic examples of the famous religious syncretism engendered by the slave trade and the colonial history of the Americas. To some extent, one also finds elements of ancient local Taïno culture—through certain spirit figures such as ‘the Indian’, prevalent in spiritism—or distant Chinese and Jamaican influences stemming from the history of twentieth-century immigration.

map 2 – Afro-Cuban religious celebrations, according to the ‘Ethnographic Atlas of Cuba’ (Centro de Antropología/CIDCC, 1999b)

map 2 – Afro-Cuban religious celebrations, according to the ‘Ethnographic Atlas of Cuba’ (Centro de Antropología/CIDCC, 1999b)

The previously mentioned research project ‘Ethnographic Atlas of Cuba’ neglected the study of local religious practices, but it listed them indirectly by considering some of their festive and collective ceremonies (‘traditional celebrations’). Map 2 merges two original maps created by Dr. Virtudes Feliú, respectively entitled ‘religious celebrations of Sub-Saharan origin’ (left table) and ‘religious celebrations of Haitian origin’ (right table). They are not exhaustive (for example, vodú does not appear in Havana although it is practiced there) and some of the entries adopted are questionable (for example, santería or palo are classified according to their supposed permeability to other local practices, a choice which does not reflect the internal dynamics of Cuban religious universe, see below). Nevertheless, this document clearly reveals that (Afro‑)Cuban religions are represented all over Cuban territory. Furthermore, it shows that they are intrinsically linked with popular Catholicism and that, according to the region or the period considered, some of them are more significant than others

We deeply thank the ICAN (formerly Centro de antropología) and the ICIC Juan Marinello (formerly CIDCC) for allowing us to use these documents

  • 23 Abakuá is actually the only ritual complex which does not offer any healing services, although it a (...)

14Considered together, these forms of religious expression define a vast, dynamic field or continuum in which they can operate in a complementary manner. In terms of individual healing processes, idiosyncratic combinations of different ritual systems are common (a canonical order of transition from one to another is generally adopted). It is not unusual for a person to simultaneously or successively consult different religious specialists, or to describe him or herself as a follower of spiritism, palo, santería and (if male) abakuá. Moreover, since all Cuban religious practices have developed simultaneously over the course of the country’s history, they have closely interacted and have influenced one another: depending on the personal conceptions and innovations of their specialists or priests, many concepts, symbols, techniques, artefacts and even aesthetic elements are in a constant and intensive process of exchange and adaptation. In fact, several authors have noted that all of these religious practices involve homogeneous representations (see James Figarola, 2001; Palmié, 2002; and especially Argyriadis, 1999). The common theory of personhood with they mobilise assumes that every individual may simultaneously and spontaneously have contact or develop relationships with spirits of deceased persons (entities of spiritism), with orichas and ancestors or eggun (santería and Ifá entities) or may even create bonds with nfumbi/nfumbe (embodied and materialized dead specific to palo monte). To varying degrees, these practices share a common ritual and “magico-religious” grammar. Most of them are based on rites of initiation and dynamics of reciprocity and constant exchange with the non-human entities mentioned, through divination, possession and distinct forms of (im)material or spiritual offerings. This does not mean that they all blend into an amorphous whole. In terms of their specific ritual techniques and their means of constructing the subject and generating religious paths, each of these practices also appears to have its own organization and dynamics. Furthermore, as we might expect, this religious pluralism shapes a ‘religious market’ (in the sense in which Bourdieu’s used the term), which is moulded by dynamics of clientelism and gives rise to individual and collective forms of social power.23 The segmented and many-headed (or decentralized) organisation of this world (shrine groups are usually organised around the figure of one charismatic initiate or priest) also favours strong competitive dynamics. Competition may flourish between peers within a single ritual complex or between experts of discrete ‘traditions’, who are constantly engaged in a powerful process of ‘boundary-making’ as defined by F. Barth (1969) (see also Wirtz, 2007 on this point). The (Afro‑)Cuban religious world therefore ultimately constitutes a rich, complex world, driven by centripetal and centrifugal tendencies, characterized by a certain fluidity and by the constant negotiation of internal boundaries.

15At an analytical level, these general characteristics—shared with other Afro-American religious contexts, notably that of Brazil—suggest that there are two ways of approaching (Afro)-Cuban religion. Both are represented in the articles assembled in this collection. On the one hand, if we set out to trace the therapeutic and spiritual paths taken by some followers, to reconstruct their religious biographies, to explain how they shift from one ‘tradition’ to another or to examine the broader dynamics at play in the Cuban religious field, then the practices presented above may be considered from a perspective of continuity and complementarity; that is, as a whole, with all components interconnected. This is the approach chosen by D. Espirito Santo and A. S. de Almeida Cunha in this collection. On the other hand, if one wishes to understand and contrast the ritual techniques and internal organisation of these different practices—certain modes and feelings of belonging that inform people’s understanding of themselves—or even if one is attempting to understand how personal statuses or specialized ritual skills are developed, then each practice deserves its own detailed analysis. This is the approach adopted by the other contributors to this collection. In our view, there is no inherent contradiction between them, as the relevance of one or another perspective depends on the object considered and the scale of analysis that seems most legitimate and pertinent for an elucidation of the ethnographic object. Both can certainly help us achieve a better anthropological understanding of the ritual and social dynamics at play in Cuba’s religious world.

Socialism, religion and the revival of Cuban publications

  • 24 Article 54 (paragraph 1) of the first Revolutionary Constitution (1976) indicated:The socialist s (...)
  • 25 In Cuban researchers’ works, the question of syncretism or “transculturation” (Ortiz, 1940), which (...)

16For readers unfamiliar with these topics, it may seem surprising that Cuban religions have developed with such diversity and intensity in a country that has long been by turns condemned or admired for its political regime. Despite having instituted an educational system that stresses scientific materialism from primary school to the most advanced university degrees, the Cuban Revolution never engaged in an institutionalised struggle against religious belief, or conducted any systematic campaign of ‘atheisation’ (forgive us the neologism) of the kind seen in other socialist countries. Concretely, prior to 1991 and the Special Period, collective manifestations of religiosity were certainly repressed and the individuals who openly proclaimed a religious faith or practice suffered discrimination in their professional and political careers, and even in university (they were barred from the Party and from all the youth and worker militant organisations, and a few initiates even served prison sentences). But at the same time, the Constitution explicitly asserted individual religious freedom as long as religious practices did not directly encroach upon the interests of the Revolution.24 In the process of constructing and promoting a new kind of national identity and culture, the State appropriated many of the choreographic and musical aspects of Afro-Cuban practices (especially those of santería and abakuá, after supposedly being emptied of their semantic and symbolic significance), promoting and stage-managing them in an attempt at ‘heritage creation’ guided by the principles of the Revolution.25

  • 26 See Espirito Santo, 2009; Morel, 2010 and the articles by E. Gobin and A. Konen in this collection.

17Since the 1990s, under the new circumstances affecting Cuba’s economy, culture and broader sense of identity (in particular the development of tourism), this process of ‘patrimonialisation’ has been completed while its initial ideological foundation has considerably weakened. Meanwhile, as already mentioned, local religious practices have acquired unprecedented public visibility. Some followers of spiritism, palo monte, santería and abakuá already engaged in internal struggles to monopolise a religious leadership, have even petitioned the Central Committee’s Bureau for Religious Affairs for institutional recognition of their practices, with varying degrees of success26. At individual and collective levels, issues inherent to religious practice relating to identity, symbols, (micro‑)politics and, to some extent, economic dimensions have emerged sharply. Finally, the recent and rapid development of local literature on the subject has also contributed to this newfound visibility.

18As another result of the Cuban process of religious liberalisation, this very diverse literature is today generated by Cuban academics and non-academic researchers (sometimes self-taught) as well as religious followers seeking enhance the respectability and public standing of their practices (although this is less often the case with followers of spiritism or the family-based rites mentioned). Today Cuba’s bookshops offer many works directed at the general public, as well as more scientific works, all assembled in sections labelled ‘folklore’, ‘religion’ or ‘socio-political literature’. While these general interest works occasionally convey insightful comments and information, many of them contain legitimisation attempts that mirror local and national debates, as well as the internal dynamics and struggles of the religious sphere. Others appear to glorify national ‘cultural treasures’, or still manifest the influence of the outdated folklorist concerns that characterised much of Cuban research in the early Revolutionary period. Most of them neglect the dynamic nature of the ‘traditions’ that they aim to present, and the actual scale on which they are practiced. In fact, they are strikingly similar to those produced in Cuba in the 1960s, largely consisting of collections of myths, lists of the divinities associated with the different ritual complexes, details on the characteristics of each of them, tables of the (syncretistic) connections that may be established between analogous entities in palo and santería, etc. (see, among others numerous works, Bolivar Aróstegui, [1990] 1994; Barnet, 1995; Góvin Barani, 1996; Arce Burguera and Ferrer Castro, 1999). Although the first Cuban texts focusing on these aspects often assumed a critical attitude towards religious practice—out of conviction or obligation, and in accordance with Marxist-Leninist orthodoxy—they nevertheless demonstrated genuine ethnographic concerns. Even if these works usually presented what would today be considered an essentialist and objectifying image of Cuban religions, the descriptions provided were pioneering for their time, and they still provide a stimulating point of departure for any contemporary researcher. Recent publications are much less innovative, as has been pointed out by a few Cuban scholars, who object to this ‘folkloricist’ tendency, which they perceive as not just anti-ethnographic, but as a serious obstacle to effectively conceptualising the religious phenomena in question (see especially Menéndez, 2002: 22-23; 312-319).

19However, this state of affairs must be understood in the light of several important facts. One of these is that there is currently no clear system of ethnographic or anthropological training in Cuba. Even though it has been possible since 2000 to choose anthropology as a specialism for a master’s dissertation (maestría) at several Cuban universities, there are still no degrees or professorships exclusively in anthropology, which would favour the development and exploration of new theoretical or analytical paradigms (Cuban research still often has an applied aim). Although new generations of students and researchers are particularly curious about classic and contemporary texts in the humanities or social sciences from Anglophone, Francophone but also Latin-American countries, these are hard to access in Cuba (they are not published there, in any case). The few national researchers who officially graduated in anthropology—less than a dozen, only a few of whom currently work on religion—were mostly trained in the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s. They tend to transmit and reproduce, for example in conferences aimed at general and/or academic audiences, references and methodologies borrowed from Soviet ethnology. All this contributes to the fact that the local literature on religious practices remains scattered and uneven. In some respects, and to paraphrase a classic analysis of Soviet ethnography made by exiled Russian anthropologist V. Kabo, we can even say that the texts produced in the Cuban social sciences and those from “world anthropology” still “work in two different registers and, as we often say, do not speak the same language” (Kabo, 1990: 166, our translation).

  • 27 In fact, many Cuban scholars are themselves involved in religious practices and have undergone init (...)

20We must also bear in mind that, even more than researchers publishing in foreign languages, Cuban researchers must directly cope with other constraints, such as the different forms of control that religious practitioners themselves—some of them are assiduous readers—attempt to exert over the publications that concern them or their ritual families. In this respect, the situation in Cuba is broadly similar to that observed elsewhere in the field of Afro-American religious studies, where, in the frame of their rivalries, religious specialists sometimes strategically intend to use publications that indirectly legitimise (or decline to do so) certain practices over others or describe ritual procedures that are supposed to be shrouded in secrecy. Even if this situation is not entirely new (followers of Cuban religions have tended to be more or less actively involved in the production of knowledge relating their practices, see Brown, 2003b; Palmié, 2005; Argyriadis, 2006), it is exacerbated by the unprecedented legitimacy and visibility that religious practices have gained recently, as well as by the increasing interest that they have attracted among foreign and Cuban researchers.27 These constraints and the methodological and ethical issues they raise are often passed over in silence, but they should not be underestimated when considering Cuban publications in general. That being said, these limitations or constraints are less relevant in the case of lectures and unpublished internal reports, produced mostly by members of the main scientific institutions such as the Cuban Anthropological Institute (ICAN, formerly known as the Centre for Anthropology) based in Havana, the Cuban Institute of Cultural Investigation (ICIC Juan Marinello, formerly known as Centre for the Investigation and Development of Cuban Culture or CIDCC Juan Marinello), the Centre for Psychological and Sociological Research (CIPS), the Fundation Fernando Ortiz or the Casa del Caribe in Santiago de Cuba, institutions which all regularly organise scientific events that have promoted new dialogues with foreign researchers in the most recent years.

21Despite the constraints linked to this working environment, from the point of view of academic production stricto sensu, the relaxing of the ideological constraints that once governed religious studies in Cuba has gradually allowed some scholars to revisit the field of local religious studies and enrich it with new contributions that deserve to be mentioned. Due to the fact that the production of scientific knowledge in Cuba remains subject to various forms of approval and recognition, and continues to be influenced by a tradition of thought that forms the cornerstone of much theoretical reflection, the conceptual framework of some contributions is still sometimes openly Marxist. But this does not preclude the production of innovative works focused on the dynamic and practical aspects of Cuban religions. To mention only a few major publications: some researchers have studied the underlying logic connecting different ‘traditions’ (Argüelles Mederos and Hodge Limonta, 1991); some have taken a particular interest in the believers’ own narratives and accounts of their religious practices (Fernández Robaina, 1994); others have focused on processes of aesthetic innovation that can be detected in local religious iconography (Menéndez, [1995] 2001; 2002); or have studied previously neglected ritual worlds (James Figarola, 2006); in these ways, their analyses converge on some of the aspects that have been taken up their colleagues in ‘the North’ (the US) or in Europe.

  • 28 It is important to note that foreign fieldworkers, while in Cuba, are often hosted by Cuban institu (...)

22Although it would not be very wise, then, to create an opposition between Cuba, and foreign output28, it appears that recent studies led by ‘young’ Europe-based researchers tend to tackle specific themes that we will now briefly mention in order to introduce the contents of this collection. We believe that these studies, based on a variety of conceptual tools, actualise the possibilities and the enduring value of the regard éloigné (or ‘distant view’) and also reflect some important analytical trends of contemporary anthropology of religion in general, also exhibited in distinct religious contexts. While these trends are under-represented in Cuba itself, Cuban religious materials may contribute to the development of these approaches, precisely because of their specific characteristics.

Religious experience, power dynamics and ritual creativity: three salient research themes

23We have already briefly touched upon the dominant ethnohistorical orientation of the principal studies published in the US, and the special attention they give to diachronic processes. In Europe, although the number of published books is not yet considerable, one can still isolate a certain number of dynamics and processes occupying researchers’ attention. The following overview is by no means exhaustive, but it aims to present three major research themes that emerge from the papers in this collection. They are particularly noteworthy considering that the original call for papers that inspired this special issue of Ateliers d’anthropologie requested systematized ethnographies and new empirical contributions but did not include any thematic suggestions.

  • 29 For a prominent theorization of the ‘relational’ trend, see Houseman and Severi, 1998. On the anthr (...)

24First of all, on the whole we can detect an increasing interest in analysing the multifarious personal religious experiences sustaining the practices of Cuban religions. More specifically, the ceremonial and day-to-day construction of personhood—or of complex religious subjects and agents—as well as the relational dynamics underpinning this process, are attracting particular attention. This is probably no surprise, since in several of the ritual complexes mentioned (in particular, spiritism, palo monte and santería), singular and intertwined forms of relationships to the self, to others and to non-human entities are at the core of the appeal and transmissive quality of religious practice. These forms of religious expression thus become preferred subjects for the development of interactional and relational approaches to ritual, as well as more ‘phenomenological’ approaches centred on questions of ‘self’.29 The first two articles in this collection, which arguably give priority to the analysis of ritual and personal rationales over broader ‘social’ rationales, both emphasize these aspects.

25Drawing on an ethnography conducted in Cienfuegos, Katerina Kerestetzi’s paper focuses on the dynamics of palo monte—long dismissed by Cuban researchers as being of little interest due to its lack of a structured mythology and clear sacerdotal hierarchy. As part of her analysis of palo monte’s internal logic, K. Kerestetzi describes the relational processes that this practice implies, and that sustain the emergence of individual religious subjects. Through a study of the bonds established between initiates and palo’s main entities (nfumbi) during the first level of initiation (rayamiento), as well as through an analysis of the subsequent development and reinforcement of these bonds in everyday life, K. Kerestetzi also stresses the extremely personalised logic of palo monte—its high level of individuation—and the fact that its unity (i.e. the dynamics generating the palo practice) lies first and foremost in the creation of these specific relationships, which are both ritually and idiosyncratically conditioned and maintained.

26From a slightly different perspective, and explicitly raising the critical question of how social and ritual representations shape one another, Diana Espirito Santo focuses her paper on the concepts of ‘ontology’ and ‘self’, thereby placing the individual believer at the heart of her study. She highlights the modalities of ‘self’ construction characteristic of spiritism in Havana, specifically examining the relationship that spirit mediums develop with the spiritual entities they work with, and how the characteristics of these entities can constitute a dynamic impetus (a ‘cosmo-logic’, in her words, rather than a form of mechanical syncretism) impelling individuals towards other ‘Afro-Cuban’ religious practices. One of the strong points of her paper is her focus on a constellation of practices (espiritismo) that has sometimes wrongly been considered peripheral and may well constitute, as she emphasizes, a practical bridge between different personal religious commitments and, more broadly, play a key role in the organization and cohesion of the Afro-Cuban religious field.

  • 30 It would be superfluous to quote the classic works of P. Bourdieu and E. Goffman, but important ant (...)

27The second theme that emerges in this collection is one that has recently gained prominence in European and American studies on Cuba (even if the American studies have tended to present it as a powerful historical driving force behind the development of Cuban religions). It relates to the issue of ‘power’ (which is also addressed, to some extent, in the papers of K. Kerestetzi and A. Konen). In the context of Cuban religions, the notion of power may cover mystical, symbolic and social aspects and may also be manifested through specific endogenous conceptions. It is organised at an individual and collective level and its construction and constant negotiation are based on dynamics both internal and external to ceremonial practice, dynamics that deeply influence and feed into one another. These characteristics suggest that Cuban religions (particularly palo, abakuá, santería and Ifá) lend themselves particularly well to ‘Bourdieusian’ or ‘Goffmanian’ interpretations of religious phenomena, sensitive to (micro‑)interactions between actors. These perspectives can also be enriched by considering the performative aspects of religious interaction as well as of the indigenous definitions of ‘power’ they set in motion.30 The following two papers in this collection both focus on these dimensions.

28Emma Gobin’s article considers a situation that can hardly be ignored today: the growing integration into santería and Ifá of ‘foreigners’ (extranjeros) who visit Cuba, particularly the city of Havana, for initiatory and ritual purposes. The paper describes the effects that this recent phenomenon has on the ritually conditioned, sometimes competitive construction of personal statuses among the priest of these religions and on the vernacular logics of empowerment—i.e. on relations with the self and with others and on ensuing perceptions. While adopting a predominantly micro-political interpretation, conceived as the most relevant to an understanding of this particular situation and its social implications, the author also stresses the intrinsically critical and self-reflexive posture that santería’s and Ifá’s priests develop and maintain in relation to their own praxis. In particular, as she also analyses some ritual innovations recently pursued by ‘common initiates’ and ‘religious elites’ in this new context, she argues that, more than generating properly new rationales, this context has rather exacerbated pre-existent, internal socio-religious dynamics.

29The question of power is also specifically addressed by Géraldine Morel’s paper. As she argues, in the abakuá secret society—an exclusively male society based on a rigid ritual code of honour—the issue of power must be primarily approached in terms of gender construction, and also involves conceptions specific to the marginal social milieu (ambiente) in which this practice has evolved (something quite unique in the Cuban religious sphere). In this paper G. Morel focuses on social dynamics rather than on strictly ritual rationales, but shows how these two fields are engaged in a process of mutual development and validation. She does this by thoroughly examining the production and presentation of a (hyper)masculinity that is socially and ‘religiously’ constructed by means of specific mythical and social representations as well as gendered-performances. Throughout the analysis, she demonstrates how this (hyper‑)masculine definition of oneself and the group actually emerges as one of the central pillars of abakuá identity.

  • 31 For major works advocating such a perspective in religious anthropology, see for instance T. Csorda (...)

30The third and final theme appearing in this collection looks again at the creative processes at work in Cuban religious practices at both discursive and ritual levels. These forms of religious expression provide empirical materials that are particularly propitious to the development of contemporary analyses of creativity and improvisation in religious and social phenomena.31 In this case, this theme is also connected to questions concerning the plasticity and flexibility of Afro-Cuban religions and the agency of the actors who experience and shape them. The theme of ritual inventiveness and creativity appears in several of the articles in the present collection, but is more central to the two last papers.

  • 32 D.H. Brown’s work (2003b) explicitly articulates notions of power, agency and innovation in its ana (...)

31Alain Konen’s article consists of an ethnography of a particular Ifá group that is engaged in attempts at unification and ritual reform, and whose success has been limited and controversial. Dominated by the charismatic figure of its founder, this Havana-based group (Ilé Tuntun) promotes a radically new approach to the dual Cuban and African ancestry of the Ifá ritual complex (A. Konen prefers the designation ‘Ifá rite’). As demonstrated by this author, the approach is based on an effort to re-create ties with contemporary Ifá leaders in Nigeria, as well as on the elaboration of a sophisticated historiographical and political discourse on Cuba and Africa. From this perspective, the article can also be read in light of the construction of contemporary ‘transnational’ religious spaces, clearly perceptible in the direct dialogues and collaborative relationships recently built between a few Cuban and African initiates (for complementary ethnography on this point, see E. Gobin’s article, which directly dialogues with A. Konen’s article). We should mention that, when analysing these processes and trying to place them in their proper context, the US-based works already cited are particularly helpful for identifying the structural aspects (or lack thereof) of the innovation rationales emphasized by current ethnographies32.

32Finally, the creative processes at work in the trajectories and everyday lives of followers of palo monte and other Afro-Cuban religions are also central to Ana Stela de Almeida Cunha’s article. This author clearly illustrates how these dynamics acquire a unique visibility during paleros’ funerals rites (llanto). Giving prominence to individual biographies and to thorough descriptions of rituals, her paper argues that funeral ceremonies are special moments for the display of Cuban religious inventiveness, mostly identified in the interaction between the different religious ‘communities’ to which the deceased belonged, and in the meticulous articulation of his or her cumulative spiritual affiliations at that moment (spirit, santera and, in one case, abakuá). In the context of this collection, this sixth and final article devoted to the rituals surrounding a palero’s death usefully sheds light on the opening paper by K. Kerestetzi describing the initiatory rituals that conversely mark the beginning of the life of a palero. It also partly dialogues with G. Morel’s paper on abakuá membership, and fruitfully echoes D. Espirito Santo’s article on the interpenetration of different religious commitments.

About further perspectives…

33Whether they give primacy to the analysis of ritual dynamics or to the broader social dynamics that nourish the Cuban religious world, all of the articles presented in this collection ultimately highlight the processes by which religious agents individually or collectively construct and negotiate, pragmatically and through interaction, complex identities and statuses—as well as their specific place—within contemporary Cuban society, in its margins or at the core of the major issues it faces today. Beyond the topics and analytical standpoints articulated by the collection’s authors, and in line with the spirit of the initial call for papers that all their texts take inspiration from, their unity also lies in the adoption of a resolutely empiricist epistemology. The authors assembled here arguably write from a conviction that only meticulous ethnography, deeply committed to rendering intelligible the full complexity and the subtleties of their materials, can lead us to a better understanding of Cuban religious phenomena, whatever the broader theoretical and comparative perspectives they may lead to. All of the articles thus offer original and detailed empirical materials.

  • 33 This theme is also tangentially touched upon in several of the articles presented in this collectio (...)

34Before we allow our authors’ words to speak for themselves, we should perhaps add that this collection in no way claims to constitute an exhaustive sample of contemporary Afro-Cuban religious studies, and much less does it present the full spectrum of the religious practices discussed: as the reader will see, various regional forms of ritual expression, including some that have so far received little or no academic attention, are not accounted for here. Despite an extensive and growing literature on the subject of Cuban religion, and as our short presentation of the Cuban religious panorama may have suggested, there is still much to be explored and documented in the field of religious ethnography and anthropology in Cuba. Cuban researchers themselves often say that more studies are needed in the country’s various provinces in order to counter-balance the Havano-centric bias that currently affects our understanding of Cuban religions, and that sometimes leads us to neglect the study of more local religious manifestations. Moreover, as a quick glance at our bibliography will reveal, santería still attracts a disproportionate amount of attention from researchers (although fortunately this reality is now being challenged, as illustrated by the contents of this collection). In the Cuban capital and elsewhere in the country, new research is also needed to examine some recent developments affecting the religious field more generally. The emergence of ‘New Age’ practices—such as reiki, to name only the most popular—which are becoming increasingly popular among followers and specialists of the pre-existing Cuban religions, is probably one of the most interesting of these phenomena.33 Another promising avenue of research would be to study the remodelling of individual trajectories in the light of the expansion of Protestant churches and evangelical ministries of all kinds, which have been springing up all over the island since the 1990s. Neglected by Cuban and foreign researchers, the study of these phenomena would also enrich our reflections on the nature of contemporary Cuban individual religious experience, on local power dynamics, as well on the processes of ritual creativity in effect. In its own way, this collection nevertheless hopes to illustrate the existing dynamism and vitality of religious practices as observed in contemporary Cuba, while offering an insight into the wide range of theoretical and methodological approaches that these practices are currently inspiring.

Haut de page

Bibliographie

Actas del folklore
1961
12 issues (Havana, Centro de estudios del Folklore del TNC).

Agudelo, Carlos, Boidin, Capucine and Sansone, Livio (eds)
2009 Autour de l’“Atlantique Noir”. Une polyphonie de perspectives (Paris, Éditions de l’IHEAL).

Águilar, Alejandra, Argyriadis, Kali, De la Torre, Renée and Gutiérrez, Cristina (eds)
2008
Raíces en movimiento : Prácticas religiosas tradicionales en contextos translocales (Guadalajara/Mexico, CIESAS/CEMCA/IRD).

Andreu, Guillermo
1992
Los Ararás en Cuba (Havana, Editorial de Ciencias Sociales).

Apter, Andrew
1992 Black critics and kings: The hermeneutics of power in Yoruba society (Chicago, University of Chicago Press).

Apter, Andrew and Derby, Lauren (eds)
2010 Activating the past: History and memory in the Black Atlantic world (Cambridge, Cambridge scholar publishing).

Arce Burguera, Arisel and Ferrer Castro, Armando
1999El mundo de los orishas (Havana, Ediciones Unión).

Argüelles Mederos, Aníbal and Hodge Limonta, Ileana
1991
Los llamados cultos sincréticos y el espiritismo (Havana, Editorial Academia).

Argyriadis, Kali
1999La religión à la Havane. Actualité des représentations et des pratiques cultuelles havanaises (Paris, Éditions des Archives contemporaines).
2006Les Batá deux fois sacrés, la construction de la tradition musicale et chorégraphique afro-cubaine, Civilisations, LIII (1-2): 45-74.

Argyriadis, Kali and Capone, Stefania (eds)
2011La religion des orisha. Un champ social transnational en pleine recomposition (Paris, Hermann).

ASAonline (Journal of Association of Social Anthropologists of the UK and Commonwealth)
2012 Issues 4 and 5, online: http://www.theasa.org/publications/asaonline/asaonline_articles.shtml.

Ayorinde, Christine
2004 Afro-Cuban religiosity, revolution, and national identity (Gainesville, University Press of Florida).

Barnet, Miguel
1995 Cultos afrocubanos. La regla de ocha, la regla de palo monte (Havana, Ediciones Unión).

Barth, Fredrik
1969 Introduction, in F. Barth (ed.), Ethnic groups and boundaries: The social organization of difference (Bergen/London, Oslo Universitetsforlaget/George Allen and Unwin): 9-38.
1987 Cosmologies in the making: A generative approach to cultural variation in inner New Guinea (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press).

Bascom, William
1950 The focus of Cuban Santería, Southwestern Journal of Anthropology, 6: 64-68.
1952 Two forms of Afro-Cuban divination, in S. Tax (ed.), Acculturation in the Americas (Chicago, University of Chicago Press): 63-69.
1953 Yoruba acculturation in Cuba, in Les Afro-Américains (Dakar, IFAN): 163-167 [Memories of the IFAN, 27].

Basso Ortiz, Alessandra
2005Los Gangá en Cuba (Havana, Fundación Fernando Ortiz).

Bastide, Roger
1967Les Amériques noires: les civilisations africaines dans le Nouveau Monde (Paris, Payot).

Bataillon, Claude
2006Cuba castriste, visites universitaires, Communisme, 85-86: 37-43.

Blanco Pérez, Rolando F.
2007El Reiki en la Habana Vieja. Aproximaciones a la iniciación de segundo grado y sus conexiones con prácticas religiosas, Master’s dissertation, University of Havana.

Bloch, Vincent
2006Réflexions sur les études cubaines, Communisme, 85-86: 9-24.

Bolivar Aróstegui, Natalia
[1990]1994Los orichas en Cuba (Havana, Ediciones Unión).

Brandon, George
1983 The dead sell memories: An anthropological study of santería in New York City, PhD dissertation, Rutgers University (New Jersey).
1993 Santeria from Africa to the New World: The dead sell memories (Bloomington, Indiana University Press).

Brown, David H.
1989 Garden in the machine: Afro-Cuban sacred art and the performance in urban New Jersey and New York, PhD dissertation, Yale University.
2003a The light inside: Abakuá society, arts and Cuban cultural history (Washington, Smithsonian Institution Press).
2003b Santería enthroned: Art, ritual and innovation in an Afro-Cuban religion (Chicago, University of Chicago Press).

Butler, Judith
1990 Gender trouble: Feminism and the subversion of identity (New York-Abingdon, Routledge).

Cabrera, Lydia
[1954]1996El monte. Igbo, Finda, Ewe orisha, Vititinfinda (Havana, Editorial SI-MAR S.A.).
[1974]
1980Yemayá y Ochún (New York, Torres).
1975Anaforuana, ritual y símbolos de la iniciación en la sociedad secreta abakuá (Madrid, Ediciones R).
[1977]1986La regla kimbisa del Santo Cristo del Buen Viaje (Miami, Ediciones Universal).
1979
Reglas de Congo-Palo Monte-Mayombe (Miami, Peninsular Books).
1980
Koeko Iyawó: Aprende novicia. Pequeño tratado de regla lucumi (Miami, Ediciones Universal).

Capone, Stefania
2007Introduction, Ateliers du LESC, 31, online: http://ateliers.revues.org/301.

Castellanos, Jorge and Castellanos, Isabel
1992
Cultura afrocubana. Las religiones y las lenguas (Miami, Ediciones Universal).

Chivallon, Christine
2008
 Black atlantic revisited. Une relecture de Paul Gilroy pour quelques prolongements vers le jazz, L’Homme, 187-188 (3-4): 343-374.

Cidcc Juan Marinello/Centro de antropología (ed.)
1999aCultura popular tradicional cubana (Havana, CIDCC).
1999
bAtlas etnográfico de Cuba: Cultura popular tradicional, CD-ROM, Havana.

Csordas, Thomas J.
1994 The sacred Self. A cultural phenomenology of charismatic healing (Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of California press).
[1997] 2012 Language, charisma, and creativity: The ritual life of a religious movement (New York, Palgrave MacMillan).

Cunha, Ana Stela de Almeida, Espirito Santo, Diana and Panagiotopoulos, Anastasios (eds)
forthcoming 
Beyond tradition, beyond invention: Cosmic technologies and creativity in contemporary Afro-Cuban religions (London, Sean Kingston Publishers).

Departamento de Orientación Revolucionaria del Comité Central del Partido Comunista de Cuba
1975Tesis sobre la lucha ideológica (Havana, COR del CC del PCC).

Dianteill, Erwan
1995Le savant et le santero: naissance de l’étude scientifique des religions afro-cubaines (1906-1954) (Paris, L’Harmattan).
2000Des dieux et des signes: initiations, écriture et divination dans les religions afro-cubaines (Paris, Éditions de l’ehess).

Díaz Fabelo, Simión Teodoro
1960
Olorun (Havana, Departamento de Folklore del TNC).
1967Análisis y evaluación cultural del diloggun, Havana, unpublished manuscript.
1969
Los Abakuá, Havana, unpublished manuscript.
1970
Los íremes abakuás de Cuba, Havana, unpublished manuscript.

Dumont, René
1964Cuba. Socialisme et développement (Paris, Le Seuil).

Espirito Santo, Diana
2009 Developing the dead: The nature of knowledge, mediumship, and self in Cuban espiritismo, PhD dissertation, University College London.

Etnología y Folklore
1966-1969
9 issues (Havana, Academia de Ciencias).

Faraldo-Boulet, Julie
2009Politique et religion à Cuba sous la révolution: l’étonnant statut particulier de la Santeria, Master’s dissertation, University of Montréal.

Fernández Robaina, Tomás
1994Hablen paleros y santeros (Havana, Editorial de Ciencias Sociales).

Geoffray, Marie-Laure and Testa, Silvina (eds)
2009Cuba: un demi-siècle d’expérience révolutionnaire [special issue], Cahiers des Amériques latines, 57-58.

Gilroy, Paul
1993 The Black Atlantic: Modernity and double consciousness (London, Verso).

Gobin, Emma
2009À propos des cultes d’origine yoruba dans la Cuba socialiste (1959 à nos jours), Cahiers des Amériques latines, 57-58: 143-158.
2012Un complexe sacerdotal cubain: les santeros, les babalaos et la réflexivité critique, PhD dissertation, University Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense.

Govín Barani, Silvia
1996Miscelánea sobre santería (La Havane, Publicaciones Imago).

Gregory, Steven
1986 Santería in New York City: A study in cultural resistance, PhD dissertation, New School for Social Research (New York).
1999 Santería in New York City. A study in cultural resistance (New York, Garland Publishing).

Guanche, Jesús
1983Procesos etnoculturales de Cuba (Havana, Editorial de Ciencias Sociales).

Habel, Janette
1989Ruptures à Cuba: le castrisme en crise (Paris, La Brèche).

Hagedorn, Katherine J.
2001 Divine utterances: The performance of afro-cuban santería (Washington, Smithsonian Institution Press).

Hallam, Elizabeth and Ingold, Tim (eds)
2007 Creativity and cultural improvisation (Oxford and New York, Berg).

Hearn, Adrian H.
2008Cuba: Religion, social capital, and development (Durham, Duke University Press).

Holbraad, Martin S.
2002 Belief in necessity: Ifá divination and money in contemporary Havana, PhD dissertation, University of Cambridge.
2012 Truth in motion. The recursive anthropology of divination (Chicago and London, University of Chicago Press).

Houseman, Michael and Severi, Carlo
1998 Naven or the other Self: A relational approach to ritual action (Leiden, Brill).

James Figarola, Joel
2001Sistemas mágico-religiosos cubanos: principios rectores (Havana, Union).
2006
La brujería cubana: El Palo Monte, aproximación al pensamiento abstracto de la cubanía (Santiago de Cuba, Editorial Oriente).

James Figarola, Joel, Millet, José and Alarcón, Alexis
1992
El vodú en Cuba (Santo Domingo and Santiago de Cuba, Casa del Caribe).

Jímenez, Sonia, Perera, Ana Celia et al.
2005
Algunas tendencias y manifestaciones del movimiento de la Nueva Era en Ciudad de la Habana, Informe de Investigación, DESR-CIPS.

Juárez Huet, Nahayeilli
2007
Un pedacito de Dios en casa: transnacionalización, relocalización y práctica de la santería en la ciudad de México, PhD dissertation, El Colegio de Michoacán.

Kabo, Vladimir R.
1990Études de la structure sociale traditionnelle dans l’anthropologie soviétique hier et aujourd’hui, Cahiers du monde russe et soviétique, XXXI (2-3): 163-168.

Karnoouh, Lorraine
2011Processus de recomposition religieuse à La Havane: la religion et le New Age, in K. Argyriadis and S. Capone (eds), La religion des orisha. Un champ social transnational en pleine recomposition (Paris, Hermann): 211-239.

Kerestetzi, Katerina
2011Vivre avec les morts. Réinvention, transmission et légitimation des pratiques du palo monte (Cuba), PhD Dissertation, University Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense.

Kirby, Diana and Sanchez, Sara María
1988 Santería from Africa to Miami via Cuba: Five hundred years of worship, Tequesta, the journal of the historical association of Southern Florida, XLVIII: 36-52.

Kirk, John M.
1989 Between God and the party. Religion and politics in revolutionary Cuba (Tampa, University of South Florida Press).

Konen, Alain
2006La mécanique des secrets d’Ifá. Compétences et savoir-faire des babalawo dans un rituel divinatoire cubain à La Havane, PhD dissertation, Université libre de Bruxelles/École pratique des hautes études.
2009Rites divinatoires et initiatiques à La Havane: la main des Dieux (Paris, L’Harmattan).

Lachatañeré, Romulo
[1943-1949]
1992El sistema religioso de los afrocubanos (Havana, Editorial de Ciencias Sociales).

Lamarre, Marie-Ève
2007Reconfiguration de l’espace culturel à Cuba, Master’s dissertation, University of Montréal.

Levesque, Jacques
1976L’URSS et la Révolution cubaine (Montréal, Presses de l’université de Montréal).

Lewis, Oscar, Lewis, Ruth M. and Rigdon, Susan M.
1977-1978 Living the revolution: An oral history of contemporary Cuba (Urbana, University of Illinois Press) [vol. 1: Four men, vol. 2: Four women, vol. 3: Neighbors].

López Calleja, Sonia
2005Diffusion des cultes afro-cubains à Paris et à Valencia: influence des processus cognitifs dans l’adhésion à une nouvelle religion, Master’s dissertation, University Paris X-Nanterre.

López Valdés, Rafael L.
1985Componentes africanos en el etnos cubano (Havana, Editorial de Ciencias Sociales).

Luciano Franco, José
1959Folklore criollo y afrocubano (Havana, Publicación de la Junta Nacional de Arqueología y Etnología).
1961 Afroamérica (Havana, Imprenta Nacional).

Martínez, Raphael and Wetli, Charles
1981 Forensic Sciences Aspects of Santeria, a Religious Cult of African Origin, Journal of Forensic Science, 26 (3): 506-514.
1983 Brujeria: Manifestations of Palo Mayombe in South Florida, Journal of Florida Medical Association, 70-8: 629-34.

Martinez Furé, Rogelio
[1979]1997Diálogos imaginarios (Havana, Editorial Letras Cubanas).

Matory, James L.
1994 Sex and the empire that is no more: Gender and the politics of metaphor in Oyo-Yoruba religion (Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press).
2005 Black Atlantic religion: Tradition, transnationalism, and matriarchy in the Afro-Brazilian Candomblé (Princeton, Princeton University Press).

Menéndez, Lázara
[1995]2001« ¡¿Un cake para Obatalá?! », Temas.
2002Rodar el coco. Procesos de cambio en la santería (Havana, Fundación Ortiz).

Métraux, Alfred and Verger, Pierre
1994Le pied à l’étrier. Correspondance 1946-1963 (Paris, Jean-Michel Place).

Mintz, Sidney W. and Price, Richard
1992 The birth of African American culture. An anthropological perspective (Boston, Beacon Press).

Moore, Carlos
1988 Castro, the Blacks and Africa (Los Angeles, University of California).

Morel, Géraldine
2010Enjeux de pouvoir, pouvoir en jeu et institutionnalisation de la société secrète abakuá à La Havane, Echogeo, 12, online: http://echogeo.revues.org/11706.
2011 Ancrage local et enjeux internationaux d’une transnationalisation des pratiques cultuelles abakuás, RITA, 5, online: http://www.revue-rita.com/dossier/ancrage-local-et-enjeux-internationaux-d-une-transnationalisation-des-pratiques-cultuelles-abakuas.html.
2012Être abakuá à La Havane: pouvoir en jeu, enjeux de pouvoir et mise en scène de soi, PhD dissertation, University of Neuchâtel.

Murphy, Joseph M.
1980 Ritual systems in Cuban Santería, PhD dissertation, Temple University, Philadelphia.
1988 Santeria: An African religion in America (Boston, Beacon Press).

Ochoa, Todd R.
2010 Society of the dead : Quita manaquita and Palo praise in Cuba (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London, University of California Press).

Ortiz, Fernando
[1906]1995Hampa afrocubana – Los negros brujos (Havana, Editorial de Ciencias Sociales).
1940Contrapunteo del tabaco y del azúcar (Havana, Jesus Montero).
[1951]
1981Los bailes y el teatro de los negros de Cuba en el folklore de Cuba (Havana, Editorial Letras Cubanas).

Palmié, Stephan
1986 Afro-Cuban religion in exile: Santeria in South Florida, Journal of Carribean Studies, 5-3: 171-179.
1991Das Exil der Götter. Geschichte und Vorstellungswelt einer afrokubanischen Religion (Frankfurt, Peter Lang).
2002 Wizards and scientists: Exploration in Afro-Cuban modernity and tradition (Durham, Duke University Press).
2005 Santería grand slam: Afro-Cuban religious studies and the study of Afro-Cuban religion,
New West Indian Guide/Nieuwe West-Indische Gids, 79 (1-2): 281-300.
2008 (ed.)
Africas of the Americas. Beyond the search for origins in the study of Afro-Atlantic religions (Leiden and Boston, Brill).

Panagiotopoulos, Anastasios
2011 The Island of crossed destinies: Human and other-than-human perspectives in Afro-Cuban divination, PhD dissertation, University of Edinburgh.

Pérez, Louis A. Jr.
[1988] 2006 Cuba between reform and revolution (New York, Oxford University Press).

Pérez Massola, Abel
2013La práctica fon-ewe en Cuba. Perspectiva histórico-socio-cultural de la religión Vodú en la provincia de La Habana. Estudio del asentamiento de San Francisco de Paula, Tesis de licenciatura, Instituto superior ecuménico de ciencias de la religión (Havana).

Ramos, Miguel W.
2000 The Empire beats on: Oyo, batá drums and hegemony in nineteenth-century Cuba, mémoire de Master, Florida International University.
2003 La división de La Habana: Territorial conflict and cultural hegemony in the followers of Oyo Lucumi religion, 1850s-1920s, Cuban Studies, 34: 38-70.

Rauhut, Claudia
2011Santería in Kuba: Akteure, Wege and Diskurse der Globalisierung einer afrokubanischen Tradition, PhD dissertation, Universität Leipzig.
2012
Santería und ihre Globalisierung in Kuba. Tradition und Innovation in einer afrokubanischen Religion (Würzburg, Ergon-Verlag).

Rosendhal, Mona
1997 Inside the Revolution: Everyday life in socialist Cuba (Ithaca, Cornell University Press).

Routon, Kenneth
2005 Unimaginable Homelands? Africa and the abakuá historical imagination, Journal of Latin American anthropology, 10 (2): 370-400.
2008 Conjuring the past: slavery and the historical imagination in Cuba, American Ethnologist, 35 (4): 632-649.

Sandoval, Mercedes
1979 Santería as a mental health care system. An historical overview, Social Science and Medicine, 13: 137-151.

Schechner, Richard
2002 Performance studies: An introduction (Abingdon, Routledge).

Sogbossi, Brice H.
1998La tradición ewé-fon en Cuba: contribución al estudio de la tradición ewé-fon (arará) en los pueblos de Jovellanos, Perico y Agramonte (Havana, Fundación Fernando Ortiz).

Testa, Silvina
2005La « lucumisation » des cultes d’origine africaine à Cuba: le cas de Sagua la Grande, Journal de la Société des américanistes, 91 (1): 113-138.
2006La conquête de l’Est. Reconfigurations régionales de la santería cubaine, PhD dissertation, University Paris X-Nanterre.

Thompson, Robert Farris
[1968] 1983 The flash of the spirit: African and Afro-American art and philosophy (New York, Random House).

Turner, Victor W. and Schechner, Richard (eds)
1986 The anthropology of performance (New York, PAJ Publications).

Wedel, Johan
2002 Santería healing in Cuba, PhD dissertation, Göteborg University.
2004 Santería healing. A journey into the Afro-Cuban world of divinities, spirits and sorcery (Gainesville, University Press of Florida).

Wirtz, Kristina
2007 Ritual, discourse, and community in Cuban santería. Speaking a sacred world (Gainesville, University Press of Florida).

Yelvington, Kevin A. (ed.)
2006 Afro-Atlantic dialogues (Santa Fe, School of American Research Press).

Haut de page

Notes

1 While the papers that follow are in French and Spanish, it seemed to us a good idea to include this English translation of the introduction, to promote further dialogue with the many English-speaking researchers working on Cuban religions. The text has been translated by Emma Gobin and she wishes to extend warm thanks to Diana Espirito Santo and Andrew Hamilton for their review and suggestions. We are also grateful to the anonymous reviewers chosen by Ateliers d’anthropologie for their useful comments on this paper and for inciting us to specify several elements of context.

2 Among a few standard references in French and English, see Levesque, 1976; Kirk, 1985; Moore, 1988; Pérez [1988] 2006; Habel, 1989. For a review of political and historical research on Cuba (or “Cuban studies”) as it became institutionalised in the United States (especially in universities in Pittsburgh and Miami where exiled Cuban scholars were present), see Bloch, 2006.

3 The widely publicised expulsion of O. Lewis and his team—who had initially obtained the agreement of the Cuban authorities to collect life narratives among the local population—somehow sounded the death knell of the official welcoming of Western ‘fieldworkers’ into the country. A few European academics were certainly able to stay on the island in the 1970s but they were clearly hindered in their personal research, see for example the testimony of C. Bataillon (2006).

4 The full history of these institutions is too complex to be included in this introduction, but the now defunct Institute of Ethnology and Folklore must be mentioned. Founded in 1960, it played a key role in the development of Cuban religious studies during the 1960s. We should also point out that although the island was not available as an anthropological field site to Western fieldworkers for decades, a few (predominantly Russian) Soviet ethnographers were invited to work with Cuban researchers. Numerous African students were also trained on the island, but very few of them in social sciences.

5 This choice was also partially linked to Unesco programmes focused on the “African presence” in the Americas (Unesco even provided financial support for the creation of the Institute of Ethnology and Folklore). This situation obviously favoured exchanges between intellectuals of all nationalities for a few more years. For further details on Cuban pre-Revolutionary works, see Dianteill, 1995 and Argyriadis, 2006.

6 S.T. Díaz Fabelo (1967, 1969, 1970) was a particularly prolific author who has unfortunately remained little-known, as most of his work consists of unpublished manuscripts still mainly circulated from hand to hand.

7 See for instance the re-publication of R. López Valdés’s texts (1985), most of which date back to the 1970s.

8 For the first articles in scientific journals, see for example Sandoval, 1979; Martínez and Wetli, 1981, 1983; Palmié, 1986; Kirby and Sanchez, 1988. For early doctoral dissertations, see Murphy, 1980; Brandon, 1983; Gregory, 1999, authors who later expanded their academic works into books (Murphy 1988; Brandon, 1993; Gregory, 1999).

9 Let us remember, in very simple terms, that Gilroy’s “Black Atlantic” concept—an expression first coined by R. Farris Thompson, 1964—assumes that the common Atlantic colonial and slave history shaped a relatively homogeneous space of resistance and (re)creation of new cultural forms. For further discussion of this notion, see for instance Chivallon, 2008; Agudelo et. al., 2009.

10 On this point, see also Holbraad (2012: 9-10) who rightly stresses the political and ethical determinants that inspired this ‘turn’ in Africanist and Afro-Americanist anthropology.

11 The recent volume published in the United Kingdom but edited by A. Apter and L. Derby (2010), both members of the History Department at UCLA, is also a good example of this ethnohistorical trend. It contains several articles devoted to Cuban religious practices (including one by S. Palmié), which are immediately placed in a “transatlantic” historical context.

12 Aside from special exchange programmes, these constraints apply to all American residents wishing to go to Cuba. They may fluctuate according to foreign policy but they are very real, just as the American embargo on Cuba, which also fluctuates in intensity from period to period, and was significantly strengthened in the 1990s.

13 Although there are still no research visas, today anyone paying membership fees to a Cuban scientific or cultural institution can obtain a long-term student visa (usually for one year) and enjoy significant leeway in his or her daily research activities. It is even less complicated to stay in Cuba for short periods of research (up to two or three months) with a tourist visa issued by Cuban consulates or travel agencies. We should stress that the economic strategy involving mass tourism as a solution to the crisis was only made official in 1997, during the Fifth Congress of the Cuban Communist Party.

14 Argyriadis’s descriptions of the unique atmosphere of the early days of the Special Period and her analysis of the relationship between religion and Revolution also serve as a useful source for researchers (at those who read French) working on other subjects in Cuba.

15 One exception should be mentioned here: Swedish anthropologist M. Rosendahl (1997), whose early ethnographic survey focused on ‘everyday life’ in Cuba. Since that time, Cubanist anthropology has taken off and numerous themes are currently being developed, ranging (among other examples) from tourism or informal forms of economy to the place of women, the micro-mechanisms sustaining the emergence of a civil society, the production of alternative music (rap and reggaeton), etc. In 2009, a symposium organised in Paris by V. Jolivet, S. Testa and M.‑L. Geoffray on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the Cuban Revolution testified to the diversity of themes being researched. For other examples, see also the special issue of Cahiers des Amériques Latines (Geoffray and Testa, 2009) and issues 4 and 5 of the UK journal ASAonline, 2012. It is probably worth noting that although a tradition of Cuban political studies exists in Canada, and although a large number of Canadian tourists have also visited the island since the 1990s, to our knowledge this situation has not generated significant anthropological interest in Cuba in this country. However, a few masters’ dissertations treating of religious issues and including short field studies in Cuba have been completed. See Lamarre, 2007; Faraldo-Boulet, 2009.

16 Other academic works based on European or (Meso‑)American field studies have also dealt with this aspect (see for example López Calleja, 2004; Júarez Huet, 2007). G. Morel (2011; 2012 : 239-294) has also stressed that this question is currently becoming more and more relevant for the study of abakuá. A “Transnational Religions” research programme (ANR Relitrans, 2007-2010, based in France and Mexico) has given rise to several publications, one of which related to Afro-American religions (Argyriadis and Capone, 2011). To a lesser extent, see also Águilar et. al., 2008.

17 Although popular vernacular categorisations are more complex, there are three official racial categories listed on Cuban identity documents: Black, White and Mulatto.

18 In the Cuban literature, however, the political considerations at stake in the study of these phenomena largely contributed to the preservation of the term ‘Afro-Cuban’. Cuban authors have debated its relevance over time, stressing on the one hand that it is useful for emphasising the importance of an ‘African contribution’ to cultural and national identity and, on the other hand, that it is potentially prejudicial to the unitary ideology and cultural homogeneity advocated by the Revolution. The first official texts from the Party addressing the religious question established the generic (and somehow depreciatory) appellation “syncretic cults” (cultos sincréticos, see Departamento de Orientación, 1975). It has also been reused, although with a certain distance, by some researchers (see for example Argüelles Mederos and Hodge Limonta, 1991).

19 Palo monte has been typically divided into three dominant variants (mayombe, kimbisa, brillumba) that do not actually reflect the plasticity of everyday practices (see K. Kerestetzi’s and A. S. de Almeida Cunha’s article in this issue).

20 To date, the Beninese Brice H. Sogbossi (1998), who completed his higher education in Cuba, is the only author who has published a work on arará. A few elements can also be found in Andreu (1992) and Brown (2003b).

21 The only book available on vodú is the largely prospective work of Cuban scholars James Figarola et al. (1992). A recent undergraduate thesis has also been completed by Cuban student A. Pérez Massola (2013). On the special link between vodú and palo monte, see also the article by A. S. de Almeida Cunha in this collection and Sogbossi (1998).

22 A typology of distinct and isolated Cuban spirit ‘traditions’ has been proposed. As in the case of palo monte, this classification somehow responds to academics’ obsession with typology rather than to empirical reality (see D. Espirito Santo’s paper in this issue).

23 Abakuá is actually the only ritual complex which does not offer any healing services, although it also involves strong power dynamics (see G. Morel in this issue).

24 Article 54 (paragraph 1) of the first Revolutionary Constitution (1976) indicated:The socialist state, which bases its activity on, and educates the People in, the scientific materialist conception of the universe, recognizes and guarantees the freedom of conscience, the individual right to profess any religious belief and to practice, within the confines of the law, the religion of his preference” (our translation). Paragraph 3, however, tempered this assertion: “It is illegal and punishable by law to use religious faith or belief to oppose the Revolution or education, or to oppose compliance with the duty to work, to defend the homeland with arms, to revere its symbols, or any other duties established by the Constitution.” In the 1992 amendment following the Fourth Congress of the Party, paragraph 3 disappeared and the first one was reworded as follows: “the state, which recognizes, respects and guarantees freedom of conscience and of religion, at the same time recognizes, respects and guarantees every citizen’s freedom to change his religious beliefs or to not have any, and to profess, within the respect for the law, the religious belief of his preference”. Furthermore, Article 42 of this revised Constitution added “religious belief” to the list of the types of prohibited discrimination that were potentially punishable by law. From a religious perspective, this is a major difference from the previous version of the Constitution, since the earlier list of prohibited forms of discriminations had been restricted to those related to gender, race and geographic origin.

25 In Cuban researchers’ works, the question of syncretism or “transculturation” (Ortiz, 1940), which partly sustained this policy, is still central, less from a theoretical perspective than as a metaphor for Cuban identity itself. For complementary analyses of this process of “heritage creation”, see Hagedorn, 2001; Argyriadis, 2006; Gobin, 2009. For particularly explicit formulations of the ideology that governed it, see for example Martínez Furé [1979] 1997; Guanche, 1983. For other analyses of the relationship between religion and politics based on recent field studies in Cuba, see also the work of UK-based researcher C. Ayorinde (2004) and the more recent study of Sydney-based anthropologist A.H. Hearn (2010), who worked in Havana and in Santiago de Cuba.

26 See Espirito Santo, 2009; Morel, 2010 and the articles by E. Gobin and A. Konen in this collection.

27 In fact, many Cuban scholars are themselves involved in religious practices and have undergone initiations in distinct ‘traditions’ (not necessarily in connection to their investigations). This is also true for an increasing number of foreign anthropologists.

28 It is important to note that foreign fieldworkers, while in Cuba, are often hosted by Cuban institutions, including those mentioned above. Researchers of all nationalities therefore abundantly interact in formal and informal circumstances and their respective approaches may also be a source of mutual inspiration.

29 For a prominent theorization of the ‘relational’ trend, see Houseman and Severi, 1998. On the anthropology of ‘self’, see also Csordas, 1997. For the development of a ‘phenomenological’ approach linked with a ‘perspectivist’ and ‘ontological’ analysis applied to the field of Cuban Ifá, see Holbraad (2012). For the development of monographs on Cuban religions also partially inspired by some of these theoretical trends, see for instance Panagiotopoulos, 2011; Gobin, 2012.

30 It would be superfluous to quote the classic works of P. Bourdieu and E. Goffman, but important anthropological theorization concerning the question of performance can be mentioned (see Turner and Schechner, 1986 ; Butler, 1990). See also the most recent synthesis of R. Schechner, 2002. As we might expect, for Cuban researchers the theme of “power” is one of the most difficult to approach, particularly because of local issues of religious legitimization.

31 For major works advocating such a perspective in religious anthropology, see for instance T. Csordas (1994) and the recent book edited by E. Hallam et T. Ingold (2007). See also the seminal analysis of F. Barth (1987). A book specifically devoted to these questions in Cuban religions and edited by A. S. de Almeida Cunha, D. Espirito Santo and A. Panagiotopoulos is currently in preparation (see Cunha et. al., forthcoming).

32 D.H. Brown’s work (2003b) explicitly articulates notions of power, agency and innovation in its analysis of the development of ‘modern santería’.

33 This theme is also tangentially touched upon in several of the articles presented in this collection (see D. Espirito Santo, E. Gobin or A. S. de Almeida Cunha). For now, we can only find one CIPS research report devoted to the topic (Jiménez et. al., 2005) as well as a master’s thesis written by a member of the same team, focusing on the stimulating question of ritual and symbolism (Blanco Pérez, 2007). To a lesser extent, see also Karnoouh, 2011.

Haut de page

Table des illustrations

Titre map 1 – Cuba and its provinces, 2013
Légende This map includes the administrative redistribution of former province of Havana (2011), which has been divided into three: Havana (now limited to the capital and its suburbs), Artemisa and Mayabeque
Crédits Sandrine Soriano, CNRS–UMR7186, licence CC BY-SA 3.0 (sources : Daniel Dalet/d-maps.com, http://d-maps.com/​carte.php?num_car=38497&lang=en ; Rei-artur, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia commons)
URL http://ateliers.revues.org/docannexe/image/9447/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 348k
Titre map 2 – Afro-Cuban religious celebrations, according to the ‘Ethnographic Atlas of Cuba’ (Centro de Antropología/CIDCC, 1999b)
Légende The previously mentioned research project ‘Ethnographic Atlas of Cuba’ neglected the study of local religious practices, but it listed them indirectly by considering some of their festive and collective ceremonies (‘traditional celebrations’). Map 2 merges two original maps created by Dr. Virtudes Feliú, respectively entitled ‘religious celebrations of Sub-Saharan origin’ (left table) and ‘religious celebrations of Haitian origin’ (right table). They are not exhaustive (for example, vodú does not appear in Havana although it is practiced there) and some of the entries adopted are questionable (for example, santería or palo are classified according to their supposed permeability to other local practices, a choice which does not reflect the internal dynamics of Cuban religious universe, see below). Nevertheless, this document clearly reveals that (Afro‑)Cuban religions are represented all over Cuban territory. Furthermore, it shows that they are intrinsically linked with popular Catholicism and that, according to the region or the period considered, some of them are more significant than others
Crédits We deeply thank the ICAN (formerly Centro de antropología) and the ICIC Juan Marinello (formerly CIDCC) for allowing us to use these documents
URL http://ateliers.revues.org/docannexe/image/9447/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 678k
Haut de page

Pour citer cet article

Référence électronique

Emma Gobin et Géraldine Morel, « Ethnography and Religious Anthropology of Cuba: Historical and Bibliographical Landmarks », Ateliers d'anthropologie [En ligne], 38 | 2013, mis en ligne le 08 juillet 2013, consulté le 19 septembre 2014. URL : http://ateliers.revues.org/9447 ; DOI : 10.4000/ateliers.9447

Haut de page

Auteurs

Emma Gobin

Postdoctoral fellow, Musée du quai Branly, Research and teaching department
PhD in social and cultural anthropology, Laboratoire d’ethnologie et de sociologie comparative
gobin_e@yahoo.fr

Articles du même auteur

Géraldine Morel

PhD in social and cultural anthropology, University of Neuchâtel
geraldine.morel-baro@unine.ch

Articles du même auteur

Haut de page

Droits d’auteur

Tous droits réservés

Haut de page
  • Logo LESC - Laboratoire d’Ethnologie et de Sociologie Comparative
  • Logo Maison René Ginouvès - Archéologie & Ethnologie
  • Logo DOAJ - Directory of Open Access Journals
  • Revues.org