"The Cuban Factors of Humanity/Los factores cubanos de la humanidad" by Stephan Palmié

Department: Latin American Studies

Date and Time: January 16, 2018 | 5:00 PM-7:00 PM

Event Location: HIB135

Event Details

Latin American Studies, CHASTE, Spanish and Portuguese, International Studies invite:

"The Cuban Factors of Humanity/Los factores cubanos de la humanidad" by Stephan Palmié

Professor of Anthropology and of Social Sciences in the University of Chicago, Stephan Palmié conducts ethnographic and historical research on Afro-Caribbean cultures, with an emphasis on Afro-Cuban religious formations and their relations to the history and cultures of a wider Atlantic world. His other interests include practices of historical representation and knowledge production, systems of slavery and unfree labor, constructions of race and ethnicity, conceptions of embodiment and moral personhood, medical anthropology, and the anthropology of food and cuisine.

His presentation "The Cuban Factors of Humanity/Los factores cubanos de la humanidad" focuses in his recently published article in Anthropological Theory 16:3-21. Ostensibly a book written with a view towards publicly promulgating an anti-racist agenda by synthesizing a vast body of mid-20th-century biological and genetic science, Fernando Ortiz’s El engaño de las razas (1946) remains one his least commented-upon works. Eclipsed in its scholarly reception (both nationally and internationally) by its immediate predecessor, El contrapunteo cubano del tabaco y el azúcar (1940) and its English translation (1946), El engaño de las razas also appears to have been shadowed by (or simply assimilated into) the spate of post-Second World War anthropological anti-racist pronouncements culminating in the 1951 UNESCO Declaration Against Racism. However, paying close attention to Ortiz’s analytical and rhetorical strategies reveals that El engaño is by no means a mere anti-racist tract in the guise of a (characteristically learned and vociferously poetic) Latin American ensayo. Prof. Palmié argues that the text merits our attention today not only because it refracted and subjected a larger, international anthropological agenda of the time to a local perspective, but also because its analytical tropology – arguably – only entered anthropological theorizing about human biology, heredity, and sociality under the sign of relationality from the 1990s onward. I suggest that in outlining a metapragmatic ethics and politics of metaphor Ortiz also anticipated a de-stabilization of representationalist accounts of ‘race’ that goes well beyond social constructionism.