Caribbean and Mediterranean counterpoints and transculturations

Stephan Palmié


Probing the possibilities for transregional anthropological scholarship in light of the Cuban polymath Fernando Ortiz’s prolific work, this introduction surveys the development of Mediterraneanist and Caribbeanist anthropology, situates Ortiz’s intellectual trajectory within its Balearic and Cuban biographical contexts, and discusses the contributors’ attempts to harness Ortiz’s conceptual vocabulary to issues such as Hispanophone intellectual network-building, the globalization of Spiritist thought in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the phenomenology of the US-Haitian water border, patterns of intersectarian coexistence and exclusion at Mediterranean shrines and walled border zones, Ortiz’s changing views of Afro-Cuban cultural forms, his lexicographical contributions and their afterlife in Afro-Cuban ritual praxis, as well as ethnographies probing the promise of Ortiz’s contrapuntal approach and concept of transculturation in relation to the conjunction between the global aluminum industry and Ndyuka Maroon ritual praxis in Suriname, the transformation of northern Portugal’s Alto Minho region in light of theories of cultural emergence, and the proliferation of images of the deity María Lionza in Venezuela, Barcelona and on the web. The overarching argument is that a return to Ortiz’s signature contributions to rethinking ethnoracial difference, and nonhierarchical conceptions of cultural heterogeneity may serve us well in our contemporary endeavors to understand not just the Caribbean and Mediterranean regions, but global processes, such as the turn towards vocabularies of cultural incompatibility that serve as novel, seemingly “post-racial” technologies of exclusion.

Full Text:


DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/714237