The living, the dead, and the immanent: Dialogue across chronotopes

Kristina Wirtz


Bakhtin’s concept of the chronotope, or “time-space,” contributes to a theoretically robust anthropology of history by highlighting how our experience and thus subjective feel for history and place emerge through semiotic processes that can generate different kinds of historicity. In rendering Bakhtin’s suggestive concept of chronotope more precise, I apply his more widely known concept of dialogicality to argue that the historical imagination emerges through dialogical interactions across multiple chronotopes. To illustrate, I then apply a chronotopic analysis to two ethnographic interviews from my study of Cuban folkloric and religious history-making practices. I argue that different understandings of time, history, and being are mobilized in these interviews, often in rapid succession, producing contrasting structures of morality, affect, belonging, and truth. Scholarly historicity’s past-making may even depend upon its modes of purifying and inscribing other chronotopes, including a chronotope of spirit copresence and its inverse in a chronotope of historical transcendence.


historical consciousness, chronotope, temporality, memory, oral history interview, Cuba, spirit mediumship

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.14318/hau6.1.019