The living, the dead, and the immanent

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons | © Kristina Wirtz. ISSN 2049-1115 (Online). DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.14318/hau6.1.019


The living, the dead, and the immanent

Dialogue across chronotopes

Kristina WIRTZ, Western Michigan University

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.

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

In this time of growing anthropological fascination with practices of memory, historical imagination, and place making, there is a general recognition that temporal and spatial imaginaries implicate one another. While different regimes of temporal and spatial imagination producing diverse historical subjectivities have often been described and, at least tacitly, contrasted to a Western academic historical sensibility, the productive interactions across distinct forms of historicity remain undertheorized. Mikhail Bakhtin’s (1981) concept of chronotope or “time-space,” is increasingly cited, sometimes applied, but only rarely given sustained theoretical attention as part of his dialogical approach (see Mannheim and Tedlock 1995). [344]As a result, the concept remains more figurative than analytical. My goal here is to invite a reconsideration of what work a more fully rigorous chronotopic approach might help us accomplish in developing a theoretically robust anthropology of history. After some introductory comments toward this goal, I will apply a chronotopic analysis to two ethnographic interviews from my study of Cuban folkloric and religious history-making practices. In particular, what are the world-making effects of interactions across different modalities of creating “past relationships”? I argue that different understandings of time, history, and being are mobilized in these interviews, often in rapid succession, showing a dialogue of chronotopes that is constitutive of historical consciousness.

If the first insight of Bakhtin’s concept of chronotope is the irreducible relationality of time and space as semiotic (that is to say, socially meaningful) constructs, the second is that these semiotically mediated spatiotemporal orders shape our experience and thus subjective feel for history and place. The semiosis of historical imagination might be said to begin with the nuts and bolts of linguistic time and place indicators (deictics), but it is open-ended in what can shine with the patina of age, the gloss of the new, the whiff of home or exotic distance, and in how signs of (and in) time and place coalesce into orientations, narratives, and mnemonic practices that constitute historical subjectivities.1

Chronotopes thus are dynamic, unfolding constructions of how such categories as past, present, and future matter in themselves and in relation to the trajectories, disjunctures, and immanences that delineate the very possibilities for subjects. Here, I limit my focus to chronotopes structuring the historical imagination, where this term is not meant to imply that some people have an “imaginary” past while others know the “real” past, but rather to posit that all of what we call history—relations in and of the past—can be apprehended only through creative acts of recognizing and relating to signs of the past in contrast to signs of the present (Connerton 1989). If we define history as the domain of ontological claims regarding “what is past” (wie es eigentlich gewesen, or how it really was, in Ranke’s famous phrase), then I will designate what we can apprehend of the past through semiosis as historicity, such that historicity is necessarily perspectival.2 One more insight of the chronotopic approach then, is that our historical imagination emerges through dialogical interactions across multiple chronotopes.

As an approach to understanding such multiplicity, Bakhtin’s chronotope is not simply a synonym for framework, orientation, or ideology. It is much more fundamental, productive of subjectivity itself in grounding our experience of temporal and spatial relationships, which themselves structure our experience of being and sociality (see Hanks 1990). Bakhtin referred to his approach as a “historical poetics” (1981: 84; see also Holquist 2002: 108), deriving from his situated and dialogical understanding of discourse. I will go so far as to argue that chronotopic [345]relationships are constitutive of historicities as regimes of knowledge, affect, and relationality that enable our engagement with the past as an ontological domain.

Although chronotopes (like ideologies) can become hegemonic, they need not be totalizing. Following Burton (1996: 46–47), I argue that chronotopes are prior to ideologies, affording their conditions of possibility, not in one-to-one correspondences, but in their heterogeneity and juxtapositions. As such, a chronotopic analysis can be taken as a semiotically informed account of ontologies and their intercalibration that shows how different—even radically disparate—perspectives are achieved and how it is that we can shift between them.3

I follow the familiar ethnographic strategy of seeking contrasting cases in order to better trace the chronotopic dynamics defining our familiar scholarly historicity (Trouillot 1995), in its commitment to mapping chronology across universal, linear, and resolutely disenchanted, “empty” time and space (but see Hamann, this collection). Can we recognize the entanglements of scholarly history making with other regimes of historicity? One point of departure is, as Marshall Sahlins (2004) argues, that there is no “history” apart from “culture” (see also Iggers 1995; Megill 2004). In earlier work, Sahlins (1981, 1985) considered historic moments of cross-cultural contact in which the “structure of the conjuncture” led to collisions between different semiotic orders of history making—think of the British and the Maori, or Captain Cook and the Hawai‘ians—with spectacular (and sometimes awful) results. But in our hyperconsciously global moment, fewer interactions can justly be thought of as “conjunctures” in this sense. So how can we more carefully attend to the often more mundane interpenetrations of differing regimes of historical poiesis? What if we take as our starting point the interplay of multiple chronotopes—with scholarly historicity being just one, and likely itself internally complex and composite?

My project differs from that of (early) Sahlins because I am interested in the ways in which our scholarly assumptions regarding the universality of historical structures and events are themselves not only intersected by but perhaps constituted through interaction with other semiotic orders of space-time: the mythic, the heroic, the spiritual, the haunted.4 More specifically, I suggest that the empirical evidential regimes of scholarly historicity partake of the same kind of dynamic tension between heterogeneity (hybridization) and purification that Bruno Latour (1993) and Richard Bauman and Charles Briggs (2003) argue are constitutive of modernity across the disciplines (themselves products of these same processes). Hence, although spirits may present (as Palmié [2013] argues) a “condition of impossibility” for scholarly historicity, alongside angels, ghosts, messiahs, reincarnations, deified culture heroes, and other problematic figurations of various sacred, mythic, and “living” history, these entities and their chronotopes of possibility are [346]also a necessary alter against which scholarly ways of knowing the past are defined. Chronotopes, as I will show, are a dialogical, if not dialectical, phenomenon.5

Consider, for example, a chronotope of spiritual immanence, in which the dead, far from being confined to the past, can continue to act in the present. The Cuban folk religious practices that I have studied provide vivid modalities of recognizing the immanence of spirits of the past in moments of performance and their everyday presence in the affairs of the living. Kenneth Routon (2008) has argued that contemporary Cuban religious practitioners of the Reglas de Palo in fact create a “sorcery of history” through mimesis and memorialization of the exploitative relationships of slavery (and see Taussig 1993). Often theatrical but not reducible to theater, spirits of the dead, muertos, possess devotees’ bodies to speak and act, and they do so not to narrate or reenact the past, but to affect the present, as immanent copresences. Indeed, I argue elsewhere (Wirtz 2014b) that moments of full spirit possession or even of spirit mediumship serve to sensitize folk religion participants to a constant, embodied awareness of spiritual agency. History—what we know of the past—is sometimes haunted, and history-as-praxis haunts the present.

Rather than see the scholarly historicist chronotope and the chronotope of spiritual immanence as so ontologically distinct that, like matter and antimatter, they are incommensurable, I propose to trace how these spatiotemporal imaginaries emerge dialogically through history-making practices. I am interested in how multiple chronotopes interact, and how, in being calibrated to each other and to the ever-emergent chronotope that Bakhtin (1981: 252) called our “unresolved and still evolving contemporaneity” at the leading edge of our lived consciousness of “now,” such chronotopic interactions produce our temporal lives and imaginations.

A dialogue of chronotopes

So what is a chronotope? Bakhtin himself uses the term evocatively but vaguely, permitting a proliferation of possible meanings.6 As I have used it thus far, the term evokes aspects of subjectivity, relationality, orientation, ideology, and even ontology, but more precision is needed to delineate the conceptual work that chronotope specifically does. A helpful starting place is the source of Bakhtin’s inspiration in the cutting-edge scientific theory of his day, space-time relativity, which rejects the very possibility of absolute space-time coordinates.7 In combination with Bakhtin’s own emerging theory of dialogism, his notion of relative time-space thus describes [347]our subjective experiences of space and time as necessarily context-specific, relative constructions, situated in (and productive of) histories of social relationships.8 In his analysis of genres of literature from ancient epic poems to modern novels, Bakhtin applied the term to express how texts mobilize temporal, spatial, and characterological motifs and frameworks to convey differing kinds of narrative trajectories, event-structures, and points of view. His examples were diverse and wide-ranging, always pointing from literature toward the broader sociohistorical concerns it represented, and upon which it drew. For example, he identified in ancient Greek romances an abstract, undifferentiated “adventure-time” chronotope in which a protagonist moves through a series of adventures which nonetheless remain separate, unordered episodes that produce no change or growth in the characters (much like superhero comics). In contrast, he argued that later genres such as saints’ hagiographies show a narrative trajectory of “biographical time” in which external events transform characters through an arc of trials and redemption ending in sainthood. And the intimate, everyday “interior spaces” and biographical time of early nineteenth-century literature, in turn, created fertile ground for the Bildungsroman, showing how characters matured through their experiences, and ultimately led to the modernist novel’s innovation of fully interiorized individuals occupying “everyday” spaces and whose inner perspectives are dialogical with external events. In each literary genre, Bakhtin suggested, the chronotope-as-event-horizon conditions what kinds of stories, actions, and forms of personhood are possible (see Dick 2011; Stasch 2011). The concept has been extended from literature to performance, and from art to the ethnography of spontaneous everyday interactions, in which chronotope serves as substrate for experience and social action even when not necessarily subject to conscious reflection (see, e.g., Fox 2004; Lemon 2009; Blanton 2011; Wirtz 2011; Divita 2013; see also review in Blommaert 2015).

Although Bakhtin did not discuss examples from history texts, there is much in the self-consciously modernist and now postmodern historiographic literature that converges with his notion of chronotope. To briefly mention but one example, consider Hayden White’s (1973) metahistorical taxonomy of four predominant modes of writing history among major nineteenth-century European historians, each following a distinct vision of history characterized by a combination of explanatory styles, tropes, and so forth. One can ask, as Allan Megill (2004) does, whether history is coherent, or, following Constantin Fasolt (2005), whether scholarly historicity is possible apart from our basic ontological commitment to the autonomous, free individual as its agent. Consider heroic history making as described by White:

The historian performs an essentially poetic act, in which he prefigures the historical field and constitutes it as a domain upon which to bring to bear the specific theories he will use to explain “what was really happening” in it. (1973: x)

[348]Despite Bakhtin’s penchant for cataloguing chronotopic motifs (“the road,” “the castle,” “the salon”), he saw chronotopes as much more than formal plot structures or narrative devices for mapping narrated time to “real-world” time (Holquist 2002). He tied chronotope closely to characterizations of language itself—what he called “language consciousness,” and what we now call language ideologies, or, more broadly speaking, semiotic ideologies. He described the chronotope as the “ground essential for the showing-forth, the representability of events” (Bakhtin 1981: 250). Donald Anderson (2011) usefully develops Bakhtin’s passing reference to major and minor chronotopes (Bakhtin 1981: 252), characterizing most of Bakhtin’s examples (like those above) as major chronotopes that shape interdiscursive phenomena such as genres, ideologies, and characterological types. In contrast, so-called minor chronotopes are more fundamental building blocks encompassing the most basic aspects of language in its poesis, metricality, and deixis, as these structure the major chronotopes.

Clearly, chronotope is not just of “representational importance” (as Bakhtin puts it) but instead describes the very ordering of sign relationships that organize our experience. Moreover, the necessarily embedded relationship of minor to major chronotopes highlights Bakhtin’s suggestion that chronotopes “may be interwoven with, replace, or oppose one another, contradict one another or find themselves in ever more complex interrelationships” (1981: 252). While chronotopes are in themselves experienced holistically, Bakhtin’s discussion suggests that people can organize different aspects of their experiences and understandings according to different chronotopes, in the context of what Alaina Lemon (2009), playing off of Bakhtin’s notion of heteroglossia, calls “heterochronicity”: the coexistence of multiple chronotopes even in one interactional event. The idea of heterochronicity—the dialogical relations of chronotopes—also inversely suggests that recognizing chronotopes may contribute to differentiating types, whether of experiences, persons, events, or things. At a minimum, such chronotopic contrasts allow us to distinguish phenomena as pertaining to different ontological realms—of the historical past, the mythic, the potential but unrealized, or the present, for example.

Through various kinds of interdiscursive comparisons across experiences, events, and interactions, genres and other types emerge to become salient categories, available for later comparisons (Bauman and Briggs 1990). Michael Silverstein (2005) probes the way in which such comparisons—basic as they are to social semiosis—are made, arguing that judgments about similarity between two moments in the stream of discourse require semiotic work to lift them out of the stream and suspend some entextualized representation of them in what he calls an achronic state: a frame or horizon of comparison that is not so much “without time” as it is temporality creating. Out of such comparisons, we create temporal orders of what we come to see as linked events or types of events: cycles and trends, series of earlier and later instances, exemplars, quotes, samplings, parodies, and reenactments, for example. At the same time, we deploy myriad deictic techniques to anchor moments and events of discourse to specific chronotopes: “here and now,” “then and there,” “hereafter, always, and everywhere.”

Bakhtin emphasizes that our “living perception” of time-space is always affective and evaluative, calling this quality the “chronotopic value” (1981: 243). His [349]“concluding remarks” (added to his original 1937–38 essay in 1973) end with a revealing chronotopic motif of his own: “Consequently, every entry into the sphere of meanings is accomplished only through the gates of the chronotope” (ibid.: 258). To study the semiosis of history as the calibration of multiple chronotopes in real-time interaction requires us to attend to shifting frames of production and reception, achieved through changes of activity, semiotic modality, voicing, and participation. In these we trace how the interaction of different kinds of historical praxis involves not just emplacement and temporality but subject making, moral and affective stance taking, and ontological logics.

Chronotopes thus are semiotic products and interactional accomplishments, and they may appear in the stream of interaction in evocative moments rather than as totalizing wholes. We can trace their semiotic calibration to and impact on interactional events. From within the regime of a chronotope of scholarly historicity, the essential concerns for evaluating historical claims are authenticity and accuracy. But tracing out the chronotopic interplay of our lived, social experience of time shifts the focus instead to the question of how we construct the very relationships producing “that event, this memory” (Scott 1991), and what semiotic traces—in narratives, objects, archives, and performances—are taken up in the service of different kinds of historicity.

* * *

The two cases I will discuss involve calibration across chronotopes in two of my oral history interviews in Cuba, where my efforts at scholarly historical practice coincided with the interactional immanence, or copresence, of dead and deified participants and the projection of living participants into a sort of immanence in the past, using the very same material of scholarly (or at least empirical, verificationist) history. Rather than being an excursion into the exotica of others’ hauntings, these cases are what Misty Bastian (2013) calls a leap “down the rabbit hole,” in which we turn scholarly historicity inside out as the subject of ethnographic investigation, asking how it (and its infamous “view from nowhere”) is produced in dialogue with other regimes of historicity. The goal of this exercise is not to undermine but to better understand the historicizing work of academic historiography. I argue that dialogical relationships across chronotopes are already intimately part of history-making practices all around us, including our own, and may in fact be constitutive of our scholarly commitment to the commonsensicality of Western academic historicism as Truth.

The living and the immanent dead

Early on during my dissertation fieldwork in Santiago de Cuba, and long before I had much understanding of Cuban religious life, I had the good fortune to be asked to interview an elderly gentleman, Bernardino Bidó y Borgoña, who was well known in religious and Carnival circles in Santiago. Together with his grown daughters and a few close neighbors, we sat in his living room as my companion, a professional folklorist from the Casa del Caribe, sought Bernardino’s recollections of Carnival back in his youth, and I asked my inexperienced questions about [350]Spiritism.9 We began the interview with my religious questions, quickly reaching the point where Bernardino and his neighbor, a close family friend named Isabel, both experienced Spiritist mediums and the most vocal members of the group, explained that songs are used to call the spirits to Spiritist ceremonies. Then Isabel led the group in singing a song used to bring down the spirits, followed by Bernardino singing two more (I = Isabel; B = Bernardino; author’s translation from Spanish):

Excerpt 1.1

Notice, first, that the songs’ lyrics themselves describe an entire ontology of human relationships with beings such as Catholic saints, like the Virgin of Charity, who is called on for charity in the third song, and with spirits, who can advance their own spiritual state “toward the Light” through their kindness to the living. That is, the redemption of the dead and advancement of the living are intimately linked (see Espirito Santo 2015). Second, in the interactional text, Isabel and Bernardino each contextualize their songs as examples within the frame of the interview (in lines 1, 9, and 17). But they then sing (rather than recite) each song, breaking through into full performance (Hymes 1972; Bauman 1993: 26–27). When reaching the chorus, the rest of those assembled joined in to sing it in [351]unison. As they ended, the group broke into laughter, perhaps recognizing the shift out of stiff “interview mode” that they had accomplished by singing. In addition, the songs marked a chronotope of spiritual immanence, because Bernardino and Isabel then reported experiencing spiritual transmissions from their muertos during the song:10

Excerpt 1.2

Unsure what to make of Bernardino’s report of Saint Barbara’s presence at my side and suggestion that he is my “angel” or protecting saint, I responded that I was not familiar with the saint, at which Bernardino commented: “She does not have knowledge,” where knowledge-from-familiarity, conocimiento, is often used to describe just this sort of sensitivity to the spiritual that permeates our existence. Isabel then began to report a spiritual transmission in a rapid, low voice:

Excerpt 1.3

And with this second pronominal shift to addressing me in the formal second person, the focus changed to conveying the transmission to me, as it would during a spiritual consultation:

Excerpt 1.4

Her transmission continued for a while, referring to further “actions” of stairs where I live, of jealousy I should beware of, of a call for an offering of flowers, of a tall man, neither fat nor thin but bald, of a child. She, Bernardino, and the others began to ask me questions, concerned to help me understand the message and interpret it in terms of my situation: Was I married? Did I live alone? Did my house “allá” (there) in the United States have a lot of stairs? Was my husband in Cuba with me? Did I have children? As it dawned on me that I was no longer in control of an interview (if I had ever been) but instead was being subjected to [352]a spiritual intervention that put the focus on my personal life story, the interaction devolved for a time into a comedy of misunderstanding, partly because I tried to resist the intrusiveness of the questions, and in doing so, with awkward Spanish, I inadvertently conveyed the false impression that the man I was living with in Cuba was not my American husband, giving those assembled a moment’s pause to savor that juicy implication before the transmissions and questioning continued.

This misunderstanding—and my resistance to being pulled into a dialogue with spirits—signals an interplay between chronotopes. Consider the way in which the participants’ joint performance of Spiritist songs enacted a chronotope of spiritual immanence, in which deities such as Saint Barbara could appear at my side and Eleggua could “open a path” shaping my future, presumably in a spiritual direction. Note, too, the idiom Isabel uses to relay what she is “allowed to see” (line 34), where it goes without saying for those in the know that the vision-granting agents are her muertos, spirits of the dead who work with and through her. Through the immanence of the dead and the divine, Isabel’s vision expands beyond the immediate place and time of our interaction to open up distinct “vistas and places” from my almost unimaginable (in 1999 Cuba) life “allá” in the United States, to the spiritual potentialities—the “actions” that would shape my future.

Beyond examining alternatives to our assumptions about linear, universal, empty time, what other purchase might we gain by considering the interplay of multiple chronotopes—with the scholarly regime of historicity being just one? In this first example, the group’s enactment of a chronotope of spiritual immanence accomplished, among other things, a turning of the tables, so that it was my personal life being “revealed” to those gathered and shaped by spiritual potentialities into a future ripe with spiritual immanence. And the temporal logic of this chronotope, in which spirits reveal past, present, and future, differs from scholarly historicity’s structural cause and effect projecting from a known past and present into an as yet empty, homogeneous future. Rather than revealing an already-destined future or, alternately, providing a “superabundance” of open-ended meanings for human interpretation (Werbner 1973), deities and spirits of the dead activate possibilities according to what Martin Holbraad (2012) calls “motility.” In his study of a form of divination in this same realm of Cuban popular religion, he coins this term to describe an open-endedness, rather than fixity, in the field of relations and meanings produced through divinatory and revelatory processes.

But I don’t think that this spiritual “motility” was as radical a disruption as it might seem of the “interview” frame. Instead I consider such chronotopic multiplicity to be part and parcel of interactional events, although which particular chronotopes are in play and how shifts between them are triggered and negotiated are certainly related to the way in which what the ethnographer calls “interviews” are locally understood as genres of interaction (on the nonuniversality of the “interview,” see Briggs 1986). And so my goal in the next example is to more closely examine the workings of these chronotopic shifts across an entire interview.[353]

The chronotopic production of transcendence in an oral history interview

I now want to consider the effects of dialogue across chronotopes during a different group oral history interview I video-recorded with some elderly members of a Carabalí society in March 2010, together with their young assistant director, Ricardo, and the prominent Santiaguero folklorist and choreographer Ernesto Armiñán Linares. The Cabildo Carabalí Isuama is an officially recognized centenary organization tracing to colonial-era Black Cuban religious cofraternities (cabildos) and mutual aid and recreation societies.11 Even by the 1890s, when Isuama appears in Santiago’s public record as a legally inscribed association, its officers were creole Cubans of color, rather than Africans, so that its designation as a specifically Carabalí society was likely already a nod to tradition rather than a declaration of ethnicity. Especially important is the historical context of this period, shortly after the abolition of slavery in 1886, and just as Cuba was entering a second open war for independence from Spain that proved partially successful in 1898, except that the United States instead seized control of the nominally independent new nation. The era remains highly salient in contemporary Cuba, because it was only the Cuban Revolution of 1959 (and continuing in institutionalized form to now) that fulfilled that promise of national sovereignty and full rights of citizenship to all Cubans, at least by its own reckoning.

Today, Isuama is a neighborhood-based Carnival ensemble (comparsa) with its own distinctive “carabalí” instrumentation, rhythms, dance steps, and songs. Its performances parody the colonial order, with dancers divided into a royal court, vassals (a euphemism for slaves), and libertos (freed slaves). Their song lyrics and choreographies highlight their Afro-Cuban cultural heritage and struggle for freedom, equality, and Cuban independence. Keeping in mind the role of these songs as historical mnemonics, one striking aspect is their first-person voicing and the immediacy of the events they describe. To sing them is to assume the voice and origo of the Carabalí ancestors and mambí heroes (grassroots independence fighters).12 For example, a Carabalí song called “Freedom,” which plays an important chronotope-shifting role in the interview, includes the lyrics: “The war is going to start / I sharpen my machete well / That my master gave to me.” Through performances that not only commemorate but also reenact the historical dramas of escaping slavery and fighting for freedom, Isuama quite self-consciously positions itself as a folkloric institution contributing to national patrimony as well as to neighborhood tradition.

It is important to understand that “folklore” is an official, bureaucratically managed category of cultural production in Cuba. Fidel Castro famously announced, in a 1961 speech to artists and intellectuals: “Within the Revolution, everything; against the Revolution, no rights at all,” an articulation of the role the arts and the academy were to play in advancing the agenda of the Revolution’s transformation [354]of Cuban society (Castro 1961). While one reading of this pronouncement is ominous, presaging repressive policies toward artists and intellectuals that reached a low point during the 1970s and early 1980s (Navarro 2002), another, equally valid reading is evident in the incredible state support of the arts and cultural production as an essential component of the Revolution.13 The very category of folklore was included in the arts, and as such was brought under the bureaucratic oversight of the National Council on Culture in 1961, which in 1976 became the Ministry of Culture, charged with preserving and promoting Cuba’s patrimony.14

The Revolution’s developing policy toward culture and aesthetic production involved a massive bureaucratization of cultural production, not only to promote Revolutionary ideology and ensure it saturated the arts and intellectual life, but also to democratize access to cultural production. The first three decades of the Revolution correspondingly saw the development of a government infrastructure to support and control artistic production, a massive project that included registering and often reorganizing existing amateur and professional groups as well as creating new ones. Traditional societies and comparsas like the Carabalí were designated “carriers” (portadores) of cultural patrimony. To receive the status of a traditional “culture carrier,” groups must successfully claim primordial status; patrimony is, after all, “discovered,” not “created.” The price of recognition and support has been to cede control to a centralized (and impoverished) government ministry, with its endless bureaucracy. And critique, at times, has run the risk of being branded counterrevolutionary, making complaint potentially dangerous.15 For just one example relevant to the interview here, directors must be approved by the ministry, creating the potential for conflicts between the group’s internal dynamics and its corporate relationship to the ministry’s municipal office and the writers and artists union, UNEAC, which folklorist Ernesto Armiñán represented. In 2010, Isuama was dealing with some long-simmering tensions over its management, as a result of which it was the assistant director, Ricardo, whom Armiñán asked to arrange the interview with Isuama’s most senior members.

I will discuss just a few emblematic moments from the full seventy-minute interview in order to show how it was structured by the poetic interplay of three major chronotopes. In short, what Michael Lambek (1998 and this collection) calls the poiesis or “crafting” of history in the interview centrally involved an alternation between the evidential, epistemic, deictic, and moral frames of these chronotopes. Two recurrent features of the interaction, in particular, served as pivot points driving these chronotopic shifts: naming the group’s important ancestors, such as founders and past directors; and the interactional trope of dialogical intensification (Urban 1986), in which participants would echo each other or, more dramatically, [355]sing together. These two same features, invocation of ancestors and dialogical intensification, also triggered partial or full breakthroughs into performance (Hymes 1972; Bauman 1993), which in turn produced a chronotope of immanence, meaning the kind of powerful, tangible copresence of the living, the dead, and the deified described in the previous example.

Out of this poetic structure of dialogue across chronotopes emerged an increasingly emotionally charged and morally sharp discourse of complaint, which produced an interactional crisis about fifty minutes into the session, when it looked like the discussion would entirely break down and several people would angrily leave because of their unhappiness with past wrongs. But the same poeisis of chronotopes allowed Ricardo and Armiñán to instead unite the group in song and achieve its apotheosis in transcendent unity with the heroic Carabalí rebels of old.

I now describe the workings of dialogue across the three major chronotopes emerging in the interview.

Personal recollection

Most pervasive is the chronotope of personal recollection, in which the interviewees narrate a memory of their involvement in and perspective on past events. There is an immediacy to the chronotope of personal recollection, in part because the narrator’s persona is continuous with the origo of the narrated perspective—I wasI am, or we werewe are. There are, of course, other features of reportive and reflexive calibration at work in creating this feeling of continuity with and immediacy of the past of personal recollection. For example, when participants narrated their recollections, they often gestured in various directions when naming specific streets and people, thereby deictically anchoring the past as overlapping their current orientations to place, centered on our location in Isuama’s building on Carnicería Street in the heart of the Los Hoyos neighborhood of Santiago. This emplacement of the past in the present surroundings bolsters claims about the epistemic status of knowledge of the past through personal recollection, as well as suggesting that the past is immanent in the present, saturating our very location.

In contrast to their strong emplacement, personal recollections were less precisely situated in time: specific years were mentioned only with interviewer questioning, although how long someone had been involved and how old they were relative to their age now did get mentioned. Instead “eras” were referenced according to who the director of Isuama was at the time—in excerpt 2.1 below, the former director Virginia Medina is mentioned for her amazing voice as lead singer. The succession of directors is a major structural principle of Carabalí history making, and one that readily translates into scholarly historicity as well as into immanence, as I will describe below, because past directors become ancestors and, potentially, spirits immanent in the present. The heroic status of past directors also sharpens the critique against the most recent directors, and, by extension, against the ministry’s interference in selecting and supporting them.

Excerpts 2.1 and 2.2, from early in the interview, give the flavor of personal recollections, including how locational gestures helped anchor the past in the immediate surroundings of the interview and how concerns about narrative authority are expressed.[356]

Excerpt 2.1

Even before we got inside Isuama’s building, while still standing outside, Rosalina (RL) began recounting her participation in Isuama over more than forty years to Armiñán (A):

Excerpt 2.1

Once we were seated inside and Armiñán formally asked her, Rosalina continued to recount her past involvement with Isuama despite another, bigger interruption—reggaeton music from across the street, played at deafening volumes that soon drove us to the back of the building, where we started over for the third time. On this second iteration, Armiñán invited Rosalina to speak by ratifying her earlier claim to narrative authority on the basis of her seniority, referring to her as the “mother” of Isuama.

Excerpt 2.2

At that moment, Rosalina was interrupted by the sudden broadcast of reggaeton from a radio across the street—an intrusion of the chronotope of contemporaneity, since reggaeton is the current music of Cuban youth, such as the group of young men who sat with the radio. Reggaeton stands in generational counterpoint to older genres, including Carabalí, that face obsolescence, as iconized in this moment [357]by being drowned out by the latest music.16 How poignant, then, that Rosalina was interrupted by reggaeton’s driving beat even as she recalled her youthful attraction to the Carabalí beat.

As these excerpts illustrate, by the standards of scholarly historicity, personal recollection is partial, interested, and subjective. Instead of marshaling independently corroborated “facts,” truth (veracity) comes out of what is deeply felt and long experienced. This is a difference in the kind of authenticity being claimed compared to scholarly historicity: it is authentic in being true to strong memories, cemented into structures of sentiment traceable across biographical time to foundational events of joining Isuama. When, for a third time, Rosalina offered her recollections, she concluded that “from there it was from generation to generation, up to now, that we are losing that tradit[ion].”

The chronotope of personal recollection, in expressly connecting interactional present with remembered past through the narrator’s autobiographical account, not surprisingly triggered emotional effects of nostalgia, which in turn led into almost formulaic assertions that things had gone downhill. Each participant’s recital of personal recollections seemed to eventually lead to a litany of complaints about wrongs they had suffered that marked Isuama’s decline. In making these complaints, Carabalí members contrasted their commitment to tradition with the destructively ignorant and careless attitudes of others, as happened about forty minutes into the interview, when Ricardo began to get worked up about how Isuama was underappreciated. Here is just the beginning of a monologue lasting about a minute (underlining indicates repetitions):

Excerpt 2.3

Like Rosalina, Ricardo gave moral and emotional weight to his nostalgia through emergent poetic structures such as repetition. Having referenced Isuama’s ongoing struggle to preserve its traditions in the face of unspecified sources of ignorance and malice, Ricardo went on to describe the Carabalí instruments as “patrimony,” because, in his words, “these instruments, like the tragalegua [a big flat 2-headed drum], guarded the medications (medicamentos), the medicines, to carry it from one encampment [of independence fighters] to another.” The cabildos [358](cofraternities) could use drum rhythms as signals to warn of approaching Spanish imperial troops. In invoking a point of connection between the struggles of patriotic Carabalí ancestors and their own to preserve that heritage, Ricardo also aligned the Carabalí’s oral history of heroism with Cuba’s official history of independence heroes. Moreover, his bid for nomic (normative) calibration initiated a shift into the chronotope of scholarly historicity.

Scholarly historicity

As Ricardo, Armiñán, and I were well aware, the Western academic genre of the oral history interview, at heart, involves a purposeful interconversion from the chronotope of personal recollection into that of scholarly historicity. Bruno Latour and Steve Woolgar (1986) call such interconversions “inscription processes” in their account of the construction of scientific facts in research laboratories—an analysis that can be extended to the empirical work of writing scholarly history based on the collection of recollections in oral history interviews.

In turning elicited personal recollections into evidence for scholarly historicity, oral history interviews engage in or subsequently undergo inscription and recontextualization processes whereby recollections infused with spatial deictic specificities, temporal generalizations of “eras,” and strong affect are (ideally) converted into temporally specific, de- and recontextualizable propositions of neutral affect that can be evaluated for their veracity according to the accepted evidential forms of scholarly history. The chronotopic regime of scholarly historicity, apparent in Ricardo’s references to the Carabalí’s aid to rebels, above, will be familiar to readers. As deployed in Isuama’s interview, it became a way to bolster the moral positions of those who complained of being wronged.

Excerpt 2.4 below, from the formal start of our interview inside the cabildo, gives the most explicit discussion of our historicist goals for the interview. In it, I am particularly insistent about needing verifiable facts. It was apparent that Ricardo had come to our interview prepared for just this demand. He had brought his folio of historical documentation and started off by sharing several photographs from the late 1960s showing Isuama members in rehearsal and performance. Throughout the interview, Ricardo continued to riffle through his papers from time to time.

Excerpt 2.4 Excerpt 2.4b

Armiñán, who, let us not forget, represented the official syndicate, took up Ricardo’s framing of the interview as the collection of oral history in reiterating my demands for the specific “names and dates” of properly documented historical data, materialized in photos I could recapture on my video.

While the partiality and interestedness of scholarly historical accounts and their sources are hardly deniable, there is a strong sense that they can and should be measured against (and held to) an ideal of objectivity in representing the “real truth” about the past. And yet properly empiricist data are elusive, at least in the interactional frame of the interview, where participants frequently switch topics, providing few specifics of names and dates. When names are provided, they often trigger a chronotopic shift back into personal recollections. But for participants in the interactional event of the oral history interview, empirical scholarly knowledge becomes as much a source of pride as personal recollection, perhaps because it serves as an externally authenticated basis for members’ pride, one highly valued by the ministry bureaucracy.

For example, at one point Ricardo complained about recent inaccurate dramatizations of the song “Libertad,” which addresses a “Margarita” and continues with the lyrics cited above about sharpening one’s machete to join the insurrection. He mentioned Margarita as a historical figure, alongside Afro-Cuban general Antonio Maceo, also invoking three past directors of the Carabalí, including Virginia Medina, who had joined our session late (and here I must apologize for the gaps in my transcription, but the reggaeton was very loud). First complaining “but everything has changed,” he then critiqued a choreography in which Margarita, a “symbol of freedom,” is killed.

Excerpt 2.5 Excerpt 2.5b

I find it difficult to follow all of Ricardo’s complaints here, except that he appealed to his experience, to the moral authority of several past directors, and to “history” to argue that this choreography violated the spirit of the song. His brief demonstration of waving Cuban flags while singing the chorus of “Libertad” brought other participants into a moment of joint patriotic reminiscence, within a chronotope of immanence.

Chronotopes of immanence

When Ricardo mentioned the flags, the former singer and director Virginia (V), whom he had repeatedly addressed during his story (see lines 3 and 6), finally responded by listing their patriotic colors, echoed by Ricardo:

Excerpt 2.5c

Although lasting only as long as this exchange, before the conversation again cycled back through more personal recollections and more (and increasingly pointed and explicit) complaints, there was a momentary shift toward a chronotope of immanence, in which the beautiful past of Carabalí songs and waving Cuban flags seemed almost fully realized in the interactional frame, although only Ricardo sang and waved his arms.

At a few points during the interview, longer-lasting moments of immanence occurred, in which Ricardo’s brief attempt in excerpt 2.5 helped to establish the emergent poetics of naming ancestors and engaging in dialogical intensification as triggers of immanence. Greg Urban (1986) argues that the poetics of formal dialogicality through repetition, present in many ritual contexts, may serve as a semiotic model for social solidarity and agreement, as seems to be the case here. Dialogical intensification is evident in lines 10–12 of excerpt 2.5, in which Virginia and Ricardo echo each other in reciting the patriotic colors, and this moment about forty-three minutes into the interview itself repeats an earlier dialogical recital of the flag’s colors around eighteen minutes in that, as we will see below, had a bigger effect on the group.

As an interactional trope that heightened participants’ emotional involvement, dialogical intensification could range from relatively low intensity, as when participants nodded in agreement while others spoke, to rather more robust series of repetitions, such as the dialogical recital of patriotic colors, or very high-intensity [361]moments of dialogical performance, as when someone began to sing and the group broke into the song’s chorus. In some cases, the dialogical repetitions served to convert structures of feeling into epistemic claims: for example, an invocation of the patriotic colors demonstrating that the Carabalí is and has always been quintessentially patriotic. Dialogicality in the interactional text could thus contribute to authenticating epistemic claims based on personal experience and scholarly historical “data” alike by intensifying the emotional “truth” of what is claimed.

The other recurrent trigger of chronotopic shifts into immanence was the naming of predecessors and ancestors of Isuama, as Ricardo did above. This shift happened for the first time during Rosalina’s personal recollection, after she responded to Ernesto’s request to describe how she joined Isuama and what they did at that time. She had just mentioned then-director Juan Medina, father of Virginia, who was also a well-respected folk religious practitioner, a santero, who kept a fundamento or power object containing a muerto. Rosalina described how Medina would lead them in invoking the ancestors with a moyuba—a ritual invocation used in Santería. Asked by Ernesto how the moyuba was done, she demonstrated, standing up halfway through to restart, because a moyuba should be done standing. Closing her eyes and raising her arms in praise, she began, “Moyuba é to the [founding] Baracoa brothers,” and touched the ground in reverence as Armiñán repeated this, then went on to recite “moyuba é” for former directors Porfirio Villalón and Juan Medina. It was clear that one cannot demonstrate a moyuba without performing it—to name the ancestors is to call on them and therefore demands proper respect (alongside her excuse about wanting to be heard despite the loud reggaeton). Rosalina’s moyuba was a breakthrough into performance that enacted a chronotope of immanence, in which the invoked ancestors’ presence was recognized.

Rosalina then smoothly continued into personal recollection about her youth, and the chronotope of immanence receded once more. But it reappeared again throughout the interview, in dialogical tension with the chronotopes of personal recollection and scholarly historicity. And in showing its periodic reappearance, I suggest that this was no random oscillation between chronotopes, but rather the defining feature of this group interview and perhaps why Isuama, old-fashioned as it is, continues to be significant to those who participate in it at the same time that it is consistently seen from the outside, including by culture bureaucrats and the general public, through a chronotope of nostalgia, as always already obsolescent. In short, Isuama may be a society dedicated to preservation, but it also creatively adapts ritual procedures borrowed from folk religious practices that many of its members are familiar with, in order to make the saints, spirits, and ancestors immanent.

In other moments of the interview, it was breaking into song that triggered a chronotope of the immanent past, in which the past and its beings, the spirits and ancestors, united with and saturated the interactional present. After Rosalina’s personal recollections, Armiñán asked what role she had danced. This unexpectedly proved a sore point, because what Ricardo vaguely described as a “directive” (from the culture ministry bureaucracy) had forced her out of her dancing role. As Rosalina complained of being left with nothing, Ricardo spoke up to explain, briefly enacting the chronotope of scholarly historicity before naming the Carabalí’s founders:[362]

Excerpt 2.6

Naming the ancestors, as Ricardo begins to do here, marks a point of overlap between various chronotopes of personal recollection, scholarly historicity, and even immanence, as the continuation of this excerpt will show. A few seconds later, after our various reactions to these names, Ricardo continued:

Excerpt 2.6a Excerpt 2.6b

Ricardo then claimed (in lines 19–20) that the famous Afro-Cuban general Antonio Maceo, born in the same Los Hoyos neighborhood where we sat, was a member of Isuama, a fact that unspecified parties tried to conceal with censor’s marks in historical documents. As evidence, he began to recite a song, “Libertad.” He introduced his recitation of the lyrics of the first verse with the disclaimer that it is a “powerful song” that Virginia performs. Virginia is a former director who had once sung the lead for Isuama performances and still had an operatic voice, and whom he had invited to the interview but who had not yet arrived at this point. Not wanting to steal her thunder or risk comparison to her, perhaps, Ricardo did not perform the song as a song but rather quoted from it, in speaking intonation and with various self-corrections (in lines 22–32). But by the time he had recited a shortened version of the chorus, the song’s familiar melody inserted itself. Armiñán, a talented singer, interrupted with a breakthrough into full performance (in lines 33–34), now singing that chorus, and immediately joined by everyone present, a joint performance preserving the absent Virginia’s virtuosity as lead singer while giving those present the feeling of togetherness in the familiar words.

Ricardo then tentatively broke into performance himself, again giving the quotative frame and discourse marker “ah” as disclaimers of performance: “the end of the song, which says, ah” in line 35, before singing that final verse in lines 36–41. And, with the entire group now relaxed and animated after the stiff beginning of the interview, he and Armiñán created a moment of dialogic intensification (in lines 43–47) by jointly reciting the patriotic colors of the small flags all the dancers would wave during the song, back when it was frequently performed: “red, red; white, white; and blue, blue.” With that, everyone in the group started talking at once, a moment of high emotional involvement (and the moment at which my excerpt ends).

In turn, this crosstalk and the collective effervescence it expressed, linking members in solidarity with heroes of Isuama’s past, allowed the group to confront the potentially divisive problems caused by the culture ministry’s top-down control. [364]Armiñán led the group in restating Rosalina’s and Ricardo’s individual grievances (her unfair dismissal, his discovery of censor’s hatchmarks, and hints about problems with the ministry’s interference) and reformulating them as a more generalized complaint about what he called “a great problem we have in Cuba,” meaning bureaucrats needing to mind their own business. (And any Cuban can relate to this complaint in Cuba’s highly bureaucratized system.) He then encapsulated his bland, generalized critique in the nomically calibrated aphorism “shoemaker to your shoes!” thereby channeling the high and potentially dangerous emotions of complaint emergent in personal recollection into unimpeachably revolutionary moral platitudes. The discussion also ratified Isuama members as the true authorities on their folklore society and its history, on the basis of their personal connections to its past.

In this particular instance, the interaction itself modeled a build-up of energy and its channeling into the coordinated focus of jointly singing a song, thereby enacting being a proud member of the Carabalí, now, then, and for ever. The interaction prior to the song, too, established fraternity with Antonio Maceo, as a culture hero of free Cuba and Carabalí member according to a deep but occluded history. Maceo also faced injustice bravely! More generally, those two kinds of belonging—the more select, racialized, and locally grounded membership in a Carabalí society and the broader patriotic identification—are treated as inextricable in songs such as “Libertad,” in which Isuama sings itself into immanence with its heroic past.

In sum, the Isuama members’ joint production of the chronotope of immanence served to ground another basis of their authority in addition to the archival authority of verifiable historical sources and the emotional truth of personal recollection, by making Isuama’s ancestors ritually immanent in the present and in singing themselves into an apotheosis with Isuama’s heroic past. One might say that immanence produces transcendence: Isuama positions itself as a living link, an embodiment, of Cubans’—and, particularly, Black Cubans’—heroic community. This is significant because in the Revolution’s official history, the rebellious spirit of cimarrones (escaped slaves) and mambises (grassroots independence fighters) was quite thoroughly channeled into Fidel’s revolutionaries and now can be expressed only as a kind of nationalist spirit, of Cuba as the cimarrón socialist nation holding out in a hostile world of neoliberal capitalism, but not as a resistant orientation of individuals or groups within Cuba. In a sense, resistance must be channeled into nostalgia for the nation’s heroic past to be safely contained. But in enacting a chronotope of immanence in and with the heroic past, the interview participants recalibrate their litany of complaints into a proud, patriotic (and properly revolutionary) tradition of resistance to injustice, even in its modern bureaucratic forms.


In a groundbreaking critique of “verificationist” approaches to studying historical consciousness in and of the African Diaspora, David Scott argues for replacing concerns about authenticating the historical narratives of subaltern groups with questions about how such narratives construct “relations among pasts, presents, and futures” (1991: 278), and with what consequences. Scott, like Sahlins, is concerned with what happens in the juxtaposition of distinct cultural constructions of history. [365]His primary example is Richard Price’s (2002) reading of Saramaka oral history alongside Dutch colonial/Surinamese archival history that serves to authenticate it, where these are treated as separate rather than mutually constituted historicities. This kind of chronotopic juxtapositioning is what I want to highlight, not as an exceptional moment (e.g., the “structure of the conjuncture” of “contact” or of anthropological-historical hermeneutic practices) but as the very moment of mutually constituting those chronotopes in and through the poesis of their juxtapositions. To this end, I have focused on the chronotopic textures evident even in Western scholarly history-making processes, such as the two oral history interviews I have discussed. Such processes cannot be separated from the interactional contexts in which actors and agencies participate, whether these are living, dead, or deified.

Notable among responses to Scott’s call and the more general “historic turn,” Edmund Gordon and Mark Anderson (1999) and Paul Johnson (2007) have examined shifting “horizons” of historical consciousness among Garifuna and Nicaraguan Creole communities that destabilize anthropological assumptions that who “belongs” to the African Diaspora (or doesn’t) is necessarily obvious as a fact of (scholary) history. Considering the Carabalí society’s strong bid to entwine its origins with those of the independent Cuban nation through the figures of its mambí founders, we might wonder at the invocations of Africa in other Carabalí songs, such as the chorus sung in another moment of immanence during the interview: “Africa, Africa, the drum makes me remember.” We have seen that Carabalí songs are performative, seeking to enact the vision of solidarity, belonging, and cultural resistance they invoke through their historical vignettes. Singing “Libertad,” one can imagine Isuama’s Carabalí ancestors having the very conversation sung in the lyrics as they joined a slave insurrection, and Isuama’s founders, perhaps, invoking those ancestors as they entered the 1895 war for independence. Such moments of historical immanence—or of our living immanence in history—may be quite common, extending beyond the particulars of Cuban ritual invocations of ancestors and encounters with spirits. We may not be as tethered to the disenchanted universals of scholarly historicity as we think.

Rather than seeing scholarly historicity, or any other chronotope, as complete unto itself, I have argued that we should first consider the dialogical relations across chronotopes. In this view, scholarly historicity is a praxis of purification, in which the enchantments of immanence and hauntings of personal recollection undergo purging by severing their affective and indexical ties to the particularities of place and subjectivity that allow cross-temporal immanence to emerge. In this regard, note how much of “popular” history of all sorts, and not only in Cuba, involves what is tellingly called “bringing history to life” through reenactments and resensitizing the feel of history in a place. And in contrast, note how many contemporary debates about, for example, what belongs in the history curriculum involve forms of nomic calibration removing the positionality and potential emotionality of what must be presented as simple “facts”: where unpleasant or divisive connotations remain, better those topics be excised.

I extend the call to understand the full range of variously enchanted, localized, personalized, conspiratorial, and subaltern historicities not only in themselves but also in relation to the often powerful chronotopes animating other regimes of historicity that create forms of variously historical, national, racial, and local affiliations, [366]identifications, and memberships (or their impossibility) as self-evident categories. The “arts of memory” and history alike (pace Cole 2001) involve chronotopic multiplicity. In this essay, I have suggested that attention to the poetics of chronotopic dialogue can sharpen our analysis of the epistemic, affective, and moral commitments of different historicities, including the workings of scholarly historicity, not as an abstraction to be debated alongside other abstractions, but as one of many practices of history making.


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Les vivants, les morts et l’immanent: dialogue entre chronotopes

Résumé : Le concept du chronotope, ou “espace-temps,” fourni par Bakhtin, contribue à la production d’une anthropologie de l’histoire de qualité, en soulignant la façon dont notre expérience, et donc, notre sens subjectif de l’histoire et de l’espace, émergent grâce à des processus sémiotiques qui engendrent différentes sortes d’historicité. Tout en précisant cet utile concept, je mobilise un autre concept majeur de Bakhtin, la dialogicité, afin de suggérer que l’imagination historique naît d’interactions dialogiques entre de multiples chronotopes. Afin d’illustrer concrètement cette proposition, j’applique une analyse chronotopique à deux entretiens ethnographiques extraits de mon étude des pratiques folkloriques et religieuses de fabrication de l’histoire à Cuba. Je montre que différentes interprétations du temps, de l’histoire, et de l’existence sont mobilisées dans ces entretiens, et se succèdent souvent rapidement, produisant des contrastes entre différentes structures morales, affectives, différentes structures d’appartenance et modèles de vérité. Les productions savantes du passé pourraient même dépendre des modes de purification et d’inscription d’autres chronotopes, notamment un chronotope où les esprits sont co-présents, et son inverse, un chronotope de transcendance historique.

Kristina WIRTZ is Professor of Spanish at Western Michigan University. A linguistic and cultural anthropologist specializing in religion, race, and Revolution in Cuba, she is the author of the books Performing Afro-Cuba: Image, voice, spectacle in the making of race and history (University of Chicago Press, 2014; winner of 2015 Edward Sapir Prize from the Society for Linguistic Anthropology) and Ritual, discourse, and community in Cuban Santería (University of Florida Press, 2007).

Kristina Wirtz
Department of Spanish
Western Michigan University
1903 W. Michigan Avenue
Kalamazoo, MI 49008


1. See Parmentier (1985) on the semiotic mediation of time through “signs of” and “sign in” history.

2. Without digressing, I wish to point out that my formulation intersects with key texts in the philosophy of history: for example, the historical poetics of Hayden White (1973), discussed below.

3. Both of these questions remain undertheorized in contemporary perspectivist accounts, which tend to contrast entire systems based on their differing ontological premises. Space does not permit me to review the key literature of the ontological turn here.

4. In more recent work, Sahlins examines the dialectical production of history between individual (and collective) historical agency (of various sorts) and structural conjunctures (see, e.g., Sahlins 2004: 8–11, 168–78).

5. These two terms signal different theoretical paradigms, with “dialectic” gesturing toward a Socratic, if not Hegelian, intellectual process of opposing ideas generating new understandings, while “dialogical” invokes Bakhtinian heteroglossia as the natural state of human thought and sociality without signaling any particular process or result.

6. His most extended treatment of chronotope is his essay “Forms of time and the chronotope in the novel” (Bakhtin 1981: 84–258), which provides the examples given here. See also Holquist (2002).

7. Bakhtin (1981: 84 fn.) reports first hearing the term during a lecture by a Leningrad physiologist in 1925. His work on chronotope dates to 1937–38.

8. Work by other theorists of the Bakhtin Circle such as Vološinov (1973, 1976) demonstrates the influence of Marxist understandings of the self as a dialectical production of social relationships materialized, for example, through class position.

9. The interview and full transcript can be viewed in my annotated digital archive at http://www.eviada.org.

10. The martyred Catholic girl Saint Barbara is strongly identified with the virile male oricha Changó. Spirit protectors and guides (“angels”) often reveal themselves through transmissions stimulated by songs and prayers during Spiritist ceremonies.

11. The term “Carabalí” is a Cuban ethnonym for slaves shipped from the West African ports of Calabar, although historians have made a compelling case for these labels as products of transatlantic ethnogenesis (Peel 1989; Law 1997).

12. For a more thorough discussion of Carabalí songs, see Wirtz (2011).

13. The full text of the speech is a fascinating blend of justifications of censorship and descriptions of grand plans to improve Cuban arts, culture, and education, all amid discussion of the limits of artistic and intellectual freedom.

14. See the Ministry of Culture’s mission statement at http://www.ecured.cu/Ministerio_de_Cultura_(Cuba).

15. Complaints about racism have been especially fraught (Moore 1988; de la Fuente 2007; Wirtz 2014a).

16. Since the early 2000s, reggaeton has become the latest in a series of popular music genres keyed to youth culture—and, more specifically, to poor, urban, Black male identifications in Cuba and across the African Diaspora. As with earlier “invasions” of global popular music such as rap and rock, it has occasioned official discourses of moral panic that Cuba’s youth will abandon tradition and the nation will lose its rich national musical patrimony.