Accepted paper:

'...and did it my way': religious idiosyncrasy and imagination in the multiple ritual landscapes of Cuba


Anastasios Panagiotopoulos (CRIA-Universidade Nova de Lisboa)

Paper short abstract:

In Cuba one might often hear the expression: 'I am religious, but in my own way'. This reveals that for many Cubans religiosity is mediated by a high degree of imagination; one, though, that is welcomed and does not necessarily go against to something more 'authentic' and efficacious.

Paper long abstract:

Historically, Cuba has been a place where different religious traditions have not only come to coexist, but also organically blend together and become meaningful to many Cubans. Furthermore, and although an ex-Spanish colony, Cuba has never developed a highly institutionalized religion that would completely dominate peoples' religious behaviour; this has been accentuated with the 1959 Revolution. Ethnographically, one might often hear the expression: 'I am religious, but in my own way'. This paper wishes to give some ethnographic depth to such an expression and elaborate on its implications to an understanding of imagination not as a by-product of how 'things' are represented or constructed out of nothing. Rather, by offering ethnographic descriptions of the Cuban case, I wish to argue that religious imagination can be inherent to and, thus, product of the very 'things' and entities that are perceived to inhabit the world. More specifically, I describe a context where many of life's aspects are hidden and brought into surface by a kind of divination, that is, communication with other-than-human entities. The latter are, thus, often part and parcel of what can be perceived, intuited or imagined, that otherwise would be impossible. Many of my Cuban friends, in their own various ways, insisted that imagination was needed for such communication to flourish. Conversely, imagination would increase as the communication did. Rather, then, than pitching imagination against reality, the ethnographic context I present portrays or imagines, if you like, a picture where the one is constituent of the other.

panel IW001
Grappling with uncertainties: ethnographies of the imagination