Accepted paper:

The house-trap: the inner workings of shelter in socialist Cuba and postsocialist Mozambique


Morten Nielsen (National Museum of Denmark)
Martin Holbraad (University College, London)

Paper short abstract:

Urban houses in Cuba and Mozambique intensify present or past socialisms all the way in. The collapse of a distinction between exteriority and interiority may, however, also afford a momentary sheltering from those political forces that structure the formation of urban subjectivities.

Paper long abstract:

Based on recently collected ethnographic data from Cuba and Mozambique, this paper explores houses as traps of and for the forces of ideology and power in state-socialist projects of infrastructure. In urban environments in Cuba and Mozambique imprinted in comparable ways by the effects of present or past socialist utopian projects, no exterior position seems to exist from which to proportion an appropriate distance to the revolutionary ideology. Houses act as the conduit of state-socialist ideologies, 'trapping' their inhabitants in the dynamics of its becoming, as well as its aftermath. As particularly volatile forms of ideological infrastructures, houses thus intensify socialist projects all the way in. The interiority of the house relays or even amplifies political cosmologies by opening up every space and crevice to its utopic reverberations. As we argue, however, in some instances, the collapse of a distinction between exteriority and interiority is what affords a momentary sheltering from those transcendent political forces that also structure the formation of urban subjectivity in these socialist or post-socialist environments. Indeed, by driving the ideological project always further in - by opening up new 'insides', as it were - urbanites trap the socialist force on the inside of an inside, which thereby becomes a new 'outside' of the house. In this way, the house is able to trap the forces of state-ideology and hold them in suspension so as to open up an alternative horizon with reference to which its inhabitants' are able precariously to project themselves into alternative futures.

panel P116
Anthropological traps