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Imagined individuality

Cultivating separated personhood in Cuba and beyond

Ståle Wig

Abstract

If no man is an island, if we are inherently social creatures, how should we understand people's claims to be valuable individuals, separate from their environment? Based on ethnographic research among self-employed Cuban market traders, this article analyses performances of imagined individuality to understand how people cultivate a notion of themselves as separate from social ties. In Cuba, work in the growing private sector provides a foundation upon which people assert personal independence. In order to cultivate and realize these notions of individuality, one needs to fulfill gendered expectations of material distribution. Hence, to assert personal independence requires the mobilization of unequally distributed resources.

Open access

Battlegrounds of dependence

Reconfiguring labor, kinship and relational obligation

Keir Martin, Ståle Wig, and Sylvia Yanagisako

Abstract

Interdependence is a fundamental characteristic of human existence. The way in which certain dependencies are acknowledged as opposed to those that are hidden, or the ways in which some are validated while others are denigrated, is central to how social inequalities are reproduced and recreated. In this introduction we explore how particular dependencies are categorized, separated, and made visible or invisible as part of their performative effect. In particular, we explore the distinction between wage labor and kinship as two forms of relatedness that are often separated in terms of the (in)dependence that they are seen to embody. Even though they are practically entangled, their conceptual separation remains important. These conceptual separations are central to how gender difference is imagined and constituted globally.