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State and life in Cuba

Calibrating ideals and realities in a state‐socialist system for food provision

Osmara Mesa Cumbrera, Lázara Yolanda Carrazana Fuentes, Dialvys Rodríguez Hernández, Martin Holbraad, Isabel Reyes Mora, and María Regina Cano Orúe

Based on our collective ethnography of Cuba’s socialist system for the provision of state‐subsidised food, this article explores manners in which the state weaves itself into the fabric of people’s everyday lives in state‐socialist society. Instituted by Cuba’s revolutionary government in the early 1960s, Cuba’s ‘state system for provisioning’ is still today the backbone of household subsistence, propelling individuals into direct daily relations with the state via its neighbourhood‐level network of stores that distribute food catering to citizens’ ‘basic needs’. Our ethnography brings together a series of studies conducted by the members of our team in different parts of Havana, charting the most salient aspects of people’s interaction with the state in this alimentary context. We argue that the state becomes pervasive in people’s daily lives not just because it is present in so much of it, but also as the basic normative premise on which people interpret and evaluate everyday comportments in the interactions food provisioning involves. Life in state socialism involves the constant and intricate comparison of its own realities against the normative ideals the state purports to institute. These ‘vernacular comparisons’ between life and state, as we call them, are the ‘local knowledge’ of state socialism in Cuba.

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Migrantes y vida pública en Cuba

Estrategias transnacionales de ciudadanos cubanos residentes en Ecuador

Liudmila Morales Alfonso and Liosday Landaburo Sánchez

En 2008 asume oficialmente la presidencia de Cuba Raúl Castro, que había ejercido de manera interina por dos años, luego de que su hermano Fidel le transfiriera el poder. Con el nuevo presidente llegó lo que se ha denominado una “mirada

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Healing Practices and Revolution in Socialist Cuba

Marina Gold

More than a state ideology, the concept of 'Revolution' holds multiple meanings for Cubans. A historic moment, the government, the country, the people—Revolution is any one of these and all of them at once. How, then, do people experience a permanent Revolution in their daily lives? The interactions between biomedicine, alternative health practices, and the syncretic system of beliefs known as Santería have important implications for the socialist project of the Revolution. As a central concern of Revolution, health provides a particularly clear example of the interaction between revolutionary ideology and practice. This distinction elucidates the epistemological and experiential complexity of Revolution, providing the Cuban state with a powerful signifier that allows it to adapt to situations of crisis, continuously reinvent itself, and be in a permanent state of Revolution.

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Intimacy and Belonging in Cuban Tourism and Migration

Valerio Simoni

Building on current anthropological literature on intimacy, this article focuses on the way intimate relations mediate different narratives and experiences of belonging. It explores conflicting interpretations of intimacy as they emerge in Cuban tourism and migration and enable or obstruct different allegiances. Based on ethnographic fieldwork among Cubans and tourists in Cuba, and among Cuban migrants in the city of Barcelona (Spain), the article examines the role of intimate relationships in reasserting or transforming lines of commonality and separation between and among Cubans and non-Cubans. Globalized ideals of 'true' intimacy, and their 'fake' or instrumental counterparts, appear as the two main frames of legibility that people deployed to evaluate relationships with friends, lovers and family. We see the competing demands and possibilities to which these interpretative frames responded, and their implications.

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Härkönen, Heidi. 2016. Kinship, love, and life cycle in contemporary Havana, Cuba: to not die alone. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 247 pp. Hb.: $109.00. ISBN: 9781137580757.

Hope Bastian

Open access

Imagined individuality

Cultivating separated personhood in Cuba and beyond

Ståle Wig

creatures, then how can we understand people's claims to be valuable “individuals,” separate from their environment? Drawing on 18 months of ethnographic research among Cuban market traders, this article investigates what it takes for men and women to be

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Money and the Morality of Commensuration

Currencies of Poverty in Post-Soviet Cuba

Martin Holbraad

thought that money’s dual character engenders come together for people on the ground—in other words, binary license as an indigenous practice. With ethnographic reference to the dual currency system that emerged after the end of the Soviet era in Cuba, my

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The House of Spirits

Care and the Revolutionary State in Cuba

Martin Holbraad

1996 ) and cynicism becomes not just a reaction on the part of let-down citizens but their constitutive condition qua citizens of such a state. With reference to the experience of state-socialism in contemporary Cuba, this article charts out this

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Seeing Fidel in the Sky

Unruly Affects in the Making of the State in Rural Cuba

Marie Aureille

Seeing Fidel in the Sky: Unruly Affects in the Making of the State in Rural Cuba It was 6:00 or 7:00 p.m. on a weekday in July 2017 in western Cuba, on the outskirts of the main town of the rural municipality of Arenas. 1 I was sitting with

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Assemblage Making, Materiality, and Self in Cuban Palo Monte

Diana Espírito Santo

husband, from whom she is separated, and found, under the image of a Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre (Virgin of the Charity of El Cobre), Cuba’s patron saint, a picture of her mother torn in two. This immediately indicated brujería (sorcery) to the woman