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Assemblage Making, Materiality, and Self in Cuban Palo Monte

Diana Espírito Santo

Keywords: Afro-Cuban religion; enaction; lenience-as-plasticity; materiality; Palo Monte; self; synchronistic phenomena; witchcraft

In this article I use my ethnographic data on an Afro-Cuban religion called Palo Monte to argue that ontologically discrepant ‘bits’ of the cosmos can become stuck together for particular purposes, at times producing ‘synchronicities’. I argue that the practitioners of this religion, Paleros, can be trained into producing synchronicities in the form of witchcraft. This coheres with a concept of self that can be seen as an assemblage rather than an essence. This article contributes to a person-centered theory of plasticity in relation to discussions on lenience. In Palo, discipline does not lie in molding one’s subjectivity or in searching for a deep self. Lenience is imperative as the principle with which the self articulates with its environment and itself.

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