Jul 21, 2010

Dr. Kenneth Routon's Book: "Hidden Powers of State in the Cuban Imagination" Published

(Newport News, Va.) - Dr. Kenneth Routon, visiting assistant professor of cultural anthropology at Christopher Newport University, has announced the publication of his book: “Hidden Powers of State in the Cuban Imagination.” The book is published by the University Press of Florida.

Hidden Powers of State in the Cuban Imagination book coverBased on 18 months of ethnographic field research in the city of Havana, “Hidden Powers of State in the Cuban Imagination” is a fascinating account of how popular religions and political culture are entangled in Cuba in unusual and intimate ways.

Routon describes not only how the monumentality of the state arouses magical sensibilities and popular images of its hidden powers, but he also explores the ways in which revolutionary officialdom has, in recent years, tacitly embraced and harnessed vernacular fantasies of power to the national agenda. In his brilliant analysis, popular culture and the state are deeply entangled within a promiscuous field of power, taking turns siphoning the magic of the other in order to embellish their own fantasies of authority, control, and transformation.

The book analyzes the Cuban capacity for combining apparently incompatible beliefs such as socialism and various Afro-Cuban religious practices by not only legitimizing their practice but also by creating a historical narrative wherein the faithful - many of whom are black and poor, two segments of the population that were heavily pro-Revolution - can be reminded of how important they were to the Cuban Revolution.

In so doing, however, the Cuban leadership and the Cuban Communist Party have created a situation in which Afro-Cuban religions are increasingly drawn, willingly or unwillingly, into the vortex of revolutionary politics and statecraft, blurring the boundaries between these normally distinct arenas of power and encouraging new, if uneasy, forms of political identification and cultural intimacy between popular culture and the state.

“A fascinating, timely, and deftly balanced account of the power of magic and the state in revolutionary Cuba. This compelling and evocative book transports readers to the secret and mysterious alleys of religious and political workings, the ritual production of selective historical memory, and the current statecraft of religious appropriations.” - Raquel Romberg, Temple University, author of Healing Dramas: Divination and Magic in Modern Puerto Rico

"Hidden Powers of the State in the Cuban Imagination is a remarkable achievement. Rather than delivering ‘yet another’ ethnography of an objectified entity called ‘Afro-Cuban religion,’ Routon opens up fresh and illuminating perspectives on the historical complexity and contemporary volatility of the semiotics of a world in which the experientially occult nature of power has become coextensive with the experience of the powers of the occult.”  - Stephan Palmie, University of Chicago, author of Wizards and Scientists: Explorations in Afro-Cuban Modernity and Tradition

Dr. Routon is a cultural anthropologist whose work has been widely published.  He may be contacted at (757) 594-7110 or at kenneth.routon@cnu.edu.

A four-year public university in Newport News, Virginia, Christopher Newport University enrolls 5,000 students in rigorous academic programs in the liberal arts and sciences through the College of Arts and Humanities, the College of Natural and Behavioral Sciences, and the College of Social Sciences, including the Luter School of Business. CNU offers great teaching and small class sizes with an emphasis on leadership, civic engagement and honor.

Media Contact:
Lori Jacobs
Director of Public Relations

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