Jean Comaroff, Harvard University
“What does it mean to ‘study something’—like Afro-Cuban religion, for instance? In this wise, witty, and uncommonly erudite book, Stephan Palmié unseats key premises regarding the stability of social science knowledge. Afro-Cuban religion, he shows, is at best an ‘organic hybrid,’ a ‘multiuser domain,’ born of the chance meeting of scholars and practitioners, each in pursuit of their own, self-conscious mysteries. Yet his acute analysis shows us something more: not merely must we live with such uncertainty; we can make it the basis of compelling forms of insight.”
Paul Christopher Johnson, University of Michigan
“The book is a chef d’ouevre. Stephan Palmié examines the recipes by which ethnographic animals like religions or history are ‘cooked’: hunted, sliced, prepared, and consumed. The dishes are heated on what Palmié names the ‘ethnographic interface,’ where anthropological recipes and the confections that anthropologists study boil together to constitute the regular fare of social life. It would be enough to have penned the first anthropological history of this interspace, exploring, as Palmié does, the lives and practices of those who regularly consume a menu of ‘Afro,’ ‘Cuban,’ and ‘religion.’ This book does much more, serving up a radical critique of anthropological knowing and its time-honored techniques of cookery and, dare we say it, crockery. Brilliantly iconoclastic, Palmié tosses even the unsavory ethnographer into the pot.”
Robert Hill, University of California, Los Angeles
“Stephan Palmié has brought forth once more a work of stunning originality that is certain to have a lasting impact on the study of Afro-Cuban religion and, more generally, the whole field of Afro-American cultural formation. Part auto-ethnography of self-making, part historical ethnography of Afro-Cuban worldmaking, and part homage to the progenitors and bearers of the tradition—with a pinch of chaos and fractal theory thrown in for good measure—The Cooking of History turns ‘cooking’ into a ‘turning,’ a turning upside down of the stale, conventional story based on the idea of cultural holism, and replaces the idea of cultural endowment and transmission with the idea of an analytic space or ‘ethnographic interface’ as the locus of the creation of the episteme called ‘Afro-Cuban religion.’ Palmié has thrown down a most formidable challenge. Now let the fireworks begin!”
A Note on Spelling
Introduction. BL2532.S3 or, How Not to Study “Afro”-“Cuban” “Religion”
Chapter 1. On Yoruba Origins, for Example ...
Chapter 2. Fernando Ortiz and the Cooking of History
Chapter 3. Or “Syncretism,” for that Matter ...
Chapter 4. The Color of the Gods: Notes on a Question Better Left Unasked
Chapter 5. Afronauts of the Virtual Atlantic: The Giant African Snail Incident, the War of the Oriatés, and the Plague of Orichas
Coda. Ackee and Saltfish versus Amalá con Quimbombó, or More Foods for Thought
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