Call for Papers: CASCA-CUBA’s “Contrapunteo”


The Canadian Anthropology Society’s annual meeting, co-sponsored by the Society for Applied Anthropology (SfAA), will take place from May 16 to 20, 2018, at the Universidad de Oriente in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba. The organizing theme is “Contrapunteo” [Counterpoints]. CASCA-CUBA invites different types of proposals that will bring together Cuban and non-Cuban presenters from a variety of academic and non-academic backgrounds. See CASCA-CUBA on how to propose 15-minute papers, 90-minute panels, symposia, or round-tables. [Deadline to be announced.]

Description: Drawing on the polyphonic character of contrapunteo­, understood as the interweaving of two or more independent melodies working together to form a rich harmonic texture, we invite participants to reflect on Anthropology’s plural configurations and engagements. There are many types of counterpoints, all expressing forms of polyphonic interdependence in the rhythms and contours of a piece of music. The melodies entangled remain independent, but their combination creates new composites that are continually emergent and transforming. A “contrapuntal anthropology” (Ong 1996:84) encourages the multiplicity of voices, the postcolonial deconstruction of knowledge, and the polyphony of social and cultural life. Counterpoints allow for the exploration of assemblages, relationalities and entanglements (Ingold 2011). The intertwining of elements in counterpoint is not always harmonious: the more antagonistic sense of counterpoint suggests something that is placed against something else. Contrapunteo offers new channels to hear voices of contestation, acknowledge the traces left by colonialism, and recognize what is being articulated in reply, such as resurgent struggles of resistance and healing. To “think contrapuntally” (e.g. Howes 1996; Catauro since 1999) can hold voices in tension or conflict, and can generate choruses of call-and-response. CASCA-CUBA wishes to address how contrapunteo can offer new avenues to understand relationships, knowledge, history and power. Has the discipline of Anthropology nurtured particular counterpoints and if so, what are their trajectories?

In Cuba, contrapunteo takes on a particular meaning. It was a key metaphor used by ethnographer Fernando Ortiz (1881-1969) in Contrapunteo cubano, published in 1940, to explore how Cuban identity – cubanidad –emerged through transculturación between two main crops associated with Cuba’s colonial history –tobacco and sugar. The conference poster, created by Cuban artist Lawrence Zuñiga, draws on the ajiaco (stew made of leftovers), a metaphor adopted by Ortiz to express the richness of Cuban culture created by different ingredients amalgamating to produce new flavours, new experiences. In Cuba, contrapunteo often means a “dispute, a spicy and heated saying, a proverb or a conversation between two or more people” (Pichardo 1875), while the verb contrapuntear refers to the act of dialogue and conversation. The idea of counterpoint, borrowed from music theory and applied metaphorically to Cuban culture by Ortiz, is one we wish to explore during CASCA-CUBA.

In extrapolating from Ortiz’s work and career, we take a direct stand on the presence and also the absence or silencing of voices, languages, and ways of doing (e.g. Barnet 1968). We acknowledge the importance of taking a critical approach to historical, colonial and postcolonial influences in anthropology, and we recognize the emergence of contrasting ontologies. Ortiz, a white man of Spanish descent who was born in Cuba and studied in Europe initially espoused biological determinism. His early work represented the ubiquitous racism of the period, and contributed to the objectification of Afro-Cuban practices. Yet as he reached mid-career, Ortiz began to embrace a radical humanist and activist approach, leading to an impressive transformation in his thought, which can be seen in Contrapunteo cubano, among other publications. Ortiz sponsored the first ethnographic conference on the music of Santería (1936) and founded the Sociedad de Estudios Afrocubanos (Society of Afro-Cuban Studies) and its journal. More than a detached observer, Ortiz became a member of at least one Afro-Cuban religious group (Palmié 2013:88). Although it remains difficult to situate Ortiz’s oeuvre, he is certainly considered one of the founders of modern sociocultural anthropology in Latin America. His work on transculturacíon and mestizaje reached an audience beyond Cuba, as suggested by his correspondence with Malinowski and his significant contribution to postcolonial studies (e.g. Said 1993).

We encourage anthropological framing of our entangled encounters, where we articulate our many selves – a polyphony of personhood – simultaneously and from our distinct points of view.

The CASCA-CUBA contributions might address some of the following themes:

Assemblage and other compositional models: How are elements enlaced and entangled? How can we understand connections, attachments, and by extension, ruptures and dissonances?

Relation: How can we engage with relationality and what are the different types of relationalities?

Voice: How are voices projected, joined together, marginalized, or integrated? What are the challenges of considering voices in polyphony? How are other voices heard? Which ones are silenced?

Boundary: How do we engage politically and creatively within and across boundaries? How can we explore new methodological and theoretical horizons? How can we expand or transcend the boundaries of our work?

Body: How are bodies expressed and performed? What material or intangible entities do they converse with or come up against? What are the affective traces and displays that come into being, remain or dissipate in counterpointed encounters?

Epistemology: What epistemological continuities and shifts are we witnessing in anthropological and ethnographic practices? What are the challenges of conducting research in present times? How do we know what we know here and now?

Sharing and exchange: How can we define the space of encounter between participants? How is our work shared and disseminated? If our work is a gift, how is it received and reciprocated?

Conference participants are limited to presenting one paper at CASCA-CUBA. However, there is no limit on the number of other roles per participant, such as, discussant, panel chair, organizer, and round-table participant. Note: discussants can register as a ‘paper as part of a panel’ and then add a comment that they are acting as discussant.

See call for papers and more details at

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[Photo above: Getty image of Catedral de Asunción; accessed via]

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