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The House of Spirits

Holbraad, M; (2021) The House of Spirits. The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology , 39 (2) pp. 112-127. 10.3167/cja.2021.390208. Green open access

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With reference to one man’s remarkable struggle to rebuild his home in Havana following its partial collapse, this article contributes to the emerging anthropological literature on care by thematising the role of the state as carer-in-chief. Experiences such as that of Lázaro, the protagonist of the article, demonstrate the central paradox of care as a state project—one that receives its most extreme expression in the totalising project of revolutionary state socialism—namely, the contradiction between the particularistic, affective, and aesthetic character of care and the generalising and neutralising rational order of the state mechanisms charged with delivering it. Drawing on the ritual and cosmological template of Afro-Cuban espiritismo, Lázaro effectively solves this paradox by supplementing his relationship with state structures with an intricate, ever-evolving, and deeply personal relationship with spirits. The upshot is Lázaro’s remarkable sense of inner conviction in the efficacy of state bureaucracy, underpinned by the aesthetics of care that spiritsit practice provides.

Type: Article
Title: The House of Spirits
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.3167/cja.2021.390208
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.3167/cja.2021.390208
Language: English
Additional information: © 2021 The Author(s). This is an open access article under the CC BY 4.0 license Attribution 4.0 International (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)
Keywords: aesthetics; affect; care; Cuba; housing; socialism; spiritism; state
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10135229
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