Developing the Dead: Mediumship and Selfhood in Cuban Espiritismo

  • Publish Date: 2015-08-04
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Author: Diana Esprito Santo
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A major empirical contribution to the debate about antirepresentationalism and posthumanism that has been agitating the entire discipline of anthropology in recent years.Stephan Palmi, author of The Cooking of History: How Not to Study Afro-Cuban Religion

The most provocative and complete portrayal of contemporary Cuban espiritismo available. It underscores the embodied character of espiritista practices and offers a dynamic portrayal of espiritista mediums crucial roles within a complex of Afro-Cuban religions that includes ocha, palo monte, and other faiths.Reinaldo L. Romn, author of Governing Spirits: Religion, Miracles, and Spectacles in Cuba and Puerto Rico, 18981956

To read this book is to enter into an apparently alien world and yet find that it makes complete sense, and for that reason Developing the Dead is a model of the anthropological enterprise.Charles Stewart, author of Dreaming and Historical Consciousness in Island Greece

Based on extensive fieldwork among espiritistas and their patrons in Havana, this book makes the surprising claim that Spiritist practices are fundamentally a project of developing the self.

When mediums cultivate relationships between the living and the dead, argues Diana Esprito Santo, they develop, learn, sense, dream, and connect to multiple spirits (muertos), expanding the borders of the self. This understanding of selfhood is radically different from Enlightenment ideas of an autonomous, bounded self and holds fascinating implications for prophecy, healing, and self-consciousness. Developing the Dead shows how Espiritismos self-making process permeates all aspects of life, not only for its own practitioners but also for those of other Afro-Cuban religions.