Fernando Ortiz: Caribbean and Mediterranean Counterpoints

Edited by Stephan Palmié


Cuban scholar Fernando Ortiz (1881-1969) coined the term “transculturation” in 1940. This was an early case of theory from the South: concepts developed from an explicitly peripheral epistemological vantage point, and launched as a corrective to European and North American theoretical formulations. What Ortiz proposed was a contrapuntal vision of complexly entangled processes that we, today, would conceptualize as cultural emergence.

Inspired by Ortiz, this volume engineers an unprecedented conversation between Mediterraneanist and Caribbeanist scholars. It harnesses Ortiz’s mid-20th century theoretical formulations to early 21st century issues pertinent to both regions, including migration, territorial sovereignty, and cultural diversity. The contributors explore this perspective (arguably formed during Ortiz’s youth in late 19th century Menorca) in a dialogue between scholars of the contemporary Caribbean and Mediterranean so as to enable novel analytics for both regions, and more broadly to probe the promises and limits of Ortiz’s contribution for contemporary anthropology.



“This collection is probably the most important collective effort to date to grapple with the contemporary significance of Fernando Ortiz’s work. The book inspects the biographical, structural and historical experiences that gave shape to Ortiz’s concept of ’transculturation,’ and then lets the concept loose on the two regions from which it sprung forth. It is an ambitious collective project that inspects the cultural and intellectual background of a concept and its critical potential for a comparative anthropology of the present.”

Claudio Lomnitz, author of Death and the idea of Mexico and The return of Comrade Ricardo Flores Magón


Stephan Palmié is the Norman and Edna Freehling Professor of Anthropology at the University of Chicago. He is the author of Wizards and scientists: Explorations in Afro-Cuban modernity and tradition, The cooking of history: How not to study Afro-Cuban religion, and Thinking with Ngangas: What Afro-Cuban ritual can tell us about scientific practice – and vice versa, as well as being editor of several volumes on Caribbean and Afro-Atlantic anthropology and history.

© HAU Books, 2023
6″ x 9″, 550 pp.

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Introduction: Caribbean and Mediterranean counterpoints and transculturations

Stephan Palmié


Fernando Ortiz (and the spiritists?) in the Balearic Islands and Catalonia

Gerard Horta

A network of networks: Fernando Ortiz, crossroad between cultures

Consuelo Naranjo Orovio


Border dialectics and the border multiple: A view from the northern Caribbean

Jeffrey Kahn

Strategies of dealing with the other: Coexistence and exclusion

Glenn Bowman


True brujos and imitators: A reading of Fernando Ortiz’s Los negros brujos (1906)

Ramon Sarró

The fetishes of Fernando Ortiz

Jorge Pavez Ojeda


The lexicographic studies of Fernando Ortiz Fernández

Sergio O. Valdés Bernal

The legacy of Ortiz’s Yorubization of Lucumí: Translation as transculturation

Amanda Villepastour

Reheating the ajiaco: Fernando Ortiz’s theorization of sacred cuisine

Elizabeth Pérez


Clay and earth: Excavating partialities and relations

Olivia Maria Gomes da Cunha

Minhoto counterpoints: On metaphysical pluralism and social emergence

João Pina-Cabral

The intensive image: Transculturation, creativity and presence in the cult of María Lionza

Roger Canals

“I certainly didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition!” Politics of transculturation in a Spanish enclave in North Africa

Brian Campbell


Talking culture thirty years on—Revisited

Verena Stolcke

Talking culture: New boundaries, new rhetorics of exclusion in Europe

Verena Stolcke


Caribbean–Mediterranean counterpoint

Charles Stewart