UCL Anthropology Working Papers Series
University College London
14 Taviton Street, London
WC1H 0BW, U.K.
Editorial Board: Lucio Vinicius, Victor Buchli
Working Paper No. 19/2017
Published online 15 May 2017
© Copyright rests with the authors
PERFORMING ETHICS: WILL, PERSPECTIVE AND ACTION IN AFRO-CUBAN RELIGIONS
ALESSANDRA BASSO ORTÍZ
What are the ethical qualities of Afro-Cuban religion? How do diverse relationships with divinities and spirits of different kinds help forge the practitioners of Afro-Cuban rituals as ethical subjects, and what conception of ethics is entailed by the actions that these relationships involve? Based on ethnographic fieldwork among practitioners of Ocha-Ifa as well as Palo Monte ritual traditions in Matanzas Province, Cuba, this text seeks to document and conceptualise the conformation of human action in different devotional contexts of practitioners' lives (e.g. initiation, divination, witchcraft), showing how the ethics these practices imply is best understood as a matter of forging people's individual 'will', allowing them to gain a distinctive perspective from which to 'valuate' their circumstances and their capacity to act within and upon them. In developing this argument, the author enters into dialogue not only with anthropological theories of morality, but also with Nietzsche's 'perspectival' account of ethics. As explained in the Foreword by Martin Holbraad, the author's Doctoral supervisor, the text is an edited version of the PhD chapters she was able to complete before her death, from pancreatic cancer, in June 2014.