Revisiting Diasporas: Between grief and politics in Cuba


Datum: måndag 4 december 2023

Tid: 13.00 – 14.30

Plats: B600

Forskarseminarium med Nadia Lovell, socialantropolog vid Stockholm Universitet


In 1994, Unesco inaugurated its Slave Route Project, aimed at “healing the wounds of the Transatlantic Slave Trade” by highlighting the importance of “understanding, reconciliation and cooperation” between peoples". To this effect, a project was launched in Ouidah, Benin, to connect the different important ports around the world where forts had been erected at the height of the slave trade, including in the “New World”. 

Having worked in Togo and Ghana at the inception of this initiative, and visited the forts lining the coast of the Bight of Benin, my initial research in Cuba was focused on how slavery would be remembered there, and whether the many forts along its coast would reflect the impact of the slave trade in possibly portentous ways today. The ambiguity of fortresses as sites of remembrance seemed to open up a field of questions worthy of further enquiry.

The resulting field data intertwine conversations concerning the materiality of grief, longing, and how violence is remembered and made salient in contemporary contexts. Remembering “Africa” is a complicated affair in the context of communist politics. Africanity is an “interrupted” project, fraught by new exigencies of citizenship. The secrecy applied to the expression of religious sentiments during the time of slave plantations finds new articulations in the Cuba of today. 


Nadia Lovell completed her PhD at SOAS, the University of London. Her ethnographic work has focused on issues of Gender, ethnicity, youth and politics. She is the author of Cord of Blood, which centers on how Voodoo as a religious complex in West Africa articulates relationships to the landscape, histories of settlement, and gender. Her other book, Locality and Belonging, discusses the various relationships that evolve between humans and territory, sometimes conceived of as an imaginary place, a memory or, at times landscapes as real or reclaimed land. She has worked at Goldsmiths and SOAS; and also at the University of Kent. She was a Fulbright scholar at the University of Massachusetts. More recently, she turned her attention to the African diaspora in Cuba, and this research is the focus of her seminar today.