This volume skids into view against the doldrums of the usual ethnographic
writing conversation. Against the endless incantations of the difference be-
tween fact and fiction. Against the, by now, anachronistic, and even odd,
habit of detouring into a tired critique- of-representation mode. The writing
here is not an evaluative critique weighed down by its own assumptions and
deposited into something like big- box stores of the good and the bad. In-
stead, like experience itself, writing here is an experiment of being in some
kind of world. It is an effort to attune to, to respond to, actualities and po-
tentialities, enclosures and excesses. It sits in a pause against the usual ner-
vous gestures to foreclose the problematic of writing ethnographically with
an empty recitation of mantras of ethical decontamination or a quick surge
to find a high ground.
Here, instead, writing is a mode of approaching ethnographic scenes that
are both solid and flighty, variegated and scripted. Scenes the ethnographic
writer has to follow as they seep into human and nonhuman labors and split
off in tendrils of their own. Scenes that buoy people and weigh on them in
ways that give pause. These scenes of ethnographic attention are speculative
objects; their poesis calls for a response. Writing aimed at bringing genera-
tive, moving objects into view takes care and skill.
So, for example, we enter the scene of a Cuba where the dead provoke. A
bembé starts as a party, a participatory theater of impersonations of the dead
jammed into music, song, and dance. The event described becomes a rolling
threshold of self and other, inside and outside, a running helix of multiply-
ing surfaces. The pleats of forces fan out and fold back up again. People
Epilogue
K ATHLEEN STE WART
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