SLACA Awards 2019 Roseberry-Nash Graduate Student Paper Prize

The Society for Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology (SLACA) is proud to award the 2019 Roseberry-Nash Graduate Student Paper Prize to Daniel Salas of Dalhousie University for his essay, “Practices of Double Currency: Value and Politics in Rural Cuba.” Felipe Fernández Lozano of the Free University of Berlin received honorable mention for his paper, “Diseños para escalar la infraestructura: a propósito de la intervención estatal en el casco urbano de Buenaventura, Colombia.”

Salas’s paper is based on research on farms and rural life he conducted in western Cuba in 2018 and presents ideas he will incorporate into his dissertation. Where ethnographies of contemporary Cuba often employ the concept of “struggle” to describe everyday economic action, Salas illustrates how this concept is insufficient for understanding social contests around value and the resulting structural differentiation of the social field. Inspired by anthropological debates on the relationship between value, values, and money, the paper examines the social life of Cuba’s monetary plurality. Salas offers ethnographic interpretation of some of the main features of the country’s monetary landscape, namely the existence of two main national currencies and exchange rates, different institutional rules for accountability, and an awkward intimacy with the US dollar. The analysis reveals the contrapuntal and historically contingent formation of an architecture of value that is based on what Salas refers to as a sphere of contained reproduction and a sphere of external reconnection. Ethnographic attention to everyday practices surrounding money leads the author to underscore the politics of negotiating a dimension of incalculability that is woven into the functioning of the economy as a whole. The production of (in)calculability in Cuba thus can be understood as a field of contention.

Salas is a PhD candidate in social anthropology at Dalhousie University, where his studies have been supported by a Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship and a Killam Predoctoral Scholarship. Born and raised in Cuba, Salas worked as a journalist and as a professor at the University of Havana before pursuing graduate study in Canada. Salas reports that he was particularly honored to receive the Roseberry-Nash Prize given his admiration for the contributions of William Roseberry and June Nash to Latin American anthropology and political economy. He kept a copy of Roseberry’s (1989) Anthropologies and Histories: Essays in Culture, History, and Political Economy close at hand when writing the award-winning paper.

Felipe Fernández is a PhD candidate in social and cultural anthropology at the Free University of Berlin and forms part of the “Temporalities of Future” International Research Training Group. He holds a BA in European history and cultural anthropology and an MA in Latin American studies from the same university. Fernández’s research focuses on bureaucratic practices, urban infrastructure, and the state in Latin America.

“Diseños para escalar la infraestructura” emerges from Fernández’s dissertation work, which examines the social and political dimensions of infrastructural breakdown in the port-city of Buenaventura, Colombia. Economic adjustments, such as the privatization of the port, along with social conflicts leading to mass displacements and an accelerated and irregular urbanization process, contributed to a partial collapse of the urban infrastructure for provisioning utility services. As a response to mobilizations and unrest in the wake of these events, the Colombian state outlined and initiated the Plan Todos Somos Pazcífico (PTSP). Fernández’s paper examines the social, political, and material ramifications of the PTSP’s attempt to transform and “pacify” contestations around urban infrastructure. Drawing on interviews conducted with policymakers and engineers as well as conceptual insights on scalability (following the work of anthropologist Anna Tsing), the essay critically assesses how the PTSP’s designs utilize a web of stabilized project elements (including plans, materials, and guidelines) that aim to replicate themselves without taking into account diverse “pirate infrastructures” that exist in forms such as irregular connections, water collection tanks, and solidarity networks. The paper contributes to anthropological scholarship on state planning and interventions in urban settings by showing how infrastructure can serve as a vantage point for analyzing emergent social, political, and material relationships.

SLACA congratulates Salas and Fernández and thanks all who submitted their work for consideration as well as the members of the Roseberry-Nash Prize selection committee. The award will be formally presented at the 2019 AAA Annual Meeting in Vancouver during the SLACA business meeting on Saturday, November 23 (12:15 p.m.–1:45 p.m.).

The Roseberry-Nash Graduate Student Paper Prize is awarded annually and honors the contributions of anthropologists June Nash and William Roseberry to the anthropological study of Latin America.

Joseph Feldman is assistant professor of anthropology at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and a research affiliate at the Center for Intercultural and Indigenous Research (CIIR).

Please contact Joseph Feldman ([email protected]) with your essay ideas for the SLACA section news column.

Cite as: Feldman, Joseph. 2019. “SLACA Awards 2019 Roseberry-Nash Graduate Student Paper Prize.” Anthropology News website, November 6, 2019. DOI: 10.1111/AN.1302

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