Skip to main content
×
×
Home

A “Brutology” of Bozal: Tracing a Discourse Genealogy from Nineteenth-Century Blackface Theater to Twenty-First-Century Spirit Possession in Cuba

  • Kristina Wirtz (a1)
Abstract
Abstract

In tracing a discourse history for the emergence and enregisterment of Bozal, a Cuban speech style that robustly indexes the historical persona of the African slave, this paper proposes that such discourse “genealogies” are more accurately reconstructed not through a linear, teleological metaphor of “speech chains” but through a more reticulated, multiply stranded web of interdiscursive connections. Bozal, in contemporary Cuba, characterizes the voices of African deities and spirits of the dead who possess their devotees to speak during folk religious ceremonies. I consider a deeper history of theatrical “blackface” influences on religious performances of spirit possession, a discourse history that destabilizes facile notions of “authentic, African” cultural sources in Cuba. I argue that rather than reflecting direct memories of actual speech by African-born slaves, once upon a time, Bozal's enregisterment began with, and always involved, double-voiced representations of imagined social types—what recent scholarship has described as “mock” forms disparaging the speech of racialized Others. The “Bozal slave” was a figure caricatured for comedic effect, proliferating into a whole set of stock theatrical characters, some of which became focal points for building nationalist sentiment in mid-nineteenth-century Cuba. The lesson for understanding the role of Bozal or any “Africanizing” voice in performance today is clear: we must always consider the mediating effects of metacultural practices in shaping our understanding of the social meaning of speech styles.

Copyright
Corresponding author
Kristina.wirtz@wmich.edu
References
Hide All
Abrahams Roger. 1983. The Man-Of-Words in the West Indies: Performance and the Emergence of Creole Culture. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press.
Agha Asif. 2003. The Social Life of Cultural Value. Language and Communication 23:231–73.
Agha Asif. 2006. Language and Social Relations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Alonso Martín. 1958. Enciclopedia del Idioma. Vol. 1. Madrid: Aguilar.
Andrews George Reid. 2007. Recordando Africa al Inventar Uruguay: Sociedades de Negros en el Carnaval de Montevideo, 1865–1930. Revista de Estudios Sociales 26 (Apr.): 127–28.
Angarica Nicolas Valentin. 1955. Manual de Orihate: Religion Lucumi. Cuba: n.p.
Appiah Kwame Anthony. 1992. In My Father's House: Africa in the Philosophy of Culture. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Bachiller y Morales Antonio. 1883. Desfiguración a Que Está Expuesto el Idioma Castellano al Contacto y Mezcla de las Razas. Revista de Cuba 14: 97104.
Bailey Benjamin. 2001. The Language of Multiple Identities Among Dominican Americans. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 10, 2:190223.
Bakhtin Mikhail M. 1981. The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays by M. M. Bakhtin. Austin: University of Texas Press.
Balga Rodríguez Yohanis. 2000–2003. El Habla Bozal y Su Representación en una Muestra de la Literatura Costumbrista Cubana. Un Acercamiento a la Problemática del Supuesto Criollo Cubano. Anuario L/L: Estudios Lingüísticos (La Habana) 15–18: 1724.
Bauman Richard. 1998. Mediational Performance, Traditionalization, and the Authorization of Discourse. Paper presented at the Ethnohistory Workshop, University of Pennsylvania.
Bergad Laird. 2007. The Comparative Histories of Slavery in Brazil, Cuba, and the United States. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Bergad Laird W., García Fe Iglesias, and del Carmen Barcia María. 1995. The Cuban Slave Market 1790–1880. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Boas Franz. 1974 [1889]. On Alternating Sounds. In Stocking G., ed., The Shaping of American Anthropology, 1883–1911: A Franz Boas Reader. New York: Basic Books, 7277.
Bucholtz Mary. 2009. Styles and Stereotypes: Laotian American Girls’ Linguistic Negotiation of Identity. In Reyes A. and Lo A., eds., Beyond Yellow English: Toward a Linguistic Anthropology of Asian Pacific America. New York: Oxford University Press, 2142.
Cabrera Lydia. 1993. El Monte. Havana: Editorial Letras Cubanas.
Cameron Deborah. 1995. Verbal Hygiene. London: Routledge.
Castellanos Isabel. 1990. Grammatical Structure, Historical Development, and Religious Usage of Afro-Cuban Bozal Speech. Folklore Forum 23, 1/2: 5784.
Castellanos Isabel. 1994. Introducción. In Castellanos I., ed., Lydia Cabrera: Páginas Sueltas. Miami: Ediciones Universal, 1166.
Chude-Sokei Louis. 2006. The Last “Darky”: Bert Williams, Black-on-Black Minstrelsy, and the African Diaspora. Durham: Duke University Press.
Chun Elaine W. 2009. Ideologies of Legitimate Mockery. In Reyes A. and Lo A., eds., Beyond Yellow English: Toward a Linguistic Anthropology of Asian Pacific America. New York: Oxford University Press, 261–87.
Coupland Nikolas. 2007. Style: Language Variation and Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
de Covarrubios Orozco Sebastián. 2006 [1611]. Tesoro de la Lengua Castellana o Española. Pamplona: Universidad de Navarra.
Cruz Mary. 1974. Creto Gangá. La Habana: Instituto Cubano del Libro.
Curtin Philip D. 1969. The Slave Trade: A Census. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
Cutler Cecilia. 2003. ‘Keepin’ It Real’: White Hip-Hoppers’ Discourses of Language, Race, and Authenticity. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 13, 2: 211–33.
Dianteill Erwan and Swearingen Martha. 2003. From Hierography to Ethnography and Back: Lydia Cabrera's Texts and the Written Tradition in Afro-Cuban Religions. Journal of American Folklore 116, 2: 273–92.
Dick Hilary and Wirtz Kristina. 2011. Introduction: Racializing Discourses. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 21, 1s: E2E10.
Duany Jorge. 1988. After the Revolution: The Search for Roots in Afro-Cuban Culture. Latin American Research Review 23, 1: 244–55.
Du Bois John W. 1992. Meaning Without Intention: Lessons from Divination. In Hill J. H. and Irvine J. T., eds., Responsibility and Evidence in Oral Discourse. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 4871.
Fernandez Francisco. 1868. Los Negros Catedráticos: Absurdo Cómico en un Acto de Costumbres Cubanas en Prosa y Verso. Havana: Comercio Obispo.
Ferrer Ada. 1999. Insurgent Cuba: Race, Nation, and Revolution, 1868–1898. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
Frederik Laurie Aleen. 1998. The Contestation of Cuba's Public Sphere in National Theater and the Transformation from Teatro Bufo to Teatro Nuevo, or What Happens when el Negrito, el Gallego, and la Mulata meet el Hombre Nuevo. Chicago: University of Chicago Hewlett Foundation Working Papers Series, No. 1.
Gal Susan and Woolard Kathryn A.. 2001. Constructing Languages and Publics: Authority and Representation. In Gal S. and Woolard K. A., eds Languages and Publics: The Making of Authority. Manchester: St. Jerome Publishing, 112.
Gaudio Rudolph P. 2011. The Blackness of “Broken English.” Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 21, 2: 230–46.
Granda Germán de. 1988. Lingüística e Historia: Temas Afro-Hispánicos. Valladolid: Universidad de Valladolid, Secretariado de Publicaciones.
Granda Germán de. 1994. Español de América, Español de Africa, y Hablas Criollas Hispánicas: Cambios, Contactos y Contextos. Madrid: Editorial Gredos.
Guillén Nicolás. 1972. Obra Poética. 2 vols. La Habana: Instituto Cubano del Libro.
Gumperz John J. 1992. Contextualization and Understanding. In Duranti A. and Goodwin C., eds., Rethinking Context: Language as an Interactive Phenomenon. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 229–52.
Hartikainen Elina. 2008. African Accents, Speaking Child Spirits and the Brazilian Popular Imaginary: Permutations of Africanness in Candomblé. In Palmié S., ed., Africas of the Americas: Beyond the Search for Origins in the Study of Afro-Atlantic Religions. Leiden: Brill, 323–50.
Hill Jane H. 1993. Hasta la Vista Baby: Anglo Spanish in the American Southwest. Critique of Anthropology 13, 2: 145–76.
Hill Jane H. 2001. Mock Spanish, Covert Racism and the (Leaky) Boundary Between Public and Private Spheres. In Gal S. and Woolard K. A., eds., Languages and Publics: The Making of Authority. Manchester: St. Jerome Publishing, 83102.
Hill Jane H. 2005. Intertextuality as Source and Evidence for Indirect Indexical Meanings. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 15, 1: 113–24.
Hill Jane H. 2008. The Everyday Language of White Racism. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.
Irvine Judith. 1982. The Creation of Identity in Spirit Mediumship and Possession. In Parkin D., ed., Semantic Anthropology. London: Academic Press, 241–60.
Irvine Judith. 2005. Commentary: Tears and Knots in the Interdiscursive Fabric. In “Discourse Across Speech Events: Intertextuality and Interdiscursivity in Social Life,” special issue of Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 15, 1: 7280.
Irvine Judith. 2008. Subjected Words: African Linguistics and the Colonial Encounter. Language & Communication 28: 323–43.
Irvine Judith and Gal Susan. 2000. Language Ideology and Linguistic Differentiation. In Kroskrity P., ed., Regimes of Language: Ideologies, Politics, Identities. Santa Fe: School of American Research Press, 3583.
Keane Webb. 1997. Religious Language. Annual Review of Anthropology 26: 4771.
Kiple Kenneth F. 1976. Blacks in Colonial Cuba 1774–1899. Gainesville: University Presses of Florida.
Lane Jill. 2005. Blackface Cuba, 1840–1895. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Laviña Javier, ed. 1989. Doctrina Para Negros. Barcelona: Sendai Ediciones.
Leal Rine. 1975. Teatro Bufo Siglo XIX. 2 vols. Vol. 1. La Habana: Editorial Arte y Literatura.
Leal Rine. 1982. La Selva Oscura: De los Bufos a la Neocolonia (Historia del Teatro Cubano de 1868 a 1902). La Habana: Editorial Arte y Literatura.
Lhamon W. T. 1998. Raising Cain: Blackface Performance from Jim Crow to Hip Hop. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Lipski John M. 2005. A History of Afro-Hispanic Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Lott Eric. 1993. Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class. New York: Oxford University Press.
Mahar William J. 1999. Behind the Burnt Cork Mask: Early Blackface Minstrelsy and Antebellum American Popular Culture. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
McWhorter John H. 2000. The Missing Spanish Creoles: Recovering the Birth of Plantation Contact Languages. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Meek Barbra A. 2006. And the Injun Goes “How!”: Representations of American Indian English in White Public Space. Language in Society 35, 1: 93128.
Montes Huidobro Matías. 1987. Teoría y Práctica del Catedratismo en Los Negros Catedráticos de Francisco Fernández. La Habana: Editorial Persona.
Moore Robin. 1997. Nationalizing Blackness: Afrocubanismo and Artistic Revolution in Havana, 1920–1940. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.
Morrison Karen Y. 2000. Civilization and Citizenship Through the Eyes of Afro-Cuban Intellectuals During the First Constitutional Era, 1902–1940. Cuban Studies 30: 7699.
Mudimbe V. Y. 1988. The Invention of Africa. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Mudimbe V. Y. 1994. The Idea of Africa. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Murray David R. 1971. Statistics of the Slave Trade to Cuba, 1790–1867. Journal of Latin American Studies 3, 2: 131–49.
Nathan Hans. 1962. Dan Emmett and the Rise of Early Negro Minstrelsy. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.
Noreña Carlos. 1881. Los Negros Curros. In A. Bachiller y Morales, ed., Tipos y Costumbres de la Isla de Cuba. La Habana: Miguel de Villa.
Ocasio Rafael. 2012. Afro-Cuban Costumbrismo: From Plantation to the Slums. Gainesville: University Press of Florida.
Ochs Elinor. 1992. Indexing Gender. In Duranti A. and Goodwin C., eds., Rethinking Context: Language as an Interactive Phenomenon. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 335–58.
Ortiz Fernando. 1973 [1906]. Los Negros Brujos. Miami: Ediciones Universal.
Ortiz Fernando. 1986. Los Negros Curros. La Habana: Editorial de Ciencias Sociales.
Ortiz López Luis A. 1998. Huellas Etnosociolinguísticas Bozales y Afrocubanas. Frankfurt and Madrid: Vervuet Verlag.
Rampton Ben. 1995. Crossing: Language and Ethnicity among Adolescents. London: Longman.
Remedi Gustavo. 2004. Carnival Theater: Uruguay's Popular Performers and National Culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Rodríguez-Mangual Edna M. 2004. Lydia Cabrera and the Construction of an Afro-Cuban Cultural Identity. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
Ronkin Maggie and Karn Helen E.. 1999. Mock Ebonics: Linguistic Racism in Parodies of Ebonics on the Internet. Journal of Sociolinguistics 3, 3: 360–80.
Roth-Gordon Jennifer. 2011. Discipline and Disorder in the Whiteness of Mock Spanish. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 21, 2: 211–29.
Routon Kenneth. 2008. Conjuring the Past: Slavery and the Historical Imagination in Cuba. American Ethnologist 35, 4: 632–49.
Samuels David. 2004. Language, Meaning, Modernity, and Doowop. Semiotica 149: 297323.
Saussure Ferdinand. 1996 [1916]. Course in General Linguistics. Harris R., trans. Chicago: Open Court.
Schwegler Armin. 2006. Bozal Spanish: Captivating New Evidence from a Contemporary Source (Afro-Cuban “Palo Monte”). In Fuller J. and Thornburg L. L., eds., Studies in Contact Linguistics: Essays in Honor of Glenn G. Gilbert. New York: Peter Lang, 71100.
Scott David. 1991. That Event, This Memory: Notes on the Anthropology of African Diasporas in the New World. Diaspora 1, 3: 261–83.
Silverstein Michael. 1981. The Limits of Awareness. Austin: Southwest Educational Development Laboratory.
Silverstein Michael. 1993. Metapragmatic Discourse and Metapragmatic Function. In Lucy J. A., ed., Reflexive Language: Reported Speech and Metapragmatics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 3358.
Silverstein Michael. 2001. The Limits of Awareness. In Duranti A., ed., Linguistic Anthropology: A Reader. Oxford: Blackwell, 382401.
Silverstein Michael. 2003. Indexical Order and the Dialectics of Sociolinguistic Life. Language and Communication 23, 3–4: 193229.
Stevenson Robert. 1994. Ethnological Impulses in the Baroque Villancico. Inter-American Music Review 14, 1: 67106.
Testa Silvina. 2004. Como una Memoria Que Dura: Cabildos, Sociedades y Religiones Afrocubanas de Sagua La Grande. La Habana: Centro Cultural Pablo de la Torriente Brau.
Thomas Susan. 2009. Cuban Zarzuela: Performing Race and Gender on Havana's Lyric Stage. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
Urban Greg. 2001. Metaculture: How Culture Moves Through the World. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Williams Lorna. 1995. The Emergence of an Afro-Cuban Aesthetic. Afro-Hispanic Review (Spring): 4857.
Wirtz Kristina. 2007a. Enregistered Memory and Afro-Cuban Historicity in Santería's Ritual Speech. Language and Communication 27: 245–57.
Wirtz Kristina. 2007b. Ritual, Discourse, and Community in Cuban Santería: Speaking a Sacred World. Gainesville: University Press of Florida.
Wirtz Kristina. 2011. Cuban Performances of Blackness as the Timeless Past Still among Us. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 21, 1S: E11E34.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Comparative Studies in Society and History
  • ISSN: 0010-4175
  • EISSN: 1475-2999
  • URL: /core/journals/comparative-studies-in-society-and-history
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 4
Total number of PDF views: 27 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 174 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 16th January 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.