The CLR James Journal

Volume 27, Issue 1/2, Fall 2021

Decolonizing Spiritualities

Carlos Decena
Pages 121-139

Kusch en el Trópico: Itinerant Fusions in the Obra of Irka Mateo

This article stages the imaginary “travel” of the ideas of the Argentine philosopher/anthropologist Rodolfo Kusch (1922–1979) to the Caribbean, in the service of sketching the work of feminist cultural producers in generational knowledge transmission. The first part elaborates a dialogue between Kusch’s concept of “fagocitación” (phagocytosis) with “transculturación” (transculturation), developed by the Cuban Fernando Ortiz (1881–1969). The second part of the article focuses on how Dominican diasporic composer, singer, and healer Irka Mateo enters this itinerary as a field researcher, an intellectual and expressive cultural producer. I suggest that Mateo’s notion that the “field” might inhabit her music captures a key dimension of her work as expressive and embodied cultural praxis, and that this inhabitation subtends how the artist envisions the preservation of cultural memory and links her work to Kusch and Ortiz. The final section of the article looks at the implications of forgetting to the transmission of ancestral knowledges to illustrate how Mateo’s work offers some clues that can help us better discern what re-membering means, which might be distinct and enrich how we remember.