Journey to Cuba for Conference & Vodou

I have been invited to present my paper, Performing Bare Life: Occupying the Liminality Between Civilizations, which explores the "radical mysticism" of Occupy Wall Street, at the 5th LAEMOS (Latin American and European Meeting on Organizational Studies) Colloquium in Havana, Cuba (April 2-5).

Help me get there!

LAEMOS is the premier conference on the organizational principles and structures of societies, communities and institutions, and this year's paper selection was the most competitive and prestigious in the history of the conference. This trip will be an important opportunity to connect with scholars in my field and to find a publisher for my paper. A selection from this paper was published in January 2014 in the Polish journal Krytyka Polityczna (Political Critique) and presented at ZKM Center for Art and Technology in Karlsruhe, Germany. The paper and subsequent research in Cuba will also be the basis of my Anthropology PhD dissertation.

Following the conference in Havana, I will travel to Palma Soriano, Cuba to visit with a community of vodou practitioners with whom I participated in a healing ritual during my visit in 2011. The community has initiated a cultural activism project, addressing deforestation by planting trees in veve formations (incredible!) Their practice is a large component of my scholarly research and art-activist practice, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to study with them once again.

(What's a veve, you ask? Below is the veve of Papa Legba (Eleguá), guardian of the crossroads and spirit guide beyond the limitations of everyday life. It is said that Legba opens our minds to a playful plane of existence wherein our collective energy can transform the physical world and equalize social stratification.)


LAEMOS Registration: $205
Flight to Miami and back: $300
Flight to Cuba (and back??): $590
Visa: $95
Hotel: $380 (April 2-6)
Hostel: $500 (March 31-1; April 7-18)
Food: $300
Inter-island travel: ?? (by bus from Havana to Palma Soriano)
New Camera Lens: $150 (it broke in Germany) :(

Total: ~$2600


All photo credit to Gabriella Csoszó (except the veve, which is mine).
The photos are from a several month-long collaboration at the Center for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle in Warsaw, Poland where a group of artist activists sought to facillitate the healing of a cultural institution by making it less toxic to its staff and more open to its public. An artistic and political commons was opened in the museum from December 2013 - February 2014. The photos depict an energy cleansing of the Castle.


Excerpts from Performing Bare Life:

Something sacred is sacrificed with the erection of stone"”it is the theft of that which formerly belonged to no one and to all. This perception has rendered architecture suspect since antiquity, when human blood was shed on the foundation stone in consecration to the spirits of the earth from whom, it was said, the builder had stolen. Before architecture there was no concept of public; what is now designated as "public space" is all that remains of a once vast freedom: the commons. Public space is a memorial to a war that we, the people, lost long ago. In today's world, where the crowded city street is shrouded in solitude and stained with fear, where café culture has been sold out to Starbucks, the public plaza provides a simple opportunity for humble commiseration. Its nonlinear layout encourages open movement, stillness and convergence. A church for the unrepentant, it sanctifies indulgence in unprofitable ways of being. Here the citizen-artist may channel the energy of the square to rally the crowds toward collective expression, inciting public outbursts of creativity. Considering this threat to order, public space is a grudgingly maintained truce, an armistice line between the people and the State.


We existed on top, around and in between the structures designed to keep us apart. We were fluid and we spilled over"”bodies and voices"”onto Broadway and flooded down Wall Street. We did yoga barefoot and performed ballet on police barricades. We dropped mattresses and bedded-out for peace. The Smithsonian Institution scooped up our cardboard signs; The Museum of Modern Art purchased our posters and newspapers; they deactivated their energy and stored them away in their vaults. But these arbiters of the corporate-sponsored cultural canon could neither collect nor interpret the true artistry of the movement: as we lay together in the center of Manhattan on our patch of prime real estate, gazing up at the electric glow of corporate logos, we caught wind of the sublime: freedom. Our eyes bulged with first sight; our mouths foamed with Drapetomania![1] We marveled at our creation: an autonomous micro-society guided by a collectively-determined system of values, built on a resource-based economy of mutual aid, sustained by a swarming mass of bodies united in a single, thunderous voice that radiated outward from spontaneously rotating loci within a churning nebulosity. The power of this experience was numinous; its beauty transcended the realm of the aesthetic delineated by Western theoreticians.

[1] The 19th century pseudo science disease of the mind peculiar to Negroes as described by American "physician" Dr. Samuel A. Cartwright that produced a wild, inexplicable urge to escape from slavery.
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Imani Jacqueline Brown 
New Orleans, LA
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