The Cuban Remix: Rethinking Culture and Political Participation in Contemporary Cuba

The Cuban Remix: Rethinking Culture and Political Participation in Contemporary Cuba

University of Michigan
555 pages

Tanya L. Saunders

A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Sociology)

This dissertation examines the post-1959 activism of Cuba’s socially critical artists and intellectuals, and the effects of the Cuban state’s institutionalization of culture. I analyze the Cuban underground hip-hop movement as a case study of the ways in which Black artists and intellectuals in Cuba have employed cultural aesthetics to challenge contemporary inequalities organized around race, class, gender, and sexuality. I address the social context in which the Cuban underground hip-hop movement emerged by linking it to Cuba’s revolutionary project and to other counter-cultural social movements in Cuba’s history and from other post-colonial contexts. Drawing upon extensive ethnographic, historical, and interview-based research, the study engages with existing theories of the state, culture, civil society and the public sphere, but also reveals their limitations, particularly when applied to non-European contexts. As such, the dissertation offers significant insights into the relations between politics and culture, hegemony and resistance, history and the imagination of a better future, both in Cuba and beyond.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter I: Introduction
    • 1.1 Cuban Underground Hip-Hop
    • 1.2 The Organization of the Dissertation
    • 1.3 Contextual Considerations: Latin American Politics and the Coloniality of Knowledge
    • 1.4 Contextual Considerations: The Cuban Revolution and the Aesthetic Debates
  • Chapter II: Methodology
    • 2.1 Background
    • 2.2 Developing a Research Agenda
    • 2.3 Phase One
    • 2.4 Phase Two
    • 2.5 Phase Three
    • 2.6 Data Collection
  • Section I
    • Chapter III: Public Spaces, Cultural Spheres: Rethinking Theories of Political Participation, Civil Society and Social Change
      • 3.1: Subaltern Critiques of Cold War Politics
      • 3.2 Post-Socialist? Neocolonial? Republican Socialism? Reflections on Cuba‘s State Project
        • Republican Ideals within a Socialist State
      • 3.3 Citizenship, Democracy and Civil Society in the Anglo-American Metanarrative of Citizenship
        • Citizenship and Civic Participation
      • 3.4 Discussion: ‘Non-Western’ Challenges to Social Change, Political Participation and Civil Society
    • Chapter IV: Civil Society and Art Worlds: Rethinking Politics and Political Participation
      • 4.1 Making the Connections: Art and Social Change
      • 4.2 Rethinking Cultural Logics: Culture, Political Participation and Grassroots Activism
      • 4.3 The Base and Superstructure of Culture: The Institutional Structure of Cuban Culture
      • 4.4 The Ministry of Culture
      • 4.5 Discussion
  • Section II
    • Chapter V: Art and Revolution: Cuba‟s Artistic Social Movements and Social Change
      • 5.1 The alternative music scene: hip-hop and Anti-Modernist Aesthetics
      • 5.2 The Marginal Existence of Cuban Rock within Cuban Culture
      • 5.3 Nueva Trova: The Cuban Protest Music Movement
      • 5.4 Reflections on My First Nueva Trova Show
    • Chapter VI: Race, Place and Colonial Legacies: Underground hip-hop and a Racialized Social Critique
      • 6.1 Race and Cuba: Historical Considerations
      • 6.2 American Occupation and the Creation of the Cuban Republic 1898-1912
      • 6.3 The Revolutionary State Attempts to Solve the Race Problem in Cuba
      • 6.4. Making the Linkages: Discussion and Some Additional Thoughts
      • 6.5. Ethnographic Notes: Racial Identity in Contemporary Cuba
      • 6.6. “Everyone Knows That Whites Exist, But No One‘s Sure About The Blacks” Theoretical Perspectives on Art, hip-hop and Transnational Blackness
    • Chapter VII: Racial Identity and Revolution: The (Re-)Emergence of a Black Identity Among Havana‟s Underground Youth
      • 7.1 Cuban Underground Hip-Hop and Symbols of Blackness
      • 7.1a Raperos, Activistas, Revolutionaries: Underground Hip-Hop and Social Change
      • 7.2 Notes on Language
        • 7.2.1 Underground hip-hop/Comercialización/Institucionalización
      • 7.3 Transmitting Blackness: Graffiti, T-Shirts and the Black Experience
      • Figure 7q. Album cover, Jodido Protagonista, by Randeée Akozta (independently produced, circa 2004).
      • 7.4 Underground Graffiti: NoNo La Grafitera
      • 7.5 Section Summary/Concluding Remarks
  • Section III
    • Chapter VIII: Cuba‟s Sexual Revolution? Women, Homosexuality and Cuban Revolutionary Policy
      • 8.1 All the Women Are Straight and All the Homosexuals are Men: Gender and Female (Homo-) Sexuality
      • 8.2. Silent Women, Invisible Lesbians: Researching the Experiences of Lesbians in Cuba
      • 8.3 Notes on Contemporary Lesbian, Gay Life in Cuba
    • Chapter IX: “Siempre Hay Lucha/There Is Always a Struggle”: Black Women, Race and Identity in Contemporary Cuba
      • 9.1 (1). ―No Particular Racial Subjectivity‖
      • 9.2 (2). The Racially Conscious Race Rejecters
      • 9.3 (3). The Racially Awakened
      • 9.4 (4). Racially Conscious Actors
      • 9.5 ¿Y Que Paso Con OREMI?/ And What Happened with OREMI? Black Lesbian Subjectivity in Contemporary Cuba
      • 9.6 Conclusion
    • Chapter X: “No Soy Kruda”: Las Krudas, Cuban Black Feminism and the Queer of Color Critique
      • 10.1 Who Are Las Krudas?
      • 10.2 Las Krudas: Raperas Underground
      • 10.3 Krudas‘ Black Feminist Discourse
      • 10.4 Como Existe La Heterosexualidad, Existe Homosexualidad/Just As There Is Heterosexuality, There Is Homosexuality
      • 10.5 Krudas and the Queer of Color Critique
      • 10.6 Reaction to Krudas‘ Work
      • 10.7 Conclusion/Discussion
  • Chapter XI: Conclusion
    • The Sociological Implications of My Research
  • Appendix
  • Discography, Interviews, IRB Forms & Supplementary Materials
  • Bibliography

Read the entire dissertation here.

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