EthnoCuba congratulates one of the first in our generation of ethnographers to receive tenure. She’s now a tenured professor at the anthropology department in the University of Massachussets at Darmouth.
She recently published a fantastic article entitled “Audiovisual Remittances” in the Ariana Hernandez-Reguant’s “Cuba in the Special Period”. Knauer’s article is both ethnographic and theoretical, and revolves around the video letters (which she calls video remittances) that circulate between Havana and New York City (and viceversa) among rumba enthusiasts. She looks at how these documents contribute to a transnational community of both dance and feeling.
Although more in the genre of applied anthropology than ethnography, Doing Anthropology in Consumer Research, ed. by Patricia Sunderland and Rita Denny, utilizes contemporary Cuba as a primary research site for studying consumption.
Here is a political rather than academic review of Katherine Hirshfeld’s book Health, Politics and Revolution in Cuba since 1898, published in 2007 by Transaction Publishers. Although the book is more carefully framed and historicized than the dissertation version, in my reading, Hirshfeld’s conclusions, based on some months of fieldwork, still suffer from the sort of a priori assumptions and misreadings that plague the work of many political scientists and sociologists who do short-term fieldwork in Cuba. I am not a medical anthropologist, but what concerns me here is that this text has been presented as ethnographically authoritative, precisely in counterpoint to other academic disciplines, yet still largely rests on the limited ethnographic work and arguably superficial interpretation of her dissertation research. Is this too harsh an assessment? Have others found it to be fair and balanced and worth reading? The book has also gotten significant publicity in Miami, as exemplified by the above review, among others. Does that matter? For comparison, here is another perspective on Hirschfeld’s work, which echoes my concerns.
As I think it over, the part of the text that raises these concerns is really chapter 4, “Fearful Interlude.” E.g. the italicized phrases in the interview with “Brother Bob,” the drama of “So they got you?” on p. 84. To borrow a phrase from David Scott: whose fear, what cause? Certainly the relation of researcher & state is complex and worth much more discussion, but this book seems a better fit for the predetermined categories of espionage than ethnography.
Here are two videos from a day-long symposium on “U.S.-Cuban Academic Exchange,” hosted by the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Chicago. In Part One, Wayne Smith and Louis Pérez speak about the political and historical context of such exchanges. Part Two, a roundtable with scholars who have traveled to Cuba as graduate students or faculty, includes archeologist Shannon Dawdy and cultural anthropologists Stephan Palmié, Laurie Frederik Meer and Paul Ryer.
Adrian Hearn‘s book, Cuba: Religion, Social Capital, and Development is just out
You can read a review at the Latin American Review of Books: http://www.latamrob.com/?p=614.
In addition, you can read more by Adrian Hern in this paper online at FIU’s CRI (see abstract below).
By conventional rankings China is Cuba¹s second largest trading partner and Cuba is China¹s 10th in Latin America, but the significance of the relationship extends beyond the $2.7 billion of annual trade between them,and beyond convention. For China, Cuba represents an opportunity to trial bilateral industrial initiatives that are carefully supervised from the top down, incrementally developed, and strategically integrated into a broad plan of commercial engagement. The details of this plan are not stated in any public declaration or official report, but Chinese firms have gone a step beyond the efforts of companies from Russia, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States to expand export markets for specific products, and a step ahead of state-run enterprises from Venezuela and Bolivia in developing human resource exchange programs. Combining free-market commerce with neo-socialist forms of resource bartering, China has advanced an all-encompassing approach trade and development with Cuba through a framework of intergovernmental cooperation.
As the Obama administration explores avenues toward rapprochement with Cuba, China¹s industrial collaboration with the island harbors both lessons for establishing partnerships and opportunities to advance trilateral cooperation. Drawing on data gathered during three years of research in Cuba and ten months in China, this report discusses two key components of Sino-Cuban interaction: political dialogue as a precursor to commercial integration; and the development of coordinated, incremental approaches to market expansion and technology transfer. I conclude by arguing that a combination of multilateral and bilateral bridges to Cuba would encourage more open and transparent modes of information sharing, and allow U.S.firmsto assess potential strategies for engaging with existing Sino-Cuban projects.
Just out by Amalia Cabezas, here is Economies of Desire: Sex and Tourism in Cuba and the Dominican Republic. Temple University Press, Philadelphia, 2009. Having just taught Marc Padilla’s Caribbean Pleasure Industry: Tourism, Sexuality and AIDS in the Dominican Republic, I am looking forward to adding this to my summer reading list, and to thinking more broadly about Cuba’s entanglement in Caribbean currents.
And here is a link to Jafari Sinclaire Allen’s article, “Means of desire’s production: Male sex labor in Cuba,” in Identities 14 (1): 183-202. This is an ethnographically grounded article which places male Cuban sex work in wider perspective–I am about to teach Marc Padilla’s book on male sex work in the Dominican Republic, for which this article ought to provide a cogent counterpoint. It also presents a more in-depth perspective on the topic than Hodge’s shorter 2001 NACLA article. I do wish that people working on male sex work in Cuba would reference the doctoral dissertation of David Forrest, Bichos, Maricones and Pingueros: an ethnographic study of “maleness” and “scarcity” in contemporary Socialist Cuba. (1999). SOAS (Anthropology). London, University of London. David and I overlapped in Havana for some months. I believe he has left the (British) academy, unfortunately, and this is probably why his work has remained so rarely cited. In any case, not only is David a mensh, but he took his work seriously and the dissertation is full of interesting material even though he was limited to less than a year of field research. If anyone is looking for it, let me know if you’re having difficulty finding a copy.