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The Capacity to Share: new volume on Cuban educational internationalism

By Paul Ryer, greater Cuba, new book, new chapter/edited volume, Space & Place, youth cultures No Comments »

Although not “by or for ethnographers of contemporary Cuba and its diasporas,” The Capacity to Share: A Study of Cuba’s International Cooperation in Educational Development, (2012) ed. by Anne Hickling-Hudson, Jorge Corona González and Rosemary Preston, capacity to share coverwill be of substantial interest to scholars of Cuban education, as well as to those of us focusing on Cuban-educated international students.  Of particular interest are chapters on Cuban-educated graduates from the Anglophone Caribbean, from Ghana, Namibia, and Latin America, as well as the experiences of Cuban teachers in Jamaica, Angola and elsewhere.  Most interesting to me, at least, is an extended interview (by Sabine Lehr) with a Cuban-educated neurosurgeon, but there is also an article on the international film and media school likely to be of interest to several EthnoCubans.  As one can see from the publisher’s summary below, the book has a strongly political perspective which can be distracting, but not to the point that it is unreadable.  More worrisome is the fact that Palgrave has only released it in hardcover, for $95.00 plus shipping!

 

From the publisher:

The Capacity to Share is a discussion of Cuba’s international policies in education. It shows how Cuba shares its educational resources with other countries by helping them with scholarships; school and university teaching; and the development of adult literacy programs and of educational planning. The postcolonial critique underlying the book explores Cuba’s role in relation to how the disengagement from colonial legacies in education is taking place in many countries. This kind of critique is useful in discussing the alternatives that become possible with disentanglement from the constraints of colonial histories.

“1.5 generation” African-Cubans

By Paul Ryer, Ethnographic film, greater Cuba, new article, Space & Place No Comments »

As some of you know, a handful of scholars–including Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, Aisha Nibbe, Alissa Bernstein, Carol Berger, Sabine Lehr and myself–have been writing about the lives of Cuban-educated international students.  While most of us are ethnographers and anthropologists, because we have encountered these students in a wide range of contexts–anywhere from urban Cuba to refugee camps in the Sahara to rural Alberta–the work has not thus far been taken to represent or constitute a coherent or interrelated field of study.  Nor is it, generally speaking, considered to be within the purview of Cuban or Cuban diasporic studies.  In this post, building on some of my published or in-press work, I want to propose that the lives and experiences of Cuban-educated students pose interesting and worthwhile challenges to the commonsense understanding of Cubanness.  Or more specifically, to hyphenated Cubanness, since Cuban-educated students do not generally claim to be “Cuban” so much as something else–Cuban-Saharan, Cuban-Ghanaian, Cuban-Sudanese, etc–and have commonly been motivated to neologize their own identities, as “Cuban-Jubans,” “ESBECANOS,” “Cubarauis,” or the like.  These are people from among the tens of thousands of African and international students who have spend a decade or more–often half their lives–living, studying, and working in Cuba.  Having arrived to Cuba as adolescents, and having been thrown wholesale into a new language, culture, and environment, arguably these students constitute a 1.5 generation, but in reverse, as immigrants to Cuba, not emigrants.  One of these small and dispersed groups, the Cuban-educated students of the Western Sahara, has become the subject of a series of documentary films.  Directed by Spaniards for particular audiences, as described by both Fiddian-Qasmiyeh and myself, despite their obvious ideological biases, I believe that these films are richly provocative to think with, for those of us interested in Cuban identity, diaspora, home, and belonging.  Here is the trailer for the most recent documentary, El Maestro Saharaui (2011), directed by Nicolás Muñoz:

Maestro Saharaui image

(Complete Spanish-language and English subtitled streaming versions of El Maestro Saharaui (Muñoz 2011) are available for a small fee HERE). 

Now known to themselves and their saharaui (Saharan) kin as “cubarawis” or “cubarauis,” online, on facebook, on twitter and elsewhere, these former students are the principle authors, bloggers, dancers and poets of their distinctive experience, as well as documentary subjects.  See, for instance, this blog http://elporvenirdelsahara.blogspot.com , and click here for some  “salsa saharaui.”

Of the other “cubaraui” documentaries, Las Cubarauis (Márquez 2005) is most difficult to obtain; a portion of the film is available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oadqsTU7xJA .  However, the full-length version of Caribeños del Sáhara (Pérez 2007),  is available at: http://vimeo.com/11813252. , and a shorter version, Caribeños del Desierto (Pérez and Galdeano 2008) is available at: http://video.google.es/videoplay?docid=7949630530407106225&hl=es.

 

In any case, although we have had so much spam that we were forced to deactivate comments some time ago, I would love to hear the thoughts of colleagues about these documentaries, about Cuban-educated students, or about the work outlined above.

 

Paul

 

Two new volumes at the intersection of Cuban history and ethnography, fall 2013

By Paul Ryer, History, history of anthropology, Religion, Space & Place No Comments »

shade-grown_slaveryTwo recently published books about the Cuban past may be of interest to ethnographers of Cuba, although in very different ways.  The first, Shade-Grown Slavery: The Lives of Slaves on Coffee Plantations in Cuba, by Luis Pérez, Jr.’s student, historian William C. Van Norman, Jr., comes from Vanderbilt University Press.  By focusing on coffee, rather than sugar, plantations, as well as in siting the research in and around Matanzas, I found the perspective of the book to bring a welcome contrast to more conventional reads of Cuban history through the lens of the production of sugar.  This is also a straightforward historiographical work, lucid, informative and without the theoretical angst of many of us contemporary cultural theorists.  cooking of history

The second volume, The Cooking of History: How Not to Study Afro-Cuba Religion, by Stephan Palmié, University of Chicago Press, is, predictably, a slower read, but well worth the effort.  Taking on the anthropological production of knowledge about Cuban religious practice, from Ortiz onward, the volume challenges us anthropologists to rethink just what we do, and why.  (In this sense, I am reminded of David Scott’s critique of the external production of narratives about the Caribbean past in his classic “That event, this memory”, 1991, Diaspora 1:3, but of course, the metaphor of “cooking” is in part a nod to Sidney Mintz).  Most welcome, for me, is a sense of reflexivity about the object of study, much more pronounced than in Palmié’s earlier work.  Thus for instance, while I am still leery of the use of the term “Afro-Cuban” due to the way so many non-Cuban scholars carelessly conflate it as both a classification of cultural practices and a category for persons (who sometimes resent being so labelled), here Palmié is careful to indicate his own doubts about the adequacy of such a label–the introduction title actually puts “Afro,” “Cuban,” and “Religion” all in quotes.  Most immediately, then, the book speaks to others studying Cuban religious practices, and indeed, questions the nature of “anthropology” as well, in a sophisticated yet readable way.  One thing I’d like to have seen more of is consideration of the way present-day Protestant and evangelical religious movements in Cuba fit into the picture Palmié is drawing–in the sense Trouillot described of the “present in the past.”  And while Fidel Castro’s famous description of Cuba as “un país latinoafricano” is deftly brought into the story (p. 85), surely much more thinking could be done about the relation between a distinctive revolutionary African-Cuban present and contructions of an African past.  But again, this is a text worth wrestling with, probably more at the graduate/professional level than for most undergraduate classes, and I’d love to hear other colleagues’ takes on it.

A literary geography of Oriente

Blogs, By Paul Ryer, Space & Place 1 Comment »

Here is something interesting from Kristina Wirtz, passed along via Ivor and Grete.  It’s an ongoing literary/cultural studies project, part of a University of Essex-based attempt to rethink the “American Tropics” in terms of a literary geography of six places, including Oriente, for which Peter Hulme provides an annotated bibliography.

Adriana Premat on Havana’s Urban Agriculture

By Paul Ryer, new article, Space & Place No Comments »

Just out this week is “State Power, Private Plots and the Greening of Havana’s Urban Agriculture Movement,” by Adriana Premat, in City & Society, vol. 21, issue 1, pp. 28-57.

Abstract:

Drawing on ethnographic research conducted over a decade from 1997 to 2007 in Havana, Cuba, this paper applies Henri Lefebvre’s insights on the social production of space to the processes involved in the creation of officially-sanctioned sustainable urban agriculture sites. Without denying the important function of the state in these processes, this paper highlights the significant role played by a range of non-state actors, and interests, largely left out from most scholarly accounts of Cuba’s recent agricultural developments. In this manner, the paper offers a more refined understanding of the influence and the limits of the Cuban state at the current historical juncture.


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