Triangular relations in settler colonial Cuba? Natalie Lewis, Envisioning Alternative Cuban Identities: How Black and Native Studies Inform Afro-Cuban Futures, graduate dissertation, Mount Holyoke College, 2020


Abstract: Considering the shared, lived experiences of Afro-Cubans and Taíno Indians under conquest reveals the violent, repressive conditions of nationalist ideologies and colonial domination that have continued to obscure these groups from dominant historical narratives in Cuba. This is evident through an investigation of Fidel Castro’s totalizing dictatorship that began in 1953 and was crystallized in 1959. Western​i​zed historical accounts of settler colonialism have a tradition of portraying the hegemonic perspective of the colonizer. This is to say that these dominant historical narratives not only uphold the power dynamic between the colonizer and the colonized, but limit the scope of critical historical inquiry about marginalized, historical actors. Castro’s work of redeveloping a new ​Cubanidad​, being a unique understanding of Cuban nationhood and national identity, in the wake of the nation’s long fight for independence is incomplete. It was produced under a totalizing agenda of homogenization and through a forgetting of Cuba’s history of racial discrimination. As a result, it has suppressed the contributions that Afro-Cubans and Taínos brought to the framework of ​Cubanidad​, further subjugated these marginal groups under the new Cuban Oneness, and has thwarted discussions of their possible futures. This independent research will use a critical race theory approach to critique Castro’s production of a post-Revolution ​Cubanidad t​hat was predicated on notions of homogenization, stability, and contained identities. This critique will reshape ​Cubanidad to envision an alternative ​Cubanidad ​that considers alternative Afro-Cuban and Taíno futures by privileging notions of hybridity, impurity, and instability. This research will consider the role of race and identity in Cuban constructions of nationhood and the extent to which these conditions have and have not been investigated comprehensively. To consider alternative futures, this project will complicate binaristic modes of identity formation to reveal underlying power dynamics resonant of colonial structures, cultivate a methodology of “reading silences” that are present in historical narratives, and investigate critical moments where Afro-Cubans and Natives embody and exemplify an early understanding of a central component of ​Cubanidad​: revolutionary subjectivity. Drawing on Tiffany Lethabo King’s metaphor of the ​shoal as a conceptual foundation, a term of scientific origin employed to theoretically conceptualize a “third space” of identity, where a subject is positioned as being “both, neither, and in between,” I challenge the rhetorics and ideologies that contain and homogenize Blacks and Natives, posit a multi-temporal and hybrid analysis of ​Cubanidad​, and reignite discussions of Black and Native futures through a reconceptualization of post-Revolution ​Cubanidad​. By offering an analysis of Black and Native intersubjectivity, I will situate an ethical relationality within the framework of Cubanidad​ as the basis to envision collective futures of mutual care.

%d bloggers like this: