Odette Casamayor-Cisneros

Biography

Spring 2015: Fellow, David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies and Visiting Scholar,  Afro-Latin American Research Institute

On Being Blacks: Challenging the Hegemonic Knowledge Through Racial Self-identification Processes in Post-Soviet Cuban Cultural Production

Project Description

On Being Blacks: Challenging the Hegemonic Knowledge Through Racial Self-identification Processes in Post-Soviet Cuban Cultural Production

After more than 50 years of communist rule that supposedly eradicated racial inequality, why is racism against Blacks still present in Cuban society? Seeking for answers, I view Cuba within the Global Afro-Diaspora, as a laboratory in which the failure of economic, social, political and ideological conditions to explain the resilience of racism urges the search for new epistemologies on “race”. Hence, my book adopts an ethical-aesthetic perspective to deconstruct the Eurocentric values on which blackness has been construed as otherness in Western societies. To this end, I examine a wide collection of works produced after the collapse of the Soviet Bloc in 1989 by Afro-Cuban hip-hop and rock musicians, writers, filmmakers, and visual and performing artists, who challenge the ideal of a raceless national identity promoted by the socialist government, and counteract the stereotyped vision of Blacks as subjects “humanized” by the socialist revolution, struggling to become the heroic paradigm of the virile, heterosexual and Eurocentric Che Guevara-like “New Man”.

I termed occurrence the ethical-aesthetic strategy used by many of these artists. Going beyond rigid confrontational situations like those forged by the revolutionary/non-revolutionary, white/black and civilized/barbarian modern polarities, occurrence enables the expression of blackness as an experience that cannot be apprehended through traditional concepts and stereotypes. Occurrence underscores the fictionality of the identity fabricated by the hegemonic knowledge. There lies its political effectiveness.

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