Encountering Cuba – Global Race, Postcoloniality, Cultural Expression (Fall, 2015)

Kandice Chuh (Graduate Center, English) and Sujatha Fernandes (Queens College, Sociology)

Cuba has long loomed large in the U.S. imagination, whether by virtue of its refusal to embrace capitalism, the richness of its literary and musical traditions, the persistence of Fidel Castro’s leadership, its proximity to the US coastal state of Florida and the migrants, exiles, and refugees who crossed the Florida Straits, and, now, because of the changing relations between the two countries. This team-taught, interdisciplinary course offers the opportunity to consider how ideas of Cuba and “Cubanness” take shape through literary and other aesthetic modes of expression, and to examine the ways in which such ideas are grounded in or depart from the everyday lives and political and cultural practices characterizing life in Cuba. What understandings of Cuba emerge by understanding it as a key site in the long histories of capital-driven migrations? How might racial formation be theorized through this space characterized by multiple forms of racialization, colonial histories, and ex-colonial nationalism? In what ways does Cuba exemplify and generate Caribbean and Latin American epistemologies, and what remains distinctive “about” Cuba and Cubanness? We will address such questions by studying the literature, film, history, sociology, and political theory, that help us encounter Cuba from multiple points of entry.

Students should expect to contribute regularly to this discussion-based seminar, and to submit several writing assignments as the formal requirements of the course.

In this edition of Independent Sources, host Garry Pierre-Pierre talks with Professor Fernandes about whether Cubans should be cautious or optimistic about the impending changes that are sure to accompany US investment on the island.


The Futures Initiative
The Graduate Center, CUNY
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New York, NY 10016-4309