Date of Award

2019

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in English

Specialization

Rhetoric and Composition

Department

English

First Advisor

Renee Hobbs

Abstract

Claims of racelessness in present-day Cuba conflate identities and generate public discourse that misalign with the social realities of black Cubans on the island. Decolonial and critical race theorists argue the necessity of racial-identity language: Unconfronted race-based injustice and unproblematized whiteness are among the unaddressed issues concretized by racial democracy rhetoric. The aim of this qualitative study is to investigate the collective narrative of modern-day Cuban interviewees to determine their epistemological knowledge and current uses for the rhetorics of racelessness; further, the study tracks the island’s century-old rhetorical practices designed to sustain erasure of race rhetoric in Cuba. This work will determine the consequentiality of the purported racelessness and the absence of race rhetoric for modern-day black Cubans. In this context, “race rhetoric” registers racial identity and acknowledges concomitant experiences within the social economy; specifically, race-based disparities and aggressions experienced by black Cubans may be isolated, amplified and made public.

Structured interviews were conducted with 97 participants in Santiago, Cuba; additionally, archival Cuban artifacts were analyzed, serving as historical context for the interview data and content examined in this project. While the majority participants claim, “There is no racism in Cuba,” saying that the claim is refers to constitutional racism and not “social racism”. Some participants reported individual experiences with racism and shared testimonies of race-based discrimination, dispelling assumptions of a monolithic solidarity rhetoric driven exclusively by socialism and state censorship. “There is no racism in Cuba” is an assertion that signifies allegiance to claimed victories of the 1959 Cuban Revolution and affirms “Cubanidad” or a patriot’s individual association with the island’s national identity. Finally, project participant responses were highly influenced by #BlackLivesMatter rhetoric and United States news stories of police violence against people of color; Cuba’s first public Internet connections and the BLM movement began one month apart, a short time before this study commenced.

Share

COinS