Current Institutional Affiliation
Executive Director, Actionable Intelligence for Social Policy, University of Pennsylvania

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 1997
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, University of Chicago
Globalizing Havana: World Heritage and Urban Redevelpoment in a Late Socialist City

With the recent collapse of the Soviet Union and the subsequent entrance of Cuba into the global economy, race has re-emerged as a salient topic of debate among Cuban intellectuals. These scholars have begun to discuss whether racial discrimination is affecting the access of different “racial” groups to the newly emerging sectors of the Cuban economy (primarily tourism and related service industries). In this discussion, race is understood to be linked to the processes of economic liberalization and capitalist investment which are currently being encouraged by Cuban government policies. Yet this is not the first time that race has been a contrasted issue in Cuban history. The members of Cuba’s first black political party (formed in 1908) and the black professionals excluded from white collar employment in the course of Cuba’s second republic (1933-1959) also challenged depictions of Cuba as a raceless nation. Anthropologists of socialist states have explained the emergence of race and ethnicity in these societies as a product of the elimination of intermediate institutions (the organizations of civil society) and the subsequent reliance of weak Party-states on ethno-nationalism (the invocation of putative cultural, linguistic or historical sameness) as an integrating ideology. My hypothesis is that the reliance of the Cuban Communist Party on ethno-nationalism as a homogenizing principle, in conjunction with an economy of shortage (a product of Cuba’s centralized state bureaucracy), has made the possession of supposed racial or ethnic attributes a factor in the allocation of scarce resources. My research will attempt to link this development to the larger question of whether the universalistic claims of socialism, like its liberal democratic predecessor, were distorted by an ideological field of race.