Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, Portland State University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2009
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, Brandeis University
Cubanos Convertibles: Meanings of Multiple Currencies in Cuba

My research focuses on the ways in which Cubans negotiate the circulation of multiple currencies in the face of Cuba's changing relationship to the global economy. In order to preserve socialism during this period of transition, the Cuban State has attempted to create separate "socialist" and "capitalist" spheres of exchange by enclaving the access to, and uses of two national currencies -the Cuban Peso (used only by Cubans for staples and "non-luxury" goods) and the Cuban Convertible Peso (used for tourism and foreign imported "luxury" items). I examine whether and how social practices of money, especially in workings of the informal economy, affirm, challenge and/or circumvent the boundaries of these official currency spheres. By studying the different contexts and sets of inclusive or exclusive social relationships in which multiple currency exchanges are embedded, I will rethink anthropological assertions claiming that money has the unique capability to move between anyone in any situation. I also explore whether emerging hierarchical relations or local networks of social solidarity generated in Cuban Peso and Cuban Convertible Peso exchanges influence notions of Cubanidad or Cuban personhood (as suggested by an art exhibit at the Galerfa Habana entitled Cubanos Convertibles or Convertible Cubans). Money is an important arena of morality and cultural production. My research concentrates on how perceptions of Cubanidad are preserved or "converted" in the social practices that maintain or contest official spheres of currency exchange. By looking at the State's official discourses of the dual currency system, participant observation in multiple currency exchanges and open-ended interviews in Havana, my research provides an integrated analysis of the socio-economic and cultural meanings of different currencies in a post-Fidel Cuba.