Old Utopias, New Real­i­ties: Film Publics, State Power, and New Modes of Incor­po­ra­tion in Con­tem­po­rary Cuba

November 14, 2003 - 4:30 PM

Sujatha Fer­nan­des
Prince­ton University

The period of the mid to late nineties has seen a revi­tal­iza­tion of the arts in Cuba, includ­ing the pro­duc­tion of sev­eral inter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized and highly crit­i­cal Cuban films such as Fresa y Choco­late (Straw­berry and Choco­late, 1994), Mada­gas­car (1994), and La Vida es Sil­bar (Life is to Whis­tle, 1998). Film plays an impor­tant role in the con­tem­po­rary period of cri­sis, rede­f­i­n­i­tion, and change in Cuban soci­ety. Film­mak­ers tap into every­day frus­tra­tions and newly emerg­ing sen­ti­ments dur­ing a moment of eco­nomic and polit­i­cal cri­sis, but they find nar­ra­tive means of rein­cor­po­rat­ing these alter­na­tive ideas into offi­cial dis­courses. More­over, the study of recep­tion illus­trates the sur­pris­ing ways in which view­ers them­selves seek to rein­te­grate crit­i­cal per­spec­tives on issues such as race, sex­u­al­ity, and immi­gra­tion into dom­i­nant frame­works. Draw­ing on ethno­graphic field work car­ried out dur­ing nine months in Cuba, this pre­sen­ta­tion seeks to under­stand the ways in which cul­tural pub­lic spheres are shaped by new modes of power and it demon­strates the chang­ing rela­tion­ships between state and soci­ety spurred on by the vastly changed polit­i­cal land­scape of the post-Cold War period.

Sujatha Fer­nan­des earned her Ph.D. at the Uni­ver­sity of Chicago and is cur­rently a Wilson-Cotsen Fel­low in the Soci­ety of Fel­lows in the Lib­eral Arts, Pub­lic Pol­icy, and Pol­i­tics at Prince­ton Uni­ver­sity. She has pub­lished arti­cles on Cuban hip-hop in Anthro­po­log­i­cal Quar­terly and the Jour­nal of Latin Amer­i­can Cul­tural Stud­ies. She is cur­rently work­ing on a book man­u­script enti­tled The Pol­i­tics of Cul­ture: Art, Pub­lic Spheres, and State Power in Con­tem­po­rary Cuba.