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Cuban Futures Beyond the Market

Cuban Futures Beyond the Market: Geopolitics and Interpretive Infrastructures in Humanities, Social Sciences, and the Law is a Mellon Sawyer Seminar at New York University. Funded by a generous grant from the Mellon Foundation, the Seminar will convene scholars, artists, writers, cultural leaders, and key social actors to engage in rich comparative analysis of Cuba and its futures. The Seminar was launched in 2015-2016 and will meet throughout the 2016-2017 academic year.

The Seminar aims to create sustained conversations about Cuban history, political contingencies, and the limits of US-Cuban exceptionalism. It will explore and develop questions and projects which challenge teleologies of the free market and allow us to think through and beyond the calculus of trade and political administration. We seek to establish comparative infrastructures to help strengthen intellectual and institutional networks between Cuba and the U.S., to identify and promote projects and interlocutors that deepen our understanding of Cuba, and to offer public scholarship.


Walfrido Dorta earned his Ph.D. in Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian Literatures with an emphasis on the Hispanic Caribbean at The Graduate Center (CUNY) (2016). His research focuses on twentieth and twenty-first century Latin American and Hispanic Caribbean literatures and cultures, Latin American and Caribbean cinema, film and visual studies, critical theory, and intellectual history. He is more specifically concerned with issues such as postnationalism, globalization, counter-hegemonic cultural practices in Latin America and the Caribbean, and the relationships between culture, the State, and the market. His current book manuscript, Political Dynamics and Cultural Projects in the Cuban Post-Revolution (1989-2015): Paideia, Diáspora(s), and Generación Cero, focuses on the ways through which these projects intervene in state cultural politics and analyzes a wide range of objects, such as programmatic documents, journals, literary works, blogs, and online magazines. He is also working on a second book project tentatively titled “Global Narratives in the Hispanic Caribbean Cinema”, which studies how recent films adapt several tropes (political oppression, migration, race) and reshape zombie stories, reality show scenarios, and hyperlink narratives to the particularities of the Hispanic Caribbean in order to defy stereotypical conceptions of the region.

María A. Cabrera Arús, Ph.D. in Sociology (New School for Social Research); author of the New Challenge Award for Social Innovation winning project Material Socialism and the blog Cuba Material, dedicated to archive and disseminate Cuban material culture from the Cold War era; and co-editor of the column “Souvenirs” of Cuba Counterpoints e-journal. She co-curated the exhibitions Pioneros: Building Cuba’s Socialist Childhood at the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center of Parsons School of Design (September 2015), which explored the material world of the child in socialist Cuba and the efforts of the Cuban state to instill in children a new set of behaviors and ideals, and Cuban Finotype and Its Materiality, at Cabinet magazine (October 2015), dedicated to explore the representations of elegance and refinement in Soviet and post-Soviet Cuba, and their importance for regime legitimization. Cabrera Arús’ research focuses on the impact of fashion and domestic material culture on regime stability and legitimation. Her manuscript, Dressed for the Party: Fashion and Politics in Socialist Cuba, presents fashion as a mechanism of social engineering oriented to produce a socialist “new man” and as a locus where private identities were articulated both against and in harmony with political values. She is currently exploring the relationship between domestic space and political discourses and practices of domination in the Hispanic Caribbean (including Hispanic Miami) during the Cold War.

photo credit: Geandy Pavon, "Keep it Real," from the Pioneros Series, 2015