Kathleen López: Chinese Cubans: A Transnational History

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Audio, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Interviews, Media Archive on 2014-11-22 02:39Z by Steven

Kathleen López: Chinese Cubans: A Transnational History

New Books in Latin American Studies: Discussions with Scholars of Latin America about Their New Books

Alejandra Bronfman, Associate Professor of History
University of British Columbia, Canada

Successive waves of migration brought thousands of Chinese laborers to Cuba over the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The coolie trade, which was meant to replace waning supplies of slaves, was but the first. In the twentieth century, a sugar boom in Cuba facilitated the entry of thousands more. Many of these itinerant workers stayed, and this book uses Chinese and Spanish languages sources and microhistorical methods to trace their lives as they married, raised children, formed associations and ran businesses. Kathleen López‘s book Chinese Cubans, A Transnational History (University of North Carolina Press, 2013) asks questions about belonging and offers a nuanced interpretation of the ways people of Chinese descent could proffer loyalties to Cuba even as they were embedded in transnational Chinese networks. There are surprising stories here, about race, family and work. Next time you encounter a Chinese-Cuban restaurant, you’ll know a little more about how it got there.

Listen to the interview (01:06:29) here. Download the interview here.

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Measures of Equality: Social Science, Citizenship, and Race in Cuba, 1902-1940

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Law, Media Archive, Monographs, Social Science on 2011-11-25 02:43Z by Steven

Measures of Equality: Social Science, Citizenship, and Race in Cuba, 1902-1940

University of North Carolina Press
November 2003
256 pages
6.125 x 9.25, 8 illus., notes, bibl., index
Paper ISBN  978-0-8078-5563-8

Alejandra Bronfman, Professor of History
University of British Columbia

In the years following Cuba’s independence, nationalists aimed to transcend racial categories in order to create a unified polity, yet racial and cultural heterogeneity posed continual challenges to these liberal notions of citizenship. Alejandra Bronfman traces the formation of Cuba’s multiracial legal and political order in the early Republic by exploring the responses of social scientists, such as Fernando Ortiz and Israel Castellanos, and black and mulatto activists, including Gustavo Urrutia and Nicolás Guillén, to the paradoxes of modern nationhood.

Law, science, and the social sciences—which, during this era, enjoyed growing status in Cuba as well as in many other countries—played central roles in producing knowledge and shaping social categories in postindependence Cuba. Anthropologists, criminologists, and eugenicists embarked on projects intended to employ the tools of science to rid Cuba of the last vestiges of a colonial past. Meanwhile, the legal arena created both new freedoms and new modes of repression. Black and mulatto intellectuals and activists, working to ensure that citizenship offered concrete advantages rather than empty promises, appropriated changing social scientific and legal categories and turned them to their own uses. In the midst of several decades of intermittent racial violence and expanding social and political mobilization by Cubans of African descent, debates among intellectuals and activists, state officials, and legislators transformed not only understandings of race, but also the terms of citizenship for all Cubans.

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