Forging Diaspora History

Sunday, January 9, 2011: 11:20 AM
Room 102 (Hynes Convention Center)
Frank A. Guridy , University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
My paper will discuss the process of making, Forging Diaspora: Afro-Cubans and African Americans in a World of Empire and Jim Crow. Like most first academic books, my book grew out of my dissertation research, which examined the dynamics of racialization in Cuban society and politics during the pre-Castro era. My dissertation illustrated the ways Afro-Cubans combated ongoing forms of racism by insisting on their equality as national citizens. As my post-doctoral research unfolded, I began to see how Afro-descendants in Cuba asserted their agency not only by foregrounding their rights as Cuban citizens, but also by reaching across national borders to African-American institutions. The intertwined processes of racism and U.S. imperialism in Cuba compelled them to develop survival strategies that extended beyond the boundaries of the nation. These initiatives were forged with African American institutions that have been most often studied with U.S. national context, such as the Tuskegee Institute, the NAACP, and the NCNW. The result was a book that evolved from a nation-based study of racialization to a study of "diaspora-making."

            My paper will highlight moments in this evolution: my encounter with archival documents that required a conceptual framework that transcended the nation, and my engagement with recent African Diaspora theory and historiography that grappled with the full range of cultural and linguistic diversity that comprises Afro-diasporic communities in the Americas. The paper will underscore how the making of the book was shaped by the larger national and global political context of the era of George W. Bush. In a period that produced the worst forms of nationalist xenophobia in my lifetime, I was compelled to write a history of the conditions that led people to find commonality across supposed intractable differences rather than a history of the forces that divide people along racial lines.