The Material Culture of Domestic Space in Socialist Cuba

Friday, January 2, 2015: 3:50 PM
Liberty Suite 4 (Sheraton New York)
Maria Cabrera Arus, New School for Social Research
In 1959, the Cuban Revolution triumphed over a military dictatorship and a new era in Cuba commenced. The progressive revolution in which many Cubans had placed their hopes for democracy and social justice quickly became radical and, in 1961, Fidel Castro declared socialism as the ideology of the state, which eventually allied with the Soviet Bloc. My paper will analyze the political significance of new domestic goods and fashions in Cuba, as the island became socialist, quit trade with the United States, and increased interaction with the Soviet Union. As a student of sociology, I examine how consumer goods, such as the Soviet Aurika washing machine, took on new meaning over time; I explore elements of continuity and rupture in Cuba's cultural history. My presentation will show how domestic material culture was introduced and promoted in ways that legitimized the new regime's political discourse, communist ideology, and relationship with the Soviet Union. It will also examine how domestic material culture represented socialism, the government, and the Cuban Revolution, sometimes in ways that were not intended by the state.