Las Transformistas: Performing Race and Sex in Post-Socialist Cuba
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Leslie Santana, Matthew
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CitationLeslie Santana, Matthew. 2019. Las Transformistas: Performing Race and Sex in Post-Socialist Cuba. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation is an ethnography of transformismo (gender performance) in Cuba during a time of social and economic transformation on the island. Over the past ten years, Cuba has seen the growth of a private sector based largely on tourism as well as the unfolding of a “sexual revolution” aimed at transforming public opinion and government policy around sexual diversity. Transformismo expresses some of the articulations between these reforms, and during the same period of time the performance complex has moved from clandestine parties threatened by police repression to state-run nightclubs frequented by tourists. Much like the social and economic changes that enabled its presence in these spaces, however, I suggest that in this scene transformismo often relies on the labor of Black women while limiting the access women and Afrodescendants have to economic and social gains. I turn toward other sites, then, to examine different kinds of work transformismo is capable of doing. Specifically, I discuss parties away from the tourism economy, the drag king movement in Havana, and the work of transgender transformistas (gender performers) to argue that these cultural workers are engaging in performances that resonate with broader social projects on the island aimed at exceeding the limitations of state reform. This story is not unique to Cuba but is instead one example of movements that have emerged throughout the hemisphere to go beyond the alliances between neoliberal economic reform and LGBT rights. In telling it, I mean to draw attention to the tactics deployed by artists and activists to live with dignity in times of precarity.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:42013039
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