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Between Orientalism and Affective Identification: A Paradigm and Four Case Studies Towards the Inclusion of the Moor in Cuban Literary and Cultural Studies

  • Author(s): Rodriguez Drissi, Susannah
  • Advisor(s): Kristal, Efrain
  • et al.

This dissertation proposes an interpretive paradigm to explore the Moorish, Arab, Islamic and Algerian presence in Cuban literature and cultural studies, and it offers four case studies in which to do so. The interpretative paradigm involves a dynamic between two coexisting approaches in Cuban cultural history. The first is akin to Edward Said's notion of Orientalism, an exotization of the other that invites a critical stance. The second, here called "affective identification," signals the recognition of and connection with the other as an element of national identity. The four case studies, which correspond to the chapters of the dissertation, are organized with a chronological movement from the nineteenth century until the present, and each is intended to underscore the links between the specific historical moment in question and significant aspects of Cuban literature and cultural studies. Chapter 1 argues that the intersection between the dominant white sector's view of an exclusively white Cuban national identity and specific historical and geopolitical circumstances of the early nineteenth century informs the representation of Muslim pirates in Cirilo Villaverde's Excursión a Vueltabajo. Chapter 2 proposes that changing attitudes towards slavery in the second half of the nineteenth century, as well as the rising importance of the eastern region of the country, among other factors, contributed to the representation of Moors and Arabs in Martí's poetic and political discourse (specifically, Ismaelillo and "Los Moros en España"), in keeping with the notion of affective identification. Chapter 3 argues that the general interest in North Africa before the twentieth century, and the presence of the Moor in Cuban literature and nationalist discourse, contributed to the ways in which Algeria and Algerians were represented in Cuban print and television in the 50s and 60s. It gives pride of place to two works: Jorge "Papito" Serguera's Che Guevara, la clave Africana: Memorias de un embajador de Cuba en Argelia and Delia Fiallo's Bajo el cielo de Argelia, a soap opera about the Algerian struggle for liberation, broadcast in Cuba in 1962. Chapter 4 relies on theories of loss to address the affective identification with the Moor in Abilio Estévez's Los palacios distantes, and with the Arab figure in Jesús Díaz's short story "El pianista árabe" that involves the experience of exile and loss at the turn of the twenty-first century. The dissertation concludes suggesting several ways in which the inclusion of Arab and Islamic elements can enrich the study of both Cuban and Latin American literary and cultural studies.

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