A few days ago, on March 1, 2013, María Antonia Cabrera Arús presented a paper entitled “Modernity, Utopia, Socialism” at the Bildner Center in New York, as part of the symposium Cuban Material Culture in Perspective. Professor Raúl Rubio, who shared the panel with Cabrera Arús, presented on “Exilic, Diasporic, & Global Contexts”.
Raúl Rubio and María A. Cabrera Arús at the Bildner Center (photo taken from Cuba Material website)
In her work, Cabrera Arús proposes four components of the material culture of Cuban socialism and their effects in forming a social imaginary. Her analytical journey starts off from the pre-colombian taíno period and the objects that their culture left behind; goes on the colonization years and their impact through the new objects produced as a result of the fusion of different cultures; moves further to the Republican days and gets to the after-Revolution period, where functionality substituted marketing and consumerism.
According to Cabrera Arús, the four main components of socialist materiality in Cuba are:
1. the state-sponsored socialist material culture (which includes consumer goods from the Socialist countries and those produced locally),
2. the pervasive pre-revolutionary capitalist material culture,
3. the contemporary capitalist material culture that was brought into the country by different categories of travelers to the island and,
4. makeshift objects and solutions created to counter scarcity, and artisanal products.
These four components interacted with each other creating a polysemic result and providing Cuban citizens with a framework to build their private and social worlds.
Here you will find the Paper read by María A. Cabrera Arús at the Bildner Center, and here, a link to her website Cuba Material.