Exploring the movements of Cuban material objects and digital content across borders
“In this subtle and beautifully crafted ethnography, Cearns invites us to travel through the many Cuban circuits of exchange that give shape to mutating histories of connection within and between Havana and Miami. The result is an exhilarating and illuminating journey into the changing contours and expansive terrain of contemporary cubanidad.”—Jeffrey S. Kahn, author of Islands of Sovereignty: Haitian Migration and the Borders of Empire
Despite decades of diplomatic hostilities and economic sanctions, the border between Cuba and the United States—arguably one of the most politicized in the world—is in a state of constant flux. Tracing the flows of people, material items, and digital content between Havana and Miami, as well as between Cuba and Panama, Guyana, and Mexico, Circulating Culture explores how and why these circuits are a part of everyday life for millions of Cubans who negotiate extraordinary circumstances daily.
Drawing on extensive ethnographic research in these locations, Jennifer Cearns highlights groups of Cuban society that are often overlooked, considering what Cuban culture and identity mean in a transnational setting. Weaving evocative vignettes into her discussion of these larger questions, Cearns pieces together the story of the creators of an emerging and dynamic network that punctures geopolitical boundaries and has outlasted a period of rapid social change—from the Obama administration through the death of Fidel Castro and into the Trump administration.
Ultimately, by focusing on everyday objects and the strategies used to move them across borders, this book reveals how new cultural forms can develop from the cracks in societies often seen as “broken.” It demonstrates the worldmaking of marginalized Cuban communities who have long been building their own infrastructures of possibility.
Jennifer Cearns is a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Anthropology at University College London and an associate research fellow at the Alan Turing Institute.
A volume in the series New World Diasporas, edited by Kevin A. Yelvington
Publication of this work made possible by a Sustaining the Humanities through the American Rescue Plan grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.