ALARI Seminar Series with Ofelia Lopez: "After the Skin: Representing Race in Cuban Literature (1882-1991)"


Friday, February 11, 2022, 12:00pm to 2:00pm

This event is virtual and will be held in Spanish. To register, click here.

This presentation explores literary representations of racial mixture in the Cuban literary production from the colonial era and the Special Period in Time of Pace (1990), a period of severe economic crisis resulting from the collapse of the Soviet Union. Through critical examination of the national ideology of miscegenation (mestizaje), I will examine how mixed-race female bodies were used to contribute to and challenge political and intellectual agendas reproducing or questioning Cuba´s image as a mixed-race (mestizo) nation. I will examine three works in which racial mixing is central -Cecilia Valdés (1882), Trilogía sucia de La Habana (1998) and Animal Tropical (2001)- to explore how narrative portray racial tensions and epochal debates about nation-building, gender, sexuality, and womanhood through the figure of mulattamestiza, and black women. Building on interdisciplinary scholarship across literary theory, Black feminism, masculinity studies, and African diaspora studies, this presentation shows female bodies as a site of multiple historical, cultural, and political meanings. By examining slavery and colonialist institutions, this presentation addresses the representation of mixed-race women as part of a broader genealogy of miscegenation.

Speaker: Ofelia Lopez, PhD Candidate in Romance Studies at Duke University and 2022 Spring ALARI Visiting Research Associate.
Moderated by: Alejandro de la Fuente, Robert Woods Bliss Professor of Latin American History and Economics; Professor of African and African American Studies, Director, Afro-Latin American Research Institute, Chair, Cuba Studies Program

Ofelia Lopez is a PhD Candidate in the Romance Studies department (Spanish Track) at Duke University. Her research focuses on the relationship among race, gender and literary discourse in the Latin American cultural production. Ofelia´s doctoral dissertation, After of the Skin: Representations of Race in Post-independent Cuban Literature, addresses the ways in which race is named and problematized in Cuban literary texts of the Republic, the Revolution and the Special Period. She is also interested in the intersectional relations between blackness and indigeneity as colonial and subaltern constructs, in the Mexican literary tradition. She has been a visiting scholar at the University of Havana (2011), Brown University (2015), and the Alejo Carpentier Foundation in Havana, Cuba (2018). She has received the 2022 Summer Research Fellowship for Research on Women or Girls of Color and the 2021 Race and the Professions Fellowship sponsored by the Duke Graduate School and the Kenan Institute for Ethics.

Presented in collaboration with Afro-Latin American Research Institute at Harvard University