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Cuba’s alternative public spheres: rehearsals of the island that could be

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Organizer: María Isabel Alfonso

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In response to Cuba’s permanent economic crisis, the Cuban people have developed alternative and informal practices to find solutions to the daily challenges they face. While a few decades ago these narratives of survival may have been mere consequences of hardship, they have now come to constitute the very way Cubans envision—and even attempt to forge, consciously or unconsciously—a more pluralistic and democratic public sphere. From private entrepreneurship to autonomous artistic endeavors, grassroots organizations, independent journalism and independent publishing practices, among other activities, Cubans defy verticalism and the structures of control that have prevailed (with more or less strength) for almost half a century. We claim that by doing so, they write their own stories about the Cuba they foresee. This panel is inspired by Nancy Fraser’s rekindling of Jürgen Habermas’s notion of the public sphere, and especially her statement that “formally inclusive public spheres can often conceal the mechanisms through which they reinforce exclusivist politics.” It will explore how contemporary actors in Cuba’s alternative and informal public spheres engage in an emancipatory imagination of survival, prefiguring the potential futures of a more pluralistic and inclusive Cuba.  


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