Exploring Race, Gender, and Religion in Cuba

Grad Students Study Social Topics and Publish Online Magazine

From the July 2013 Desktop News A group of students participating in Dr. Maha Marouan’s graduate seminar got the opportunity of a lifetime this summer to study race, gender, and religion in popular culture in Cuba. The course is one of the first developed exclusively for graduate students as part of the College’s Alabama-Cuba Initiative.

The trip, which took place during UA’s interim term in May, was led by Marouan along with Tomás Fernandez Robaina, a researcher at the Biblioteca Nacionál in Havana, and Henry Herdia, a liaison for international exchange at Instituto de Investigación Cultural Juan Marinello.

Marouan met Robaina during her first trip to Cuba in 2011 to present a paper at a conference as part of the ongoing collaboration between UA and the University of Havana. She later formed a partnership with the Instituto de Investigación Cultural Juan Marinello so she could bring students to Cuba.

A major component of the course was the creation of an online magazine chronicling the students’ writings and impressions about their educational experiences.

Dorothy Franklin, whose research interest is in Holocaust Studies, focused her efforts on learning about Jews in Cuba. She visited Jewish synagogues and also interviewed Cubans whose families were killed during the Holocaust and some whose families had escaped and settled in Cuba before 1933. You can read the full account of her research findings here.

Kiara Hill, a second year graduate student in the Department of Gender and Race Studies, focused on race and sexuality in Cuba. In her piece, “The Chronicles of An African American woman in Cuba,” Hill recounts her experiences being perceived by Cubans as either a foreigner or as an Afro-Cuban woman. Read her full account here.

Jenna Johnson, a first year master’s student in the Department of Gender and Race Studies, spent her time working to understand sexual politics and the impact of the government on the daily lives of Cubans. In her piece on politics in Cuba as compared to politics in the United States, Johnson draws parallels to the propaganda used in both countries to further a particular political discourse. Read her article here.

Kenny Kruse is a second-year graduate student in the MFA creative writing program in the Department of English and the Spanish program in the Department of Modern Languages and Classics. In Cuba, he focused his research on community activism and community projects. In his piece, “Fighting for Social Change,” Kruse explores the myths about Cuban civic involvement. You can read the full article here.

Lamea Elle Shaaban-Magana, a graduate student and director of the UA Women’s Resource Center, also focused her research on community activism. You can read her experience learning about Cuba’s community development here.

Gabrielle Smith, a fourth year PhD student in UA’s social psychology program and a first year master’s student in the Department of Gender and Race Studies, looked at music and spirituality in Cuba. Smith chronicled her experiences learning rhumba with native Cubans. She observed that the music and dance of the rhumba was very similar to the music and dance associated with religious ceremonies. Read her full account here.

For more information on the trip and to read the full magazine online, visit http://jljohnson26.wix.com/us-in-cuba.