Professor of Politics
Professor Bengelsdorf has written extensively on issues related to Cuban politics and women in Cuba. In addition, she has conducted field research in Algeria and Peru and taught in Kenya, Honduras, and Cuba. She is interested in social change in the Third World, in American foreign policy, and in postmodern and postcolonial theory.
This seminar is designed for Division III students who are writing their independent study projects on some field within the Social Sciences. The course will center around discourses within the Social Sciences. This broad framework will facilitate exchanges between students working on various paradigms within the social and/or cultural realm. The seminar will focus upon this exchange. After we read key texts to help us develop a common vocabulary, the projects themselves, along with what students suggest in the way of additional reading, will constitute the syllabus.
How do we study a reality as complex and contested as that of Cuba? This course proposes an interdisciplinary approach that critically interrogates the available frameworks (geopolitical, historical, and cultural) for undertaking such a study. First, what images of Cuba-circulating in US popular and official culture-must we recognize and displace even to begin our study? What constructions of race, gender, and sexuality have defined the Cuban nation and Cuban transnationalism? In terms of the geopolitical, how do we locate Cuba as part of the Caribbean (with its history of plantation economies and slavery), as part of Latin America (linked by a shared history of Spanish conquest and the centripetal force of the Cuban Revolution), and as part of the African diaspora? How can Cuba be understood in relation to the U.S., as well as to other socialist or "post-socialist" countries, and to the exilic cultures and ideologies of Miami, "Cuba's second largest city"? In regards to historical periodization, how do different lenses (Spanish colonialism, the Cuban Revolution, the Cold War, the post-1989 period) shape an examination of Cuban history? Proceeding from the 19th century to the present, this course will engage with primary texts, historiography, literature, film, and music to examine Cuba within these multiple frameworks. Students will complete frequent short response essays and a substantial research paper. This course is recommended for 2nd and 3rd year students and will require approximately 8-10 hours of work outside of class per week.