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Lydia Cabrera: Ethnography and Forbidden Desires
Presented by Dr Mabel Cuesta (University of Houston) as part of the Literary Studies Seminar Series
Lydia Cabrera (1899-1991), the most important ethnographer and folk writer in the Cuban archive, was an exile in the United States for the last thirty years of her life –previously she lived in Paris, Madrid, and Havana. In all these cities, she was able to engage well-known female artists and writers who were lesbians as herself and whose financial and emotional support allowed Cabrera to better survive in the homophobic societies she was always living in and struggling against in order to survive as a respected scholar and fiction writer despite her sexual desires. My project will argue that those lesbian and ultimately female alliances are the ones that better served and financially supported Cabrera’s intellectual ambitions.
This presentation is part of a book project that explores the significance of the emergence of these alliances by analysing the traditional mythical connection established between woman and island, as well as the identities produced by female writers who had been historically silenced in Spanish Caribbean fiction, as well as in the anthropological work mostly produced by male scholars. In this regard, I have paid close attention to the treatment of homoerotism, exile, ethnicity, patriotism and the birth of feminism as a tool to confront the male power as well as its alliances with colonial practices.
Dr Mabel Cuesta is Associate Professor of US Latino and Caribbean Literature at the University of Houston.