I am trained in the disciplines of comparative literature and critical theory, and my areas of focus encompass three interrelated fields: Caribbean diaspora memory, Latino/a identity and performance, and Caribbean and Latin American Women’s and Feminist Writings. I have done sustained research and writing in autobiography, memoir, and testimony, employing a foundational methodology in my field that combines personal stories with rigorous academic examination of the links and meanings between the personal and the intellectual.
My first book, The Tears of Hispaniola: Haitian and Dominican Diaspora Memory (2006) focuses on the political violence and natural tragedies that continuously afflict the Caribbean and necessitate mass migrations at different historical moments, and reads the literary works of its authors as acts of healing and a commitment to human rights.
Since the publication of The Tears of Hispaniola, I have been working on three book projects simultaneously: Constructing Cuba: Culture, Memory, and Home in a Deficit/Tourist Global Market Economy (a single-authored book), Seeking Survival in Salvador (a single-authored book), and Dance, Race, and Identity in/from Bahia: African Diaspora Education (a co-edited anthology).
Constructing Cuba: Culture, Memory, and Home in a Deficit/Tourist Global Market Economy scans what it means to live in memory, to seek memory, and to continually construct memories of places and people lost, imagined, or vitally changed. While tourists flock to the island, Cuban exiles and immigrants have a sober relationship to their island nation. Mass migrations, death, and new inhabitants (Canadians, Germans, Italians, Spaniards, and not a few Americans) ensure that Cuba is always an evolving site of contrasts and contradictions. Yet, tourist brochures promise authenticity, a voyage to an island paradise with pasts that never change (Cuban Santería, beautiful Cuban women, songs of yesteryear, rum, and cigars). Cubans on the island have produced their own narratives, both satisfying tourist expectations and delving into their own melancholic and exoticized ponderings of dreams, ideals, and losses. The cultural production from and about Cuba is, perhaps, one of the most prolific in our contemporary culture. I see this as an exceptional, cultural production of memory.
My work in Cuban and Cuban-American Studies explores the political (revolution, cold war) and cultural (tourist, afro-descendent) narratives that structure a dynamic cultural production that continuously interrogates Cuban, Caribbean, Cuban-American, Latin@ representations as a movement that exposes mechanisms of survival and negotiation, against multiple models of racism and classism.
Seeking Survival in Salvador: Cultural Agency, Afro-Bahian Dance and Candomblé Traditions inBahia is an ethnographic cultural study about the untold, overlapping stories of tourism, Afro-Bahian dance performances, and the unexpected, transcontinental cultural agency that stemmed from these enterprises between 1964 and 2014, in Salvador, the capital of the Brazilian state of Bahia. Through extensive ethnographic interviews (over 100 interviews spanning 8 years), multisited participant observation (company classes, tours and performances in Bahia, Los Angeles, and New York City), archival research (Bahia Tursa archives, Federal University of Bahia’s School of dance library, and the Centro de Estudos Afro-Orientais collections), socio-cultural artifacts (performance and tourist brochures, video recordings, news clips and reviews) and theoretical cultural analyses, this study tracks the memories and observations of twelve cultural agents (dancers, choreographers, folkloric company directors, director of tours in the 70s, official master storytellers, Candomblé priestesses).