Accepted paper:

Hurricanes, the revolutionary state and moral debates in contemporary Cuba


Marian Viorel Anastasoaie (New Europe College)

Paper short abstract:

The paper analyses how ordinary Cubans evaluated governmental actions during the exceptional hurricane season of 2008. Based on fieldwork in a rural municipality and media analysis this paper shows how these “natural” disasters could symbolically reinforced the image of the Cuban Revolution.

Paper long abstract:

This paper is based on my fieldwork in a tobacco-growing municipality in western Cuba in 2008. That summer's strong hurricanes proved to be an extraordinary occasion to see how people prepare and live during a hurricane and how they evaluate the governmental action pre- and post-hurricanes. I observed the direct impact in their everyday life such as electric blackouts, temporary food shortage and higher food prices. At the same time, in the post-hurricane immediate period, the government adopted a harsher line against black market activities, especially dealing with agricultural products. This provoked serious problems of accessibility of agricultural products in the cities. All these governmental measures provoked intensive debates among Cubans that displayed moral evaluations of state actions and contradictory visions regarding the achievements of the Cuban Revolution. Thus, my aim is to analyse these hurricanes as political and social events that mobilise state and citizens and unleash debates about state's actions, revolutionary ethics and solidarity and international aid. Besides, both the state official media and daily ordinarily debates made the comparison with the US governmental failure in the case of hurricane Katrina a constant remainder of the ideological significance of the revolutionary capacity of dealing with major crises. Hence, I shall argue that, contrary to the interpretation that would see hurricanes as a threat to the stability of the Revolution, we can see them as opportunities for the Cuban state to display its capacity of dealing with external major crises, hence reinforcing the official vision of the Revolution's invincibility.

panel W124
Politics of disasters (EN)