Dr Par Kumaraswami is Professor of Latin American Studies at the University of Nottingham. She was a founding member of the UK-based Cuba Research Forum and first got to understand Cuba through working alongside Cuban academics and hearing their personal stories of revolutionary Cuba. She completed a PhD (2004) in women's testimonial writing from the Cuban Revolution. She has studied Cuba for 25 years, and has published extensively in the area of Cuban culture.
From September 2020, she is Director of the Centre for Research on Cuba/Cuba Research Forum.
I am a Cubanist, specialising in Cuban cultural policy and practice from 1959 to the present, especially in relation to literature. My PhD was on the reception of women-authored testimonial writing from revolutionary Cuba, and included a small-scale but innovative analysis of reader responses to a corpus of texts. Thereafter, I was Co-Investigator for a large research project funded by the Leverhulme Trust (2004-9) on the interactions of literature and politics in Cuba since 1959, with Professor Antoni Kapcia (Nottingham). This project culminated in several articles and in the publication of a co-authored monograph, Literary Culture in Cuba: Revolution, Nation-building and the Book (Manchester University Press 2012): http://www.manchesteruniversitypress.co.uk/cgi-bin/indexer?product=9780719083754.
The book looks at how literature has been socialised in post-1959 Cuba through a range of policies which have created a complex and relatively flexible institutional structure and framework which has both regulated and enabled participation in literature (through production and consumption), but also, and especially during and after the economic crisis of the 1990s in Cuba, through the creation of local or provincial spaces for participation in culture. The book was launched at the Feria Internacional del Libro de La Habana in 2014, and the presentation (in Spanish) can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Td32jNWtX0I. We are currently working on its publication in Spanish in Cuba.
Since then, I have continued to work on the social importance of literary culture in Cuba, and was awarded as Principal Investigator a second Leverhulme Trust Large Research Project Grant (2014-19) for a project entitled 'Beyond Havana and the nation? Peripheral identities and literary culture in Cuba', which examines how personal and social identities have been constructed via participation in literary culture in the eastern province of Granma, Cuba. Granma is a region which is symbolically rich (the birthplace of independence, the himno nacional, the battleground for the wars of independence of the late 19th-century, the landing of the yacht in 1956, the insurrection in the Sierra Maestra) but which is geographically isolated, under-developed in terms of resources and infrastructure and largely peripheral to the mass tourism - and limited globalisation - which other parts of Cuba are currently experiencing. Through conducting interviews and focus groups with local participants in literary culture, and through understanding how local identity interacts with articulations of national and transnational identity, the project promises to yield some important insights into the experience of literature and globalisation in the periphery. A brief initial report of the project can be found here: https://www.leverhulme.ac.uk/awards-made/awards-focus/beyond-havana-beyond-nation-peripheral-identities-and-literary-culture-cuba.
My research also has an important impact dimension, including the development wth Cuban colleagues in eastern Cuba of a cultural-historical tour of the region (traditionally little travelled by international tourists).
I recently published a further monograph about the centrality of culture to the survival of the Cuban Revolution, examining the social functions of literature in revolutionary Cuba. Details of the book The Social Life of Literature in Revolutionary Cuba: Narrative, Identity and Well-being (Palgrave Macmillan 2016) can be found here: http://www.springer.com/gb/book/9781137569639.