Paloma Duong at the Berkeley Center for New Media

Berkeley Center for New Media Moffitt Service Road University of California Berkeley Berkeley, CA 94720

Mediascapes of Postsocialism: Cuban New Media Cultures After the End of History

A History & Theory of New Media lecture, presented as part of BCNM’s Latinx & Latin American Media Ecologies program, co-sponsored by the Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies (CLACS) and the Center for Science, Technology, Medicine, and Society (CSTMS)

with Paloma Duong
Associate Professor of Latin American and Media Studies, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Find more information here.

What do our political alternatives look like after “the end of history”? Any critical approach to that question must consider how the Cold War legacies of red-washing and red-baiting are redeployed as well as challenged across global and participatory new media landscapes. This talk unpacks some of the challenges involved in this task by analyzing how media representations and cultural practices in Cuba, in the Cuban diaspora, and in the broader Latin American and Latinx context respond to the global postsocialist condition, that is, to the historical moment when new declarations of the death socialism coincide with the reemergence of anticapitalist demands. Looking at a wide range of postsocialist cultural artifacts—from music to memes—I will examine why Cuban socialism endures as an object of international political desire while images of capitalist markets consume Cuba’s national imagination. These competing political narratives and images about the communist past and the capitalist present register lived experience at a crossroads between the failures of the nation-state and the promises of global markets. They also speak to our shared postsocialist dilemmas: after the 1989-1991 collapse of the socialist bloc, the 2008 crisis of global markets reinforced the impasse between a world where there seems to be no alternative to capitalism and one where we continue to confront the same historical conditions—flagrant inequality, violent dispossessions, planetary destruction, political disenfranchisements, permanent war, forced displacements—that yield, now under a myriad of clashing ideological banners, a politics of insurgency left and right. A critical engagement with cultural representations of communism and capitalism allows us to wrestle away popular demands and desires from their hegemonic articulations through statist and/or corporative tropes. It also renders Cuban postsocialism as an urgent and indispensable referent for core debates on the politics of participatory cultures in new media studies. I will suggest that this comparative analysis of postsocialist imaginaries can offer us critical tools to reevaluate the legacies of socialist media theories and their relevance to our pursuit of an alternative political imaginary.