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Nehru, Meesha (2010)
Languages: English
Types: Unknown
Emerging organically in the 1960s and soon incorporated into the revolutionary leadership‟s official drive to democratise culture, the Cuban talleres literarios have expanded over the decades into a significant literary movement based on grassroots participation. In 2009, the municipio-based talleres literarios, open to mass participation, engaged over 40,000 talleristas in creating their own literature, with a smaller number involved in more specialised talleres literarios de vanguardia, including the one based within the Centro de Formación Literaria Onelio Jorge Cardoso, a national institution for young writers of narrative fiction. This thesis analyses this unique and under-researched cultural movement by placing it within its historical context and using the notion of Cuban cultural citizenship in order to assess its impact. It contends that the talleres literarios in Cuba, by acting as literary public spheres, have provided a broad range of people with the opportunity to gain and enact cultural citizenship, thus endowing the movement with a political and social significance which has largely been ignored by academic literature. The shared experience of the talleres literarios has formed Cuban cultural citizens who not only are invested in some of the core values of the revolutionary process, but who also have the tools and space with which to participate actively in the construction of meanings. In this way, Cuban cultural citizens formed within the talleres literarios benefit individually through gaining a sense of belonging to, and empowerment in, the literary world, whilst also contributing to the evolution of cubanía revolucionaria and the ongoing negotiation of revolutionary hegemony. The thesis follows the recent work on Cuban culture which rejects the liberal assumptions that the cultural and political spheres should not mix and that civil society and the state are two distinct and oppositional entities. Instead, it uses the conceptual framework of cultural citizenship, which is based on the theoretical premise that culture and politics are inseparable, in order to approach critically the talleres literarios as sites for cultural participation. It offers a detailed history of the movement, from its origins to the present day, as well as an evaluation of the shared experience of talleristas based on the voices of participants from different periods and levels of the movement. By focussing on an outcome of cultural democratisation, the thesis poses a challenge to conventional accounts of revolutionary cultural policy and literature. It argues that cultural policy should be viewed as a productive as well as regulatory force, because the talleres literarios have been instrumental in creating a broad and inclusive literary culture which emphasises dialogic communication and active, public participation. The cultural citizenship attainable in the talleres literarios has provided the initial phase in the literary education of many established writers, fostered personal relationships between them, and facilitated the circulation of diverse ideas. Finally, the notion of cultural citizenship also adds a further dimension to the already broad field of research on participation and political culture. This case study of the talleres literarios follows the approach to participation that views it not in terms of top-down control or achievement of consensus but as a process by which shared meanings are both reinforced and new ones created as society and state interact within institutional frameworks.
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