Urban utopias in Havana's representations. An interdisciplinary analysis

Rodríguez-Falcón, Olga (2008) Urban utopias in Havana's representations. An interdisciplinary analysis. PhD thesis, Middlesex University.

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Abstract

This investigation consists of an interdisciplinary analysis of photographic, cinematographic, architectural and literary documents representing the city of Havana in Cuba during different periods of the twentieth century. These periods are: the decade of the Great Depression; the 1950s during the rapid growth of the tourist industry in the island; the first fifteen years following the 1959 Cuban Revolution; and the so-called 'Special Period' during the 1990s, following the collapse of the Soviet Union. It was during these periods that the city went
through very important transformations due to historical and cultural contingencies. These contingencies refer to the beginnings of the development of the city as a tourist centre, the first debates and cultural manifestations related to the Afro-Cuban traditions in the island, the post - 1959 evolutionary processes and the effects of the end of the Cold War on the city. The documents analysed have been drawn firstly from cultural productions made by Cubans: Cuban filmography and photography pre- and post-1959. Secondly, there are also those documents produced by non-Cubans, mainly Hollywood productions and other types of representation, which have also contributed greatly to create a particular image of Havana. An important part of this analysis also includes the architectural particularities of the city, with an emphasis on the symbology of some of its main buildings, such as the Capitolio and the National Hotel.
This analysis relates the dominant visual tropes of the Cuban capital with more generic discourses regarding the tradition of utopian thought in the West and their embodiment in the image of the modern city. The diverse archival documents discussed throughout this thesis reflect recurrent themes that have characterised this tradition: the contemporary ideal of a
harmonious multicultural society; the romanticisation of the 'old city' as a visual reminder of our 'non-capitalist' past and the utopianism associated with the dichotomy between work and leisure and between the diurnal and the nocturnal. Most of these themes can be found as forming part of the discourse on the national in Cuba, also characterised by a deep utopianism.
The thesis examines the social and cultural history of Havana in order to analyse how the different documents have reflected, or even contributed, to the construction and problematisation of a Cuban national identity, while at the same time making testimony of the existence in the city of different cultural traditions. This has necessarily involved a reflection on the dynamics between the two main cultural traditions present in Havana: the Euro-Cuban and the Afro-Cuban. This thesis proposes that the cultural battles between the African, European and North American traditions in the city have been decisive in the modern re-fashioning of Havana as a museum-city, facilitating the predominantly nostalgic character of its most recent representations. This investigation also takes into account the crucial role of the city's spatial gendrification -
the position of women within the urban space - when describing Havana's utopian representations.
Finally, the interdisciplinary character of this thesis contributes to the analyses of the cultural history of cities as well as the relevance of the visual in the recreations of modern urban life and its relations to the narratives of the national.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: Thesis submitted to Middlesex University in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Research Areas: B. > Theses
A. > School of Art and Design
Item ID: 10787
Depositing User: Adam Miller
Date Deposited: 19 Jul 2013 10:22
Last Modified: 06 Sep 2018 14:58
URI: http://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/id/eprint/10787

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