Alberto Sosa Cabanas, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Modern Languages, successfully defended his dissertation, entitled "Fear, Celebration, and Racial Otherness at the Turn of the Century: Toward the Construction of Blacks in Cuban Artistic-Literary Discourse (1880–1933)." His dissertation committee was composed of Drs. Maida Watson (Chair), Santiago Juan-Navarro, Andrea Fanta, and Jorge Duany. The committee recommended approval of the dissertation with distinction.
Alberto's thesis examines the visual and literary language in Cuba from the end of the nineteenth century to the 1930s, when a sense of national identity crystallized on the Island. Focusing on various discursive domains among the Island's intellectual elite, the thesis raises the issue of where to place the black figure among the attributes, projections, and realities of the nation as an imagined community. Alberto's research seeks to trace the genealogy of various cultural productions about blackness, some of which persist until the present. The author dialogues with postcolonial theories to explore the literary and visual representations of the black presence in Cuba, through two basic notions: rejection and celebration. Alberto argues that the question of the place of blacks in Cuba today still revolves largely around these two alternatives of colonial representation, which endured as part of narratives of emancipation within the postcolonial intellectual discourse. To substantiate his argument, Alberto dwells on several antislavery novels during the nineteenth century, such as Ciro Villaverde's Cecilia Valdés, as well as ethnographic and literary texts such as those written by Lydia Cabrera, Rómulo Lachatañeré, Alejo Carpentier, and the young Fernando Ortiz. He also looks at visual representations such as colonial prints and paintings, police photography books, and early cinema, centering on black bodies in Cuba.
Alberto Sosa Cabanas earned his master's degree in Spanish at Florida International University. He also holds graduate certificates in African and African Diaspora Studies and Latin American and Caribbean Studies from FIU. He obtained his bachelor's degree in Hispanic Literature and Linguistics at the University of Havana. He is the editor of the volume Reading Cuba: Discurso literario y geografía transcultural (Aduana Vieja, 2018) and the author of several articles in academic journals, such as Mitologías Hoy: Revista de Pensamiento, Crítica y Estudios Literarios Latinoamericanos and Decimonónica: Journal of Nineteenth Century Hispanic Cultural Production. He has received numerous awards to support his research, including the Goizueta Graduate Fellowship from the Cuban Heritage Collection of the University of Miami Libraries, the Eliana Rivero Scholarship in Cuban Studies from the Cuban Research Institute at FIU, and the Tinker Field Research Grant from the Kimberly Green Latin American and Caribbean Center at FIU. He is the founding president of FIU's Cuban-American Studies Association.