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January 1998
336 pages  

6 1/8 x 9 1/4
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Nationalizing Blackness
Afrocubanismo and Artistic Revolution in Havana, 1920–1940
Moore, Robin Dale
Nationalizing Blackness represents one of the first politicized studies of twentieth-century culture in Cuba. It demonstrates how music can function as the center of racial and cultural conflict during the formation of a national identity.

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Robin Moore is an associate professor in the School of Music at the University of Texas at Austin.  He has received awards including fellowships from the Rockfeller Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, and the National Humanities Center and is currently editor of the Latin American Music Review. His written work includes articles in the Cuban Studies, Ethnomusicology , Encuentro de la cultura cubana, and other journals and book anthologies.
“The first book in many years to analyze in depth the racial issue as the key to Cuba's musical history and heritage. . . . An impressive piece of scholarly research, and a lucid interpretation of facts and documents. It is destined to become a reliable source for specialists in Afro-Caribbean studies.”—Leonardo Acosta, musician and author of Música y descolonización and Del tambor al sintetizador

Nationalizing Blackness is valuable as a history of African Diasporic ideas, as a nuanced study of race, nationalism, and music, and as a source of nourishment for that perennially starving species, Musicubana fanaticus.”- Julian Gerstin, San Jose State University (Ethnomusicology, Spring/Summer 2000)

“His book forms a welcome part of a growing literature which analyzes popular music and its mainstreaming in relation to historical understandings of national identity. As a music historian, . . . Moore gives us a particularly rich and sensitive account.”—New West Indian Guide, vol. 74, no. 3 & 4, 2000

Nationalizing Blackness fills a major gap in the study of Cuban cultural history. Robin Moore paints a remarkable portrait of a period whose popular culture was colorful and unique, yet understudied, little understood, and not systematically documented. The writing is clear and readable. Original and superlative.”—Peter Manuel, John Jay College

"Nationalizing Blackness deals very well with a fundamental problem in Cuban history: the struggle of Afrocubans to maintain and expand their culture, especially dance and music, as they attempt to become nationalized. An outstanding achievement, very much in the wake of Fernando Ortiz and other great essayists on Cuban music."---Cristobal Diaz, Fundacion Musicalia, Puerto Rico

“Moore’s fascinating and well-written study is intellectually daring in its argument, thorough in its social-historical research, and deserving of a wide audience in the social sciences.”----Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science

“A major contribution to Cuban Studies and, more broadly, to the historiography of American popular culture . . . . Moore compellingly narrates Afrocuban music’s circuitous journey from the cultural margins of an intensely negrophobic society that repeatedly banned African-derived musical forms to the national (and international) mass media. With its detailed bibliography, its appendixes, and its glossary, the book is a wellspring of information about an under-researched period in Cuban history.”----Vera M. Kutzinger, American Historical Review, April 1999

“This is a meticulously researched and finely textured analysis of the blackness vogue that swept Cuba in the 1920s and 1930s and how it redefined the Cuban nation as inclusive of its mixed race heritage. . . . This is a fascinating study that makes a major contribution to the cultural history of race and national identity in the Caribbean, while at the same time establishing the highest of standards for Latin American cultural history, at the level of both rigorous documentation and theoretical breadth.”----Lauren Derby, American Journal of Sociology, November 1999

“This is a field that has been little researched to date. Robin Moore’s well-documented publication, a historically informed sociology of Cuban music rather than a discussion of its sonic aspects, begins to bridge that gap.”---Steven Cornelius, Notes, December 1998

“Nationalizing Blackness helps to fill several important gaps in Cuban historiography. . . . Moore’s book also represents a significant contribution to the history of Cuban music. His careful research in a variety of Cuban archives and libraries allowed him to reconstruct the lives and activities of numerous popular performers whose very existence, much less their work, is barely known.”--Alejandro de la Fuente, Latin American Research Review, 35.3 (2000)

Complete Description Reviews
Pitt Latin American Series
Latin America/Cultural Studies

The 1920s saw the birth of the tango, the “jazz craze,” bohemian Paris, the Harlem Renaissance, and the primitivists. It was a time of fundamental change in the music of nearly all Western countries, including Cuba. Significant concessions to blue-collar and non-Western aesthetics began on a massive scale, making artistic expression more democratic. In Cuba, from about 1927 through the late thirties, an Afrocubanophile frenzy seized the public. Strong nationalist sentiments arose at this time, and the country embraced afrocubanismo as a means of expressing such feelings. Black street culture became associated with cubanidad (Cubanness) and a movement to merge once distinct systems of language, religion, and artistic expression into a collective of national identity. Nationalizing Blackness uses the music of the 1920s and 1930s to examine Cuban society as it begins to embrace Afrocuban culture. Moore examines the public debate over “degenerate Africanisms” associated with comparas or carnival bands; similar controversies associated with son music; the history of blackface theater shows; the rise of afrocubanismo in the context of anti-imperialist nationalism and revolution against Gerardo Machado; the history of cabaret rumba; an overview of poetry, painting, and music inspired by Afrocuban street culture; and reactions of the black Cuban middle classes to afrocubanismo. He has collected numerous illustrations of early twentieth-century performers in Havana, many included in this book. Nationalizing Blackness represents one of the first politicized studies of twentieth-century culture in Cuba. It demonstrates how music can function as the center of racial and cultural conflict during the formation of a national identity.


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