An Exploration of Deviance, Power and Resistance within Contemporary Cuba: The Case of Cuban Underground Rap

Dimou, Eleni (2014). An Exploration of Deviance, Power and Resistance within Contemporary Cuba: The Case of Cuban Underground Rap. In: The Subcultural Network ed. Subcultures, Popular Music and Social Change. Newcastle Upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Abstract

This chapter aims to revisit and re-conceptualize the way we think about subcultures and their continued importance. It will revive the tradition of the Birmingham School (CCCS) in its interpretation of subcultures, and it will address the theoretical challenges posed by post-subcultural theorists, using contemporary socialist Cuba to illustrate the argument. I want to demonstrate, through ethnographic material and discourse analysis of rap lyrics, that a reconciliation of the CCCS with post-subcultural theory is not only possible, but a strategy to be followed when investigating subcultures in contemporary society. I adopt Hall and Jefferson’s (2006: xii) “double sidedness” perspective, which entails “acknowledging the new without losing what may still be serviceable in the old” (ibid). Thus, a bridging of the two perspectives (both the micro and macro analysis and the interactions between the two) is required, in order to come to a better understanding of young people’s cultural formations, everyday practices and their relation to power and resistance.
The chapter begins with a brief description of Cuban underground rap and its relationship to state institutions in order to demonstrate the complexity of power within the Cuban context. This is important because, as Greener and Hollands (2006: 415) argue, much of theorizing of the subcultural and post-subcultural debate is “in fact, UK based, if not western in its orientation”. By exploring these theoretical approaches through the perspective of “border thinking” (Mignolo, 2000:84) I aim to investigate whether a CCCS’s approach or a post-subcultural one, can or cannot be applied in the Cuban context. Hence I will explore the connection between Cuban rap and the Cuban ideology (namely cubanía) and the structural changes that occurred in the island since the 1990s. Additionally rap’s relationship to the state’s apparatus will be critically analysed, as well as the importance of affects, feelings and personal struggles of the rappers in their everyday lives. By examining the nature of subcultures, power and resistance in Cuba, this chapter will attempt to bridge subcultural and post-subcultural theory.

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