Of dangerous women and hybrid nations: Women, impurity and the nation in Cuban nineteenth century

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Lillian Manzour - Committee Chair


From the field of cultural studies, this dissertation explores the representation of four women figures in nineteenth century Cuba (the criolla, the siboney, the mulata and the prostitute) and shows that the construction of these artistic categories became a rhetorical strategy used by men to defend their own political agenda and ideas on national identity. Its theoretical framework is developed considering the dialectical tension between the discourses of power and desire in colonial societies and it is inspired by the works of Homi Bhabha, Michel Foucault, Nancy Armstrong, Sherry Ortner, Rafael Rojas and the theories of intersectionality between class, race and gender. From this standpoint, I consider that the concepts of purity and impurity associated to the woman's body are central in the organization of state societies and that female sexuality is an interstice from which the voice of the subaltern permeates hegemonic discourses. In Cuba, women's impurity becomes a side of struggle where a discourse of political resistance is articulated. Chronologically, this dissertation embraces from the 1830s to 1880s and it is documented on works of literature and essays (including La vagancia en Cuba by Jose Antonio Saco, Una Pascua en San Marcos by Ramon de Palma, Petrona y Rosalia by Felix Tanco Bosmeniel, Siboney poetry by Jose Fornaris and Juan Cristobal Napoles Fajardo, Cecilia Valdes by Cirilo Villaverde, Carmela by Ramon Meza, Sofia by Martin Morua Delgado, Guadalupe by Pedro Giralt, La prostitucion en la Habana by Benjamin de Cespedes, Blancos y negros by Rodolfo de Lagardere, Cuba y sus jueces by Raimundo Cabrera), press (including La Moda o Recreo semanal del Bello sexo, El Prisma, El Plantel, La Piragua, El Triunfo, El Productor, La Cebolla) and specific graphic images. Through these texts it is created the category that I call impure woman, in which race and sexuality interlock. I conclude that impure women represent men's anxieties towards the raise of women's agency and towards the political future of Cuba. They also become the symbolical expression of the hybrid nature of Cuban identity.


Literature, Latin American; Literature, Caribbean

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