Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Conceiving Cuba

Conceiving Cuba: Reproduction, Women, and the State in the Post-Soviet Era

Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 192
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Conceiving Cuba
    Book Description:

    After Cuba's 1959 revolution, the Castro government sought to instill a new social order. Hoping to achieve a new and egalitarian society, the state invested in policies designed to promote the well-being of women and children. Yet once the Soviet Union fell and Cuba's economic troubles worsened, these programs began to collapse, with serious results for Cuban families.Conceiving Cubaoffers an intimate look at how, with the island's political and economic future in question, reproduction has become the subject of heated public debates and agonizing private decisions. Drawing from several years of first-hand observations and interviews, anthropologist Elise Andaya takes us inside Cuba's households and medical systems. Along the way, she introduces us to the women who wrestle with the difficult question of whether they can afford a child, as well as the doctors who, with only meager resources at their disposal, struggle to balance the needs of their patients with the mandates of the state.Andaya's groundbreaking research considers not only how socialist policies have profoundly affected the ways Cuban families imagine the future, but also how the current crisis in reproduction has deeply influenced ordinary Cubans' views on socialism and the future of the revolution. Casting a sympathetic eye upon a troubled state,Conceiving Cubagives new life to the notion that the personal is always political.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-6521-7
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. 1 Introduction: Reproduction, Women, and the State
    (pp. 1-23)

    By the time the family doctor clinic opened its doors to the waiting line of patients at eight thirty in the morning, the streets were already bustling in this densely populated Central Havana neighborhood. Flower sellers set up their brightly colored stands on the broken pavements. Convivial groups of people on their way to work gathered under the peeling, wrought-iron balconies of nineteenth-century homes while they drank small shots of strong, sweet coffee sold from the street-level windows. Adding a constant level of noise to this scene, battered American Fords and Chevrolets—that pre-date the 1959 revolution and now serve...

  5. 2 Producing the New Woman: The Early Revolutionary Years
    (pp. 24-45)

    It is difficult now to capture the profound utopianism that emanates from the writings of the Cuban revolutionaries as they imagined a new society into being. The 1959 revolution was framed as the culmination of a long battle for national sovereignty and the authentic, idealistic, and moral society articulated most cogently by the nationalist poet José Martí in the nineteenth century wars against Spanish colonialism. It promised a society based on full egalitarianism; the state would satisfy the needs of all of its citizens, eradicating the sharp inequalities along the lines of class, race, gender, and region that the revolutionaries...

  6. 3 Reproducing Citizens and Socialism in Prenatal Care
    (pp. 46-67)

    It had been a chaotic week at the family doctor clinic where I observed weekly prenatal and neonatal consultations. Dr. Tatiana Medina, one of the two clinic physicians, had taken a month-long medical leave, and Janet was struggling to absorb her colleague’s patients as well as her own. When Janet called in Tatiana’s next patient she frowned immediately at the sight of this very thin young woman in her sixth month of pregnancy, who handed over a plastic bag that contained her clinical history from previous prenatal visits and her most recent ultrasound report. Absorbed in the handwritten notes, Janet...

  7. 4 Abortion and Calculated Risks
    (pp. 68-92)

    On a cool February afternoon in one of Havana’s outer suburbs, I climbed the steep stairs to the second floor apartment of Idaly Santos. Idaly was a single mother whose gregarious manner concealed a fierce independence. Over the past decade, her mother and siblings had slowly scattered to the United States and to France, leaving her the sole occupant of her large apartment. These relatives were also the source of an ample and dependable flow of income, prompting her to leave her job as an administrator in the state’s tourism sector and rely exclusively on this transnational flow of capital....

  8. 5 Engendered Economies and the Dilemmas of Reproduction
    (pp. 93-113)

    Time and again, women’s reproductive dilemmas underscored a wider debate, articulated both within familial relations and in state policy, about the responsibility for nurturing children and citizens in post-Soviet Cuba. As the narratives of the previous chapter demonstrated, women attributed low fertility and high abortion rates not simply to the expense of raising children, but also to the gendered demands of balancing claims by family and the state in the complex and often fragile arrangements in which children are born and sustained. Such tensions have repercussions not only for reproductive practice in terms of fertility rates, but also for the...

  9. 6 Having Faith and Making Family Overseas
    (pp. 114-136)

    Near the end of my fieldwork, I sat in the modest living room of a small, low-ceilinged building with Lisette Fuentes, a young homemaker in her late twenties. Periodically interrupted by the antics of Lisette’s rambunctious young son during the interview, I posed once again my routine question about changes in familial life since the fall of the Soviet Union. As I have demonstrated in previous chapters, this simple question elicited complex narratives in which women reflected upon the problems of reproducing children and households, as well as the shifting relationship between the socialist state and its citizens. Lisette’s response...

  10. 7 Conclusion: Reproducing the Revolution
    (pp. 137-144)

    This project was initially conceived as a study of the local practice of reproductive health care in Havana. As feminist scholars have long reminded us, however, reproduction is intricately enmeshed in broader cultural, social, and political-economic systems. Following the threads of women’s reproductive narratives and practices led me far beyond the medical clinic to consider how concerns about familial and household reproduction articulate with broader tensions around the stability and transformation of gendered citizens and the socialist revolution in a post-Soviet economy.

    This book has argued that attention to the range of social reproduction in post-Soviet Cuba casts a bright...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 145-152)
    (pp. 153-164)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 165-170)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 171-172)