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A Call For Further Research: Afro Chinese Marriages In 20th Century Cuba

3823 words - 16 pages

A Call for Further Research: Afro-Chinese Marriages in 20th Century Cuba
Katie Wang
Professor Wright-Dixon

I. Introduction
Coalitions through marriage is a long understood concept. Kingdom alliances through marriages are ones that first come to mind. Often fictional portrayals of real pressures for pressures to gain resources or military alliance for a capital or imperial need involve young princes and princesses who are forced to marry. However, in a nonfictional example for this paper, Chinese indentured laborers or former indentured laborers and African slaves or former slaves married in 19th century Cuba both romantically and strategically. I argue that there needs to be ...view middle of the document...

“Coolie” was a applied term for Chinese indentured laborers and was never used by Chinese indentured laborers themselves.
II. Methodological and Theoretical Frameworks
Michel-Rolph Trouillot argues that a privileging of some stories and imbalance in who can tell stories and can’t tell stories occurs. This inequality produces underrepresented and counter-narrative stories (Trouillot, 1995). The glaring gap in literature not only on Chinese in Cuba but also on Afro-Chinese marriages indicates a significance to produce more literature, shed light, and reread what has been found. To highlight untold stories is to radically shift who can and cannot produce history and what stories are told in academia. Grace Cho argues that an erasure of voices and bodies produces ghosts. The ghosts that Cho discusses haunt the people who experience the trauma related to the memories that have been institutionally erased. Erasure of knowledge, trauma, and memories are demanded by social cultural constructs (Cho, 2008). In this case, for Chinese in Cuba and Afro-Chinese marriages, a silence is demanded to maintain a specific national project to perpetuate Cuban nationalist homogeneity. The erasure of Afro-Chinese marriages is embedded in the erasure of slavery in Cuba and indentured laborer trade in Cuba.
When examining a topic which lacks literature, only portrays one perspective, and voices of the key players seem silenced, a centering on untold and hidden narratives is essential to resist the forces that silence key places in the first place. Thomas Bender emphasizes the importance to shift the “default narrative.” Critically examining untold histories of Afro-Chinese marriages in Cuba does great ideological work. A critical examination of Afro-Chinese marriages in Cuba shifts the focal point to global migrations of African and Chinese labor force members to Cuba as a result of the Spanish empire answering a call from a global market. This topic also shifts the “default narrative” that centers on the “nation” and specific boundaries; whereas, this paper centers on the diaspora of both Chinese and Africans. Lastly, a specific argument of Afro-Chinese marriages is significant because of a centering on complex interracial relations that are not categorizable or generalizable to all coalition relationships but are unique to Cuba and its ambiguity-inducing circumstance.
Though absent in the literature, there are examples of African women who were agents in their marriages and spoke for their own goals. As Rustad notes, “where there is oppression, there is also resistance” (Rustad, 2008). Rustad provides examples of the ways African women slaves resisted in the Caribbean through slave songs, religious ceremonies, and infanticide. One can assume that the women who organized and resisted their enslavement also acted as agents in their life after being freed.

II. History of Chinese in Cuba

Forces of globalization, capitalism, and imperialism have woven...

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