Doctoral Dissertation Proposal Defense by Corinna Moebius

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Venue:MMC, LC 309

(Un)Forgetting Race in Public Memory/Space:
Scenes of Commemoration in Little Havana’s Tourist District

by Corinna Moebius

Tourist entities promote Little Havana as an emblematic ethnic enclave and “Cuban neighborhood,” and as an illustration of Miami’s multiculturalism. Based on preliminary fieldwork, however, I posit that the neighborhood’s tourist district also functions as a stage for local and transnational racial politics: politics related to intersections between public memory and public space—and between Cuban and African diasporic subjects. This research contends that racially coded commemorative bodies and commemorative scenes, enacted through cultural performances but also constructed through a landscape of memory, play a critical role in a racial politics of memory and space. Individuals and groups use “diasporic resources” to code the racial signification of these forms of cultural memory, enabling plausibly deniable racialized appeals of solidarity that require forgetting or remembering current racial/spacial inequalities and their historic roots.


The research will be grounded on a twelve-month ethnographic study that also incorporates semiotic landscape analysis, scenario analysis and archival research emphasizing the time period from the 1960s to the present. The heritage sites of inquiry are located within four zones of public space in the tourist district in Little Havana. The proposed dissertation is framed by Diana Taylor’s theory of the archive and the repertoire and critical approaches to memory and landscape that acknowledge the role of performances and local/global relations; Critical Race Theory; Neely and Samura’s theory of racial space; and diaspora theory, including concepts such as racial/spatial order, diasporic resources, and Afro-Atlantic Ontology.