"Wireless Commons and Counterpublics: New Digital Infrastructures in Cuba"
Assistant Professor, Comparative Literature and Spanish & Portuguese
Tuesday, August 28, 12-1:30pm
In the wake of Fidel Castro’s death, the ascension of a non-Castro to the Cuban presidency, and the ongoing reorganization of Cuba’s economic and cultural life, this talk examines the struggle over the infrastructure, experience, and symbolic meaning of Havana’s common spaces. Whereas the Cuban Revolution reimagined the Havana Hilton as a governmental office they renamed the Habana Libre, and redubbed the Plaza of the Republic the Plaza of the Revolution, more than fifty years later the physical commons are being redefined once again: as spaces for an online commons. This talk will explore how the uniquely material and virtual hybrid forms of internet access in Cuba are changing the lived experience and collective imagination of Havana’s urban public spaces. As the city places wifi hotspots in public parks and boulevards, these areas are becoming new zones of congregation that draw on their past functions as public meeting points to serve their new purpose as areas to connect with social media. In dialogue with a robust history of Cuban architectural theory (Segre, Coyula), literary theory about Cuban architecture (Carpentier, Sarduy), infrastructure theory (Holbraad, Starosielski), contemporary fiction (Ponte, Mota), and media theory (Venegas, Price), the talk will investigate the latest material and symbolic revolution in Cuba.
Tom McEnaney is Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature and Spanish & Portuguese. Before coming to Berkeley, he taught for six years in the Department of Comparative Literature at Cornell University, where he also co-taught a Mellon Collaborative Studies graduate seminar in Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities with Architecture Professor Tao DuFour, dedicated to studying the intersection of public housing, art, literature, ecology and urban design in Havana, Cuba. His work combines media theory, sound studies, literary theory, and linguistic anthropology in research that ranges from the political uses of digital photography in Cuba, to the relation between realism and real estate, and the sonic politics of voice on This American Life. He is the author of numerous articles, as well as the book Acoustic Properties: Radio, Narrative, and the New Neighborhood of the Americas.