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Power and Biopolitics

Social malaise and affect are also deeply political, and ideology is always articulated through power, be it private or public. Like history, power, even in its most repressive form, is above all implemented through discourse. This is Althusser’s point with respect to ideological state apparatuses, the myriad specialized institutions (religious, educational, familial, etc.) that function by ideology (Althusser 1971, 145). Utopian ideas in all their forms (repressive and liberating) hail individuals through political and social control. Thus, in addition to psychoanalysis, the analysis of governance and the rhetorics of power (as discourses) is also instrumental to understanding the utopian ethos, in Cuba and elsewhere. On April 19, 1986, the Cuban government launched the “Proceso de rectificacion de errores y tendencias negativas” (“Rectification Process of Errors and Negative Tendencies”), which was supposed to lead to the abandonment of past repressive policies. In culture, these changes resulted in the celebration of authors previously forgotten (including Jose Lezama Lima and Virgilio Pinera), the acceptance of queer culture, and some leniency toward political disaffection. Far from setting in motion new forms of tolerance, however, these changes became a more effective form of control. What changed was the form with which control was imposed, not the ideology. This new form of control, what Michel Foucault calls biopolitics, took place as the rhetoric of violence was replaced by a discourse of the conservation and reproduction of life. Foucault’s theory of biopolitics is relevant to this book for two main reasons. First, it illuminates the regressive nature of a policy that is apparently moving away from the repressive policies of the seventies. For example, it reveals that the sudden acceptance and recognition of previously repudiated authors such as Lezama Lima is a way to resignify their work according to state ideology. Second, it explains that the ambiguities of aesthetics, such as that of Proyecto Diaspora(s), configure a new type of opposition in which citizens devoid of subjectivity can, paradoxically, feel fee.

This book shows that a vast array of cultural production and cultural policies articulated this narrative of the reproduction of life, as well as many alternative and critical views on the subject. The study of this cultural production is crucial because it speaks of the regime’s ideological immobility in spite of its claims to flexibility, as well as the consequences of this on the political unconscious of those years.

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