Sexuality, the discourse of 'prostitution' and governance of bodies in post-Soviet Cuba

  • Megan Daigle

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Since the economic crisis of the 1990s in Cuba, pursuing relationships with foreigners has emerged as a viable means of accessing hard currency, consumer goods, travel, and emigration – of gaining admittance to a perceived better life. This practice is part of a broader set of black- and grey-market activities known locally as ‘jineterismo’. It would be inaccurate to frame such relationships as purely transactional or bereft of emotional content; rather, they are part of a complex sexual-affective economy, now a normalised part of life in Cuba, and a means of resisting the scarcity faced every day by young Cubans.
The state has responded controversially, categorising these people as ‘prostitutes’ and enacting a programme of mass arrests and ‘rehabilitation’ centres. Its approach renders all interactions with foreigners, and especially sexual/romantic liaisons between Cuban women and foreign men, thus functioning to locate virtue in austerity – and simultaneously to pathologise and criminalise young women who associate with tourists, dress provocatively, or frequent heavilytouristed areas. This characterisation of young women of colour as troublesome bodies renders them vulnerable to multiple forms of violence in their everyday lives.
A struggle to define ‘jineterismo’ has materialised between urban youth and state institutions. Far from simple semantics, the state-led discourse of ‘jineterismo’ inscribes certain bodies with promiscuity and moral laxity, producing them as available for state intervention. The young people implicated in Cuba’s sexual-affective economy, on the other hand, articulate a more nuanced world where love, sex, and money are not mutually exclusive, and where socialist ideals can co-exist with material comfort and individual fulfilment. In the midst of escalating state repression, this ethnographic study investigates the governance of bodies in Cuba today, along the way examining the history which underwrites the ‘jinetera’, relations of power in the sexual-affective economy, and possibilities for aesthetic self-creation.
Date of Award29 Mar 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorJenny Edkins (Supervisor) & Lucy Taylor (Supervisor)

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