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  • Cited by 8
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
January 2020
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Book description

Contrary to claims that socialism opposed the family unit, Rachel Hynson argues that the revolutionary Cuban government engaged in social engineering to redefine the nuclear family and organize citizens to serve the state. Drawing on Cuban newspapers and periodicals, government documents and speeches, long-overlooked laws, and oral histories, Hynson reveals that by 1961, and increasingly throughout this decade, revolutionary citizenship was earned through labor. While men were to work outside the home in state-approved jobs, women found their citizenship tied to affording the state control over their reproduction and sexual labor. Through all four campaigns examined in this book - the projects to control women's reproduction, promote marriage, end prostitution, and compel men into state-sanctioned employment - Hynson shows that the state's progression toward authoritarianism and its attendant monopolization of morality were met with resistance and counter-narratives by citizens who so opposed the mandates of these campaigns that Cuban leadership has since reconfigured or effaced these programs from the Revolution's grand narrative.


‘Brilliantly argued and meticulously researched, Rachel Hynson's Laboring for the State represents a breakthrough in understanding how Cuba's Communist state established direct connections between the grand patriarchal project of national salvation and the intimate lives of citizens. Her analysis of the rehabilitation of sexual transgressors such as pimps, prostitutes as well as average citizens who questioned the merits and values of Communist-led redemption is as unique and refreshing as it is fascinating and convincing.'

Lillian Guerra - University of Florida

‘Laboring for the State elevates the literature on the early years after the 1959 Cuban revolution to a new level of sophistication and complexity. Based on a rich tapestry of sources, Hynson uncovers the ‘unintended consequence' of previously understudied revolutionary campaigns. Significantly, Hynson provides a genuine intersectional analysis of Cuban history that never forgets or downplays that the island's push toward European heterosexual gender norms - the New Family - often came at the expense of black and mulato bodies.'

Devyn Spence Benson - Davidson College, North Carolina

‘Rachel Hynson's Laboring for the State is essential reading for anyone interested in how Cuba's revolutionary state established hegemony. In rich and engaging detail, Hynson tracks the state's systematic intervention into even the most intimate levels of society. We learn how conservative visions of the nuclear family, women's reproductive roles, and sexual deviance were central to the attempts to regulate and control citizens. This is an important and impressive book that will reshape how we think about revolutionary Cuba's origins.'

Lorraine Bayard de Volo - University of Colorado, Boulder

‘Rachel Hynson’s new book, Laboring for the State: Women, Family, and Work in Revolutionary Cuba, 1959-1971, is an excellent addition to this growing body of literature that challenges both the chronology and the content of the Cuban government’s own narrative of its revolution … Drawing on varied and fascinating sources, Hynson has written a social history of the first twelve years of revolutionary Cuba, and explained to her audience how those years shaped Cuba today.’

Anasa Hicks Source: H-LatAm

‘… cogently conceptualized and painstakingly researched … an ambitious book that will shake scholarship on Cuba out of its complacency.’

Michelle Chase Source: Hispanic American Historical Review

'Rachel Hynson has crafted a sophisticated study that highlights the Cuban revolutionary government’s limited reach into the intimate lives of its citizens … this is a richly researched and well-crafted study.'

Tiffany Sippial Source: New West Indian Guide

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  • 1 - In the Hands of Physicians
    pp 39-90
  • Abortion, Birth Control, and Claims to Women’s Labor


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