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Transnationalism and Feminist Activism in Cuba: The Case of Magín

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 January 2006

Sujatha Fernandes
Affiliation:
Princeton University

Abstract

The emergence of the feminist network Magín in Cuba in the mid-1990s challenged the monopoly of the official women's organization over issues related to women. Magín came into being as a result of encounters with feminists in international meetings, and it grew and developed through transnational support. Yet the organization did not extend beyond a small group of professional women and eventually the state closed it down. This article probes the question of why autonomous feminist organizing did not succeed in Cuba, particularly given a window of opportunity presented by the collapse of the Soviet Union. I suggest that the nature of transnational networks, combined with the political hegemony of the Cuban government, limited the scope of Magín as an independent women's organization. Although transnational advocacy networks helped Cuban feminists to create new spaces for dialogue, they also encouraged tendencies of specialization and professionalization that led the women to forgo the possibility of building a broad-based autonomous movement. An analysis of feminist networks in Cuba can contribute to our knowledge of the pitfalls and promises of transnationalism, particularly in nonliberal democratic contexts.This research was made possible by support from the Social Sciences Research Council, the University of Chicago, and Princeton University. I am grateful to the women of Magín who gave generously of their time to share their experiences and ideas. In particular, I would like to thank Norma Guillard for providing materials and carrying out investigations for me long distance. Thanks to Mervyn Bain, Matt Cleary, Elisabeth Friedman, Kathryn Hochstetler, Catherine Murphy, Hairong Yan, and anonymous reviewers and editors of Politics & Gender for crucial feedback and/or enlightening conversations. An earlier version of this article was presented at the American Political Science Association meetings in Chicago, September 2004.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© 2005 The Women and Politics Research Section of the American Political Science Association

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