Cultural critic who sparked controversy to share thoughts on racism

The Connecticut College Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity (CCSRE) presents a talk by essayist and cultural critic Roberto Zurbano, the center’s current scholar/writer-in-residence, on Tuesday, Oct. 22, at 4:15 p.m. in the Charles Chu Asian Art Reading Room in Charles E. Shain Library.

Zurbano will deliver “An Afrocuban Journey: From the Literary Camp to Social Activism,” the story of his progression from literary criticism to the Cuban hip-hop movement to antiracist social activism. Zurbano has been in the news lately, both in the U.S. and in Cuba, for a commentary published in The New York Times in which he wrote that the “private sector in Cuba now enjoys a certain degree of economic liberation, but blacks are not well positioned to take advantage of it.” A recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education described the fallout he experienced for expressing his views in the Times, including his demotion from editor of the state-run Casa de las Américas publishing house.

“New channels are opening today in Cuban society, but they do not open by themselves,” Zurbano said in describing the subject of his talk. “Part of this new opening is the force with which blacks on the Island defend a space which is neither that of marginalization nor of racism. This talk will provide an international perspective on race: race as a concept and race relations, which vary by place and over time.”

Zurbano is the author of several books and essays and is the founder of an anthropology journal and a digital literary magazine. While in residence at Connecticut College, he is participating in a panel discussion on social media and justice, screening films, exhibiting artwork, visiting classes and consulting individually with students on their research projects.

“Our students and faculty are traveling to Cuba in ever larger numbers for one-week course segments, semesters of study and research,” said Associate Professor of History Leo Garofalo, the director of CCSRE. “They discover that the conversation about race in Cuba is very different than in the United States. Roberto Zurbano helps us learn about that conversation in Cuba as he learns about the terms and theories of racial discourse in the U.S. and at the College.”

In addition to CCSRE, the talk is sponsored by the International Commons Curricular Development Fund, the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, the Holleran Center for Community Action and Public Policy and the Hispanic Alliance of Southeastern Connecticut. It is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Garofalo at (860)439-2098.

October 17, 2013