Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2022

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

Romance Languages and Literature: Hispanic Studies

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



As a utopian, anti-imperialist project, Cuba’s 1959 Revolution consolidated idealized performances of revolutionary citizenship, in the process regulating ideal forms of embodiment and/or cognition and narrowing the parameters of what good health and productive social reform meant. “Cripping Utopia” therefore challenges the putative able-bodiedness and able-mindedness of the archetypal revolutionary citizen. Throughout the project, I translate and adapt concepts from the historically Anglo-centric field of Critical Disability Studies to the context of the Cuban revolutionary process, from 1959 to the early 2000s. Unlike capitalist or neoliberal societies that make disability into a reason for exclusion or a source of profit, Cuba’s Marxist-Leninist government ambivalently incorporated disability into its social fabric as an experience paradoxically conducive to but incompatible with utopian liberation. In the face of this paradox, I argue that disabled Cubans living under the Revolution marshaled the plasticity of literature, art, and film to navigate and reimagine their positions within the rigid infrastructure and institutions that were not built to accommodate them.Looking within the interstices of revolutionary Cuba’s projects for universal healthcare, literacy, and industrialization, “Cripping Utopia” pays attention to how non-capitalist societies– even ones with universal healthcare– might still reproduce eugenic and colonialist ideas about what human qualities are necessary for a productive and valuable life. I implement close reading, archival material, and sociological data on the creation and consumption of cultural production to reveal how disability symbolized both a marker of colonial oppression and a site of potential resistance against imperialist regimes that pathologize physical and cognitive differences to leverage power over racialized populations. Ultimately, I aim to provide a theoretical and methodological framework through which to distill the relationship between (dis)ability and the autonomy of national body politics in Latin America’s multiple leftist political uprisings and aesthetic movements, especially those directly influenced by the Cuban Revolution.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Stephanie Kirk

Committee Members

Emily Maguire


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