Identifying a core dynamic the cuban revolution through women's voices,
This review is from: Women and Rebel Communities in the Cuban Insurgent Movement, 1952-1959 (Hardcover)
Author's Primary Topic
Women's participation in the Cuban insurrection between 1952 to 1959.
Primary question about the topic
What was the role of women during the insurrection, and in particular the extent and forms of their participation? What were the factors in their choices to participate, and the extent of their participation and commitment to the movement?
Hypothesis (answer to question)
Klouzal's analysis of the oral history interviews and other primary sources provide rich support for three findings:
1) It shows the importance of persistent relationship ties in one's immediate local community to their political ideology and choices they made and acted upon. It shows the effects upon people's choices in recruitment into the movement, and the relation of their ties to their commitment. It also incorporates their wider experiences into understanding their choices, particularly aspects of violence. Most central are the close personal relationships of family and friends as factors in their decisions, and emotional dimensions of these times as a central dynamic.
2) The book's wider stance is as an account for the revolutionary movement's success. The hypothesis is that the grass roots nature is what makes a revolution successful, and that this factor is underemphasized in the historical literature.
3) Women's participation: also missing from histories from English speaking countries was an understanding of the extent of women's participation, including how many participated, and what they did. The women she talked to were not secretaries, but participated in high risk activities, including transporting bombs, hijacking airplanes, and fighting alongside Che Guevara.
Kinds of data, collection method
Klouzal personally conducted six interviews with women who directly participated in the insurrection. They answered questions structured as an oral history of their participation, but emphasizing various aspects such as relationships among family and co-participants. Interviews were conducted with the help of a translator. Klouzal also drew from a published oral history with a guerrilla participant, and several main secondary sources on the historical period.
How data used to support the hypothesis
Klouzal worked with transcripts translated by a primary Spanish speaker. In addition to the literature and theory sections, she presented each participant's story as structured narrative, with commentary analysis of themes in relation to the three hypotheses. Her use of oral histories added three new dimensions to the literature on the Cuban revolution. 1) The picture of the revolution portrayed in oral histories is not seen in English language histories. The data looks different, as does the way she analyzes the revolution, and the type of hypotheses one would generate for further analysis. 2) The emotional reaction to what happened to the women is conveyed in the retelling of events with authenticity that should be comparable to experiences of the original events. Klouzal makes emotions a core part of her theory of participation in insurgency, but can use the oral histories' retelling as evidence. Emotions are not just the gestures but the word choice and narrative form of the telling. 3) Oral histories are important for determining what is the meaning of these events to the first-hand participants - the sentiments of the point of view of the people from that era captured in the responses. For example, the women expressed the outrage of those who believed in democratic elections, which were very hard-won rights in Cuba.
Effectiveness of argument:
The use of direct narratives and a clearly written theory and literature reviews are part of the book's effectiveness. What is captured in the oral history responses reflects the sentiments of the generation, even though produced in retrospect during the interviews. This contrasts to what gets abstracted from written accounts of the period, even those by first-hand participants. So, the understanding of history and especially its emotional charge can be captured in oral histories, or misunderstood. What is also captured in oral histories of ordinary people contrasts with official statements about a history, or the public relations vs. a People's history. Also, historical events are rarely linear, and events do not necessarily reflect political goals or conscious planning. Analyzing oral histories of several people involved in an event for the progression of life events shows some of the emergent ordering of historical periods, which may be untidy. Klouzal's book brings clarity and intimate experience to this period through voices of under-represented participants. This is one of the best contributions to the literature on the Cuban insurrection and women's participation in social movements.
(1 customer review)