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Accepted Paper:

Spectres of the “Special Period”?: Temporal continuities and infrastructural challenges in Cuba’s pandemic response  
Nancy Burke (University of California, Merced)

Paper short abstract:

Cuba’s COVID-19 response was rapid, effective, and modeled after prior pandemic experiences. I engage Derrida’s concept hauntology to highlight these connections and temporal continuities of infrastructural breakdowns evident during the pandemic with the 1990’s “Special Period.”

Paper long abstract:

Cuba’s initial response to COVID-19 was rapid, effective, and modeled after prior pandemic experiences (e.g., HIV/AIDS, dengue, Ebola). The state’s quick mobilization had a familiar feel, as did the United States’ tightening of its decades long embargo through full enforcement of 1996’s Helm’s Burton Act. Resulting scarcities in food, fuel, and raw materials reminded many of the 1990’s “Special Period” and prompted the reopening to tourism in November 2020, which led to increased transmission and mortality from COVID-19. Cuba’s response also revealed challenges posed by vulnerabilities resulting from aging and weak municipal infrastructures. Deteriorating housing, poor air flow, and sweltering heat undermined adherence to early lockdown measures, putting those over age 60 – an increasingly large proportion of the population – at particular risk. Limitations on mobility via enforced individual and community-level quarantines in the context of this crumbling infrastructure exacerbated frustrations with the state’s inability to deliver on its promise of care, evident in the July 2021 protests. This paper engages Derrida’s concept of hauntology to highlight the temporal continuity of these scarcities, and to call into question largely accepted “endings” of the “Special Period.” I posit the politics of temporality in this case is also a politics of disappointment; a recognition of the repeated failure of the state to provide promised resources, whether in the form of equitable housing, elder support or consistent access to adequate food.

Panel P008a
Infrastructural makeshifts: the temporality and materiality of hope in times of urban transformations I
  Session 1 Friday 29 July, 2022, -