Intimations of Modernity

Civil Culture in Nineteenth-Century Cuba

By Louis A. Pérez Jr.

272 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 24 halftones, 1 table, notes, bibl., index

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-3130-1
    Published: February 2017
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-3131-8
    Published: January 2017

Steven and Janice Brose Lectures in the Civil War Era

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Louis A. Pérez Jr.’s new history of nineteenth-century Cuba chronicles in fascinating detail the emergence of an urban middle class that was imbued with new knowledge and moral systems. Fostering innovative skills and technologies, these Cubans became deeply implicated in an expanding market culture during the boom in sugar production and prior to independence. Contributing to the cultural history of capitalism in Latin America, Pérez argues that such creoles were cosmopolitans with powerful transnational affinities and an abiding identification with modernity. This period of Cuban history is usually viewed through a political lens, but Pérez, here emphasizing the character of everyday life within the increasingly fraught colonial system, shows how moral, social, and cultural change that resulted from market forces also contributed to conditions leading to the collapse of the Spanish colonial administration.

Pérez highlights women’s centrality in this process, showing how criollas adapted to new modes of self-representation as a means of self-fulfillment. Increasing opportunities for middle-class women’s public presence and social participation was both cause and consequence of expanding consumerism and of women’s challenges to prevailing gender hierarchies. Seemingly simple actions--riding a bicycle, for example, or deploying the abanico, the fan, in different ways--exposed how traditional systems of power and privilege clashed with norms of modernity and progress.

About the Author

Louis A. Perez Jr. is J. Carlyle Sitterson Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences as well as the Academia de la Historia de Cuba, Perez is author, most recently, of The Structure of Cuban History: Meanings and Purpose of the Past.

Reviews

“Revealing the ubiquitous change that flowed throughout nineteenth-century Cuba as a result of sugar’s connection to the global capitalism of the time, renowned historian Louis A. Pérez Jr. has written a lively and insightful study of Cuba’s transition to modernity. Intimations of Modernity will appeal to a broad interdisciplinary readership in Cuban, Caribbean, and Latin American studies, as well as in women’s studies.”--Adriana Méndez-Rodenas, University of Iowa

“With Intimations of Modernity, Louis A. Pérez Jr. makes a major contribution to the history of Cuba as well as to the understanding of modernization and social change in the Caribbean. Pérez’s original approach is highlighted by a sophisticated and extremely insightful discussion of the introduction of the handheld folding fan to illustrate the broad-based changes across Cuban society throughout the long nineteenth century.”--Franklin W. Knight, The Johns Hopkins University