Contesting culture: A case study of commodification in Cuban music

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Abstract

After more than three decades of isolation from the West and a paralyzing economic crisis in the early 1990s, Cuba is increasingly globally active in both cultural and economic realms. In this paper I use Bourdieu's (The fields of cultural production, 1993) fields of cultural production as a general frame through with to inspect the commercialization of Cuban music. Through a case study with Juan de Marcos Gonzalez, the creator of the Buena Vista Social Club, I explore the dialectical relationship of music as an expression of cultural and a cultural asset, and at the same time a commodity for the international market. I show that de Marcos uses his position between the international music industry and the local music scene in order to preserve cultural authenticity and survive economically. In doing so he challenges the all-to-typical place of the artist in the contested space of cultural production between the West and the Third World.

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