Hegemonic discourse and sources of legitimacy in Cuba: comparing Mariel (1980) and the Maleconazo (1994)

Port, Lukas (2012) Hegemonic discourse and sources of legitimacy in Cuba: comparing Mariel (1980) and the Maleconazo (1994). PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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This research project investigates the sources of legitimacy in hegemonic Cuban discourse, understood to have supported the stability of the Cuban system during crises and challenging times, such as the end of the Cold War and the 1990s Special Period. Evidence was drawn from the Cuban press, namely Granma, Bohemia and Verde Olivo, in two critical periods: the 1980 Mariel episode and the 1994 Maleconazo disturbances as two examples before and after 1989 in order to compare the sources of legitimacy and identify continuities and shifts. The two periods represent recent examples of instability, which dominated the attention of the whole nation. The evidence is based on textual examination using discourse analysis as the method of investigation. The research is written in the discipline of political history, with elements taken from cultural studies and political communication.

The project is based on the assumption that the sources of legitimacy represented a significant, but not exclusive factor which may have encouraged the population's loyalty by reflecting their attitudes and concerns and channelling them in a particular direction. The discourse also interpreted reality to support the legitimacy of the system. This might have contributed significantly to the stability of the whole system, and its ability to survive the post-1989 transitions experienced in other communist countries. The research examines the content and internal mechanics of the discourse, its assumptions and endogenous references, taking into account the specific context of the single-party communist state in control of the country's media and mass organisations. By suppressing alternative discourses, the system increased the impact of the hegemonic discourse, especially if compared to pluralist political systems. The discourse might have contributed to the continuing loyalty of the population by explicitly and implicitly stressing endogenous sources of legitimacy intelligible to the Cuban audience, reflecting its particular historical experience and political culture. The research investigates the sources of legitimacy traceable in the discourse, to demonstrate what made it tick internally and why some Cubans might have decided to remain loyal to a system that they perceived as legitimate and defending their interests, attitudes, concerns and identities.

Collaterally, the research addresses the topic of migration, which was a main issue during both crises, and the way the perceptions of migration shifted over time in order to protect the legitimacy of the system confronting large outflows of discontented people. The research demonstrates how the system interpreted events in its favour, and how it prioritised different sources of legitimacy, such as independence, patriotism, socialism, material prosperity, social provision, culturalism and the US embargo in order to encourage loyalty. The research takes into account the regional Hispano-Caribbean context, reflecting the identities of the Cuban population in their perceived difference from Anglo-Saxon America and its socio-political model. The research looks in more detail at the key sources of legitimacy during the challenging 1990s when the system was near a possible collapse. The research enhances our understanding of how the sources of legitimacy shifted over time to reflect new realities and to support the system. The research sheds further light on the system and the structure of the system's endogenous ideology in a post-structuralist sense, stressing the role of language and the complex and extended definition of ideology. For this reason it takes into account Cuban semantics, linguistics and endogenous meaning of words and concepts.

The existing academic literature focuses on explaining the stability of the system before and after 1989 by analysing Cuban history, institutions, culture, international relations and other aspects, but there is insufficient focus on legitimacy, politics and media addressed to the population as a possible factor in the system's stability. It does not investigate sources of legitimacy in relation to the content and internal mechanics of the discourse constructed to appeal to Cubans. This research answers these questions and thus enhances our understanding of the system. The research provides one possible answer to the question of how the system might have maintained stability, what sources of legitimacy it argued for, how it argued for them and how it interpreted current issues to encourage loyalty. It demonstrates how the system interpreted migration to cancel its potentially destabilising impact, and how it shifted the interpretations of the sources of legitimacy over time, especially in relation to the different global context before and after 1989.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Kapcia, A.M.
Heywood, P.M.
Subjects: F United States local history. History of Canada and Latin America > F1201 Latin America (General)
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies
Item ID: 14147
Depositing User: EP, Services
Date Deposited: 17 Apr 2014 10:33
Last Modified: 20 Dec 2017 17:40
URI: https://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/14147

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