Gender, Genre, and Ethnographic Authority:

Lydia Cabrera and Zora Neale Hurston

in Racial Experiments in Cuban Literature and Ethnography

Published by University Press of Florida

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780813037479
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780813042329 | DOI:
Gender, Genre, and Ethnographic Authority:

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This chapter interrogates the nature of ethnographic authority in Lydia Cabrera's El Monte and African American writer Zora Neale Hurston's Mules and Men. It shows how these two writers modify the construction of the ethnographic narrative voice to navigate racial and gender differences and to interweave ethnographic, autobiographical, and fictional narratives. By comparing how Cabrera and Hurston position themselves within the text, the chapter emphasizes the importance of gender in Cuban writing and the uniqueness of the Cuban situation with regard to race, even in the context of a broader, transnational experimentation with genre conventions. Hurston and Cabrera use an awareness of both the freedoms and limitations of their position as women to make their work open to more subversive readings. Their experiments with the formal elements of ethnography allow them to highlight the limits of ethnography as a discourse for negotiating otherness within the space of the nation.

Keywords: Lydia Cabrera; Zora Neale Hurston; Mules and Men; El Monte; race; ethnographic authority; gender

Chapter.  12013 words. 

Subjects: Society and Culture

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