Understanding Cuban Tourism: Affect and Capital in post-Special Period Cuba

  • Rebecca Ogden

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis concerns the marketing, appropriation and consumption of affect in contemporary Cuban tourism. Since its rapid development to generate hard currency during the economic crisis of the 1990s, tourism has become the centre of the Cuban economy. More recently, following the radical reforms brought in under Raúl Castro, changes in private enterprise ventures have expanded touristic contact spaces beyond the previous controls of the formal sector. A range of services has emerged, responding to tourists' demands to have an intimate, authentic experience of Cuba. Using the lens of affective capital, this study combines a consideration of this complex, rapidly-changing context with two further facets of the phenomenon: an analysis of the affective dimensions of Cuba's representation in touristic texts, such as marketing, guidebooks, travel literature and online forums, and a discussion of the affective negotiations between host and guest on the ground. The strategic appropriation of affective capital identified in this thesis offers an original perspective on revolutionary Cuba's tourism development. The resurgence of sex tourism since the resurrection of the tourism industry has been the dominant focus of previous scholarship, ignoring the wider 'market of feelings' that operates through tourism. In particular, approaches have been quick to emphasise the incongruity of prostitution in the context of revolutionary socialism, offering one-dimensional analyses of the state and the Cuban population. In addition, approaches from Tourism Studies have tended to be tourist-centric. This thesis draws together these actors with a dialogic approach in order to reveal some key complexities. The mixed methods approach combines textual analysis with some participative methods, carried out during a fieldwork trip in 2012, to address the connections between the lived realities of affective capital in Cuban tourism, the discourses that constitute it, and the social context.The findings reveal that Cuba is cast as a site of affective wealth through certain discourses and practices of tourism. Firstly, in describing the ways that Cuba is articulated through affective codes in touristic texts, this research reconfigures approaches to tourism's world-making function through the framework of symbolic capital; it challenges the idea that revolutionary tourism policy is one-dimensional. Secondly, in looking at the lived realities of these discourses, the thesis critically addresses the kinds of negotiations relating to emotional work, bad feelings, and currency by both parties of the tourist encounter; this perspective extends important scholarship on tourism and affect in new directions based on the specificity of the Cuban context.
Date of Award1 Aug 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorParvathi Kumaraswami (Supervisor) & Peter Wade (Supervisor)


  • Cuba
  • Latin America
  • Tourism
  • Affect
  • Cultural Studies
  • Capital

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