Project Period

01.05.2016 - 31.03.2020

Funding Institution

Financial support through the program for the promotion of young scientists of the University of Augsburg

Project Management

Prof. Dr. Matthias Schmidt
Niklas Völkening, M.Sc.

Marketing Ché images along with other souvenirs in Havana © Völkening 2017

The commodification of the tangible and intangible heritage of the Cuban revolution in tourism has a significant impact on recent Cuban identity constructions. The revolution, which has had a strong identity-forming character for many Cubans, especially in the past, is increasingly being staged and (re-) produced for tourism today. Thus, the revolution is now often no longer the pillar of stable identities, but rather as a marketable product, which is marketed to acquire urgently needed foreign currency - with some far-reaching impact on the self-image and self-image of the Cuban people. Based on the commodification of the revolutionary heritage, the transformation of socioeconomic and political conditions in Cuba is described and examined.

Since 1959, the Cuban Revolution has been a fixture in the identification of many Cubans. The revolution has allowed personal biographies to be embedded in a larger historical context and has often provided meaningful narratives and explanations of the prevailing conditions. At the same time, she provided 'heroes' and identification figures (including Fidel Castro, Ché Guevara) as embodiments and projection figures of national as well as individual identity. At the same time, the Cuban Revolution as habitus represents a socio-cultural, political and economic framework for the Cuban people..

However, this framework has become steadily more fragile over the past decades. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA) left Cuba largely without political and economic, but also ideological allies. In order to cope with the accompanying crisis and to preserve the socialist system, the state leadership adopted a series of economic reforms. This included, among other things, the promotion of international tourism in Cuba - a project that was to prove economically very successful. In addition to tropical beaches, decaying colonial architecture and imaginations of cigars, rum and music, the 'flair' of the revolution is a not insignificant reason for many visitors to visit Cuba. Local players in the tourism industry recognize this demand and react with the marketing ( and thus commodification) of revolutionary content in a variety of ways, which at the same time the alienation of this (former) sense and identity-creating construct goes along.

The aim of the dissertation project is to investigate the effects of the commodification of revolutionary heritage in tourism on Cubans and their personal identity constructions and to describe their consequences. At the same time, the described processes of commodification were only made possible by the transformation of social and individual values ​​and the dissolution of the revolution from the core of Cuban identities. To what extent the marketing (and thus usually meaninglessness) of revolutionary narratives and explanatory patterns leads to identity crises, or whether (and how) Cubans use these processes as new freedom for the self-determined construction of alternative self-images, is examined in the project by a qualitative research design. It conducts guided interviews, both with Cubans working in tourism and with people who can not participate in tourism.