Maya J. Berry

Assistant Professor of African, African-American, and Diaspora Studies

Maya J. Berry is an Assistant Professor of African, African-American, and Diaspora Studies at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her writing and teaching focuses on the politics of race, gender, and performance, with a special emphasis on blackness, the sacred arts, and spiritual epistemologies in contemporary Cuba. Berry earned her PhD in Social Anthropology (African Diaspora Program) at the University of Texas at Austin and her MA in Performance Studies from New York University. Her scholarship has been supported by the Ford Foundation, the John L. Warfield Center for African & African American Studies at UT Austin, the Instituto Cubano de Investigación Cultural Juan Marinello, the Afro-Latin American Research Institute at Harvard University’s Hutchins Center, and the Institute of Sacred Music at Yale University. In 2015, she was honored with the Zora Neale Hurston Award from the Association for Feminist Anthropology.

Berry’s current research employs a black feminist and performance-oriented lens to examines what existing movements toward black self-making in the contemporary “post-Fidel” era can teach us about the Cuban Revolution’s “updating” economic model and visions for its future. Contemporary Cuba is marked by the expansion of the private sector and the amplification of racialized class inequality. Black-identified collectives are responding to these conditions through a range of ideological repertoires, from market pragmatism to religious aesthetics. These movements are challenging modernist, nationalist paradigms of political action, as well as dominant narratives of “socialist” versus “capitalist”. Taken as a whole, Berry’s research explores the sacred and secular dimensions of black political lives within and beyond state institutions

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