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Dr Parvathi Kumaraswami – University of Reading

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Dr Parvathi Kumaraswami

Professor Par Kumaraswami
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Programme Director BA Spanish; Year Abroad Coordinator (Spanish); Director of Postgraduate Research (Modern Languages); Department Co-ordinator Migration, Identity and Conflict research cluster.



Alongside teaching some Spanish language classes, I co-teach Year 1 modules for Spanish: 'Icons of Spain and Latin America' and ‘Introduction to Spanish and Latin American Culture’; I teach a Year 2 module on 'Culture and Revolution in Modern and Contemporary Latin America' and will soon teach a Year 4 module on 'Testimonial Writing in Modern and Contemporary Latin America'. I also contribute to department-wide undergraduate modules in cultural studies, covering aspects of cultural policy and practice in Cuba and, more generally, Latin America.


Areas of Interest

 I am a Cubanist, specialising in Cuban cultural policy and practice from 1959 to the present, especially in relation to literature. My PhD was on the reception of women-authored testimonial writing from revolutionary Cuba, and included a small-scale but innovative analysis of reader responses to a corpus of texts. Thereafter, I was Co-Investigator for a large research project funded by the Leverhulme Trust (2004-9) on the interactions of literature and politics in Cuba since 1959, with Professor Antoni Kapcia (Nottingham). This project culminated in several articles and in the publication of a co-authored monograph, Literary Culture in Cuba: Revolution, Nation-building and the Book (Manchester University Press 2012):

The book looks at how literature has been socialised in post-1959 Cuba through a range of policies which have created a complex and relatively flexible institutional structure and framework which has both regulated and enabled participation in literature (through production and consumption), but also, and especially during and after the economic crisis of the 1990s in Cuba, through the creation of local or provincial spaces for participation in culture. The book was launched at the Feria Internacional del Libro de La Habana in 2014, and the presentation (in Spanish) can be seen here:  It has recently been accepted for publication in Spanish in Cuba, with Editorial de Ciencias Sociales (Havana).

Since then, I have continued to work on the social importance of literary culture in Cuba, and was awarded as Principal Investigator a second Leverhulme Trust Large Research Project Grant (2014-17) for a project entitled 'Beyond Havana and the nation? Peripheral identities and literary culture in Cuba', which examines how personal and social identities have been constructed via participation in literary culture in the eastern province of Granma, Cuba. Granma is a region which is symbolically rich (the birthplace of independence, the himno nacional, the battleground for the wars of independence of the late 19th-century, the landing of the yacht in 1956, the insurrection in the Sierra Maestra) but which is geographically isolated, under-developed in terms of resources and infrastructure and largely peripheral to the mass tourism - and limited globalisation – which other parts of Cuba are currently experiencing. Through conducting interviews and focus groups with local participants in literary culture, and through understanding how local identity interacts with articulations of national and transnational identity, the project promises to yield some important insights into the experience of literature and globalisation in the periphery. A brief initial report of the project can be found here:

I recently published a further monograph about centrality of culture to the survival of the Cuban Revolution, examining the social functions of literature in revolutionary Cuba. Details of the book The Social Life of Literature in Revolutionary Cuba: Narrative, Identity and Well-being (Palgrave Macmillan 2016) can be found here:

Finally, I am developing a strong media presence and am invited regularly to give TV and radio interviews about current affairs in Cuba for many media outlets, including the BBC, LBC Radio and Radio Berkshire. For recent examples, see TBS, South Korea:; or Sputnik International:


Postgraduate supervision:

I am currently supervising two PhD students working in Latin American Cultural Studies. The first, Emma Jackson, is in the 2nd year of a project entitled: Reproducing the Maya? A Case Study of Mexican and Guatemalan Dolls in "National" and "Ethnic" Dress. The second, Begoña Garrido, is working on the diverse responses of Basque women to the first decade of Franco's regime in Spain.

Enquiries are welcome concerning postgraduate research in any of the following areas: Cuban culture in the twentieth century; Cuban cultural policy and practice since 1959; testimonial writing in Latin America; women's writing from Latin America; reader response and cultural consumption in/of Latin America; self-writing in Latin America; the sociology of literature.


Research groups / Centres

I am a member of the Centre for Film Aesthetics and Cultures and a founding member of the Centre for Research on Cuba



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