Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationNorth Carolina, Chapel Hill, U. of
Grant numberGr. 9616
Approve DateApril 14, 2018
Project TitleNareau, Lauren C., U. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC - To aid research on 'From Invasive Species to Burgeoning Commodity: MarabÃº's Transformation into Cuba's New Hope,' supervised by Dr. Christopher Townsend Middleton
LAUREN C. NAREAU, then a graduate student at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, was awarded funding in April 2018 to aid research on “From Invasive Species to Burgeoning Commodity: Marabús Transformation into Cuba’s New Hope,” supervised by Dr. Christopher Townsend Middleton. This dissertation examines how Cuba is (re)negotiating its relationship to the environment — and its past — through the commodification of an invasive plant called Marabú. Rising out of the ruined soils of the past and into the present, Marabú stands as a ghostly reminder of what is left over from colonial sugar production. Long considered a plague, Marabú’s fate has taken a remarkable turn. Transformed from invasive weed to sustainable energy commodity, this study examines how perceptions of Marabú’s invasiveness are being negotiated among those who labor and live with this invasive species. Challenging historical, scientific, and cultural definitions of what it means to be “native,” the case of Marabú puts forward a thorny, but pertinent question for living in the Anthropocene: will embracing invasive species help create livable futures for both humans and non? The checkered and potentially redemptive story of Marabú provides a unique opportunity to study the shifting relationships between humans and invasive species. By showing how Marabú is woven into the social fabric of Cuban society, just like sugar and tobacco centuries before it, this work explores how Marabú is currently in a process of transculturation, that is, the process of becoming a Cuban plant.