In this talk Garth will examine how families struggle to maintain a decent quality of life as the socialist welfare state declines in post-Soviet era Cuba. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s and ensuing loss of its most significant trade partner, Cuba entered a period of economic hardship known as the “Special Period.” As the government continues to recover from this recession, cutbacks have been made to the fifty-year-old food ration, still the central source of food for most households. Based on 16 months of fieldwork within 22 households in Santiago de Cuba, Garth will detail how families engage in a stressful struggle to acquire food. Garth will analyze efforts to assemble a “decent meal,” a morally laden local social category wherein families determine whether food quality and cultural-appropriateness meets their standards. Garth introduce the politics of adequacy as counterpoint to growing concerns within anthropology regarding precarity and the politics of distribution to detail the social and emotional dimensions of the practices of acquisition. Finally, Garth will reveal how these ongoing struggles give rise to shifting subjectivities or what interlocutors refer to as a “change in character,” which places strain on family and community relationships.

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