A.B., Individualized, New York University; M.A., Performance Studies, New York University; Ph.D., Social Anthropology (specialization in African Diaspora Studies), University of Texas, Austin.
Teaching and Research Interests:
Critical race studies, performance studies, political economy, black feminisms, dance, Afro-diasporic sacred arts, race and gender in Cuba, contemporary Cuban issues, Afrodescendant movements in Latin America & Spanish-speaking Caribbean, African diaspora studies, critical ethnographic methods.
Berry’s current research 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 in motion within and beyond state institutions.
An adjacent project critically interrogates the embodied aspects of conducting engaged research in post-colonial contexts, theorizing from the specificity of black women’s sexed and raced relationship to these sites of investigation. This work charts a path to re-envision a politically engaged anthropology that is compatible with black feminist teachings, at both stages of ethnography: while working in “the field” (praxis) and while representing that experience (product).
Dr. Berry’s 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 (Havana, Cuba), the Institute of Sacred Music at Yale University, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. Berry was invited to participate in two selective workshops to develop her current project: the Afro-Latin American Research Institute’s Mark Claster Mamolen Dissertation workshop at Harvard University’s Hutchins Center and the Dance Studies Association/Mellon Pre-conference seminar for Emergent Scholars at Northwestern University.
“La movilización del tema afrodescendiente en la Habana, 2012-2014: un estudio de las posibilidades del performance”, Cuban Studies Journal 48 (June 2019): 276-302.
Maya J. Berry, Claudia Chávez Argüelles, Shanya Cordis, Sarah Ihmoud, and Elizabeth Velásquez Estrada, “Towards a Fugitive Anthropology: Gender, Race, and Violence in the Field”, Cultural Anthropology Journal. Volume 32, Number 4 (November 2017)
“‘Salvándose’ in contemporary Havana: rumba’s paradox for black identity politics”, The Black Diaspora Review. Volume 5, Number 2 (Spring, 2016)
“From Ritual to Repertory: Dancing to the Time of the Nation”, The Afro-Hispanic Review. Volume 29 Number 1 (Spring 2010)