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Charles A. Dana Professor of Spanish @ Agnes Scott College, Decatur-Atlanta, Georgia


Puerto Rican-born Rafael Ocasio is the author of two books on dissident writer Reinaldo Arenas: Cuba’s Political and Sexual Outlaw (University Press of Florida, 2003) and The Making of a Gay Activist (University Press of Florida, 2007). His other books include Latin American Culture and Literature (Greenwood Press, 2004), and Afro-Cuban Costumbrismo: From Plantations to the Slums (University Press of Florida, 2012). His most recent books, The Bristol, Rhode Island and Matanzas, Cuba Slavery Connection: The Diary of George Howe (Lexington Books/Rowman & Littlefield, 2020), examines archival documentation of administrators as participants of an active commercial trade between Cuba and Rhode Island throughout the early part of the nineteenth century. Race and Nation in Puerto Rican Folklore: Franz Boas and John Alden Mason in Porto Rico (Rutgers University Press, 2020), explores the founding father of American anthropology’s historic trip to Puerto Rico in 1915, which led to the compilation of a large oral folklore collection. Folk Stories from the Hills of Puerto Rico / Cuentos folklóricos de las montañas de Puerto Rico (Rutgers University Press, 2021) is an edited, critical anthology of some of the oral folk stories documented in the Puerto Rican countryside. His latest book, The Dissidence of Reinaldo Arenas: Queering Literature, Politics, and the Activist Curriculum (University Press of Florida, 2022), co-written with Sandro Barros and Angela Willis, highlights the late Cuban dissident writer’s influence as public pedagogue, mentor, and social activist whose teaching on resistance to normative ideologies resonates in societies past, present, and future. He teaches upper-level courses on Latin American literatures and film, as well as Spanish-language courses.

Geographical location : Atlanta, Georgia

Research Area and Interest : Contemporary Cuban and Puerto Rican literatures, Reinaldo Arenas, Puerto Rican folklore, Latina literature, particularly, Puerto Rican-American Judith Ortiz Cofer

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Questions of Gaze and Representation


Franz Boas’s and John Alden Mason’s Oral Folklore Project in Puerto Rico (1914- 1915)

In the earliest part of the twentieth century, the United States commenced an intense exploration of Puerto Rican folk culture. This interest led to scientific fieldwork that U.S. American academic institutions often performed on the island. Among the first research trips was the “Scientific Survey of Porto Rico and the Virgin Islands,” a multi-disciplinary study under the auspices of the New York Academy of Sciences. Two scholars, reputable anthropologist Franz Boas and his mentee John Alden Mason, gathered hundreds of oral riddles, poetry and folk stories. Published in The Journal of American Folklore from 1916 through 1929, this collection is still today among the largest from a Spanish-speaking country or territory. This presentation highlights my books, Race and Nation in Puerto Rican Folklore: Franz Boas and John Alden Mason in Porto Rico (Rutgers University Press, August 2020), which offers a critical view of Boas’s historic trip to Puerto Rico in 1915, and Folk Tales from the Hills of Puerto Rico/Cuentos folklóricos de las montañas de Puerto Rico (Rutgers University Press, August 2021), an accompanying bilingual anthology that highlights representative stories collected during Boas’s trip.

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