Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Global and Sociocultural Studies

First Advisor's Name

Mark Padilla

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee co-chair

Second Advisor's Name

Guillermo Grenier

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee co-chair

Third Advisor's Name

Andrea Queeley

Third Advisor's Committee Title

committee member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Michael Bustamante

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

committee member


Entrepreneurship, Inequality, Cuba, Community-Based Participatory Research, PhotoVoice, Visual Methodologies

Date of Defense



This dissertation has two primary goals. First, to examine how structural conditions (e.g., state policies/regulations, resource scarcity, etc.) and intersecting inequities and inequalities shape opportunities and challenges for entrepreneurship. Second, to analyze how local experiences with, and interpretations of underlying social and economic narratives influence the ways that people conceptualize and draw upon local/global resources in order to act entrepreneurially in individual ways and with their communities in mind.

While scholars discuss how structural conditions impact entrepreneurship, and how entrepreneurship can improve communities (social entrepreneurship), the consequences of intersecting inequalities on both areas remain understudied. Using ethnographic data gathered in Havana, Cuba between 2017-2019, as well as a participatory photography project (PhotoVoice) carried out with 14 community leaders / social entrepreneurs from August-October 2019, I describe how entrepreneurial strategies and rationalities interact with and engage broader realities of access and privilege as well as underlying stereotypes, stigmas, and inequalities.

Cuba offers an intriguing case study because the state maintains strong control over the economy, firmly regulating access to resources and restricting the possibilities for entrepreneurial growth and ingenuity. And yet, Cubans continue to enter this uncertain line of work because they recognize entrepreneurial opportunities to respond to challenges left by state policies and regulations as well as, in some cases, the inequities that are commonplace in Cuba. This research adds to academic conversations and has policy implications, in Cuba like elsewhere, revealing how structural conditions, social differences, stigmas and stereotypes, and hybrid entrepreneurial practices intertwine and shape personal and community outcomes. This study also complicates celebrations of entrepreneurship, revealing that liberalized economic participation may be positive for some but can still be precarious for others. The participatory methods I utilized in this research were a methodological innovation to the difficulties of doing research with such a vast participant base, and can serve as a guide to engaging in more locally beneficial and ethnographically grounded study of entrepreneurship in Cuba.





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