In a short, provocative essay published in 1988, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak posed a powerful question: can the subaltern speak? Spivak rejected the notion that those outside of society’s loci of structural power are rendered marginal to the point of silence and invisibility. Subaltern experiences, she argued, were not only audible and visible but were knowable and heterogeneous. Lisa Yun aptly takes up this transformative call in The Coolie Speaks: Chinese Indentured Laborers and African Slaves in Cuba. Her lengthy research produces a fascinating, elegantly written, and careful analysis of thousands of depositions and petitions collected during an 1874 Chinese government fact-finding mission to Cuba (at the height of the anticolonial Ten Years’ War) to investigate the work and life conditions of Chinese coolies and intervene on their behalf. The Cuba Commission Report contains 2,841 coolie accounts of abuse, torture, and murder by...

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