The Merchant of Havana: The Jew in the Cuban Abolitionist Archive investigates the role of anti-Semitic stereotypes in nineteenth-century Cuban abolitionist literature. Although colonial Cuba did not have a significant Jewish community, Stephen Silverstein reveals the crucial role that imaginary Jews played in literature. The imaginary Jew, Silverstein argues, was crucial to Cuban self-fashioning and racial formation during an era of rapid industrialization. The Jew served as a locus for anxieties about slave uprisings and capitalism. By failing to address how anti-Semitism and “Negrophobia” represented “entangled anxieties” during this era, scholars have misread some of the era's most important works (p. 4).

Silverstein supports this compelling argument with both literary and historical analysis. Cuba's sugar production skyrocketed with the introduction of the steam engine in 1818 (p. 13). To meet increased production demands, plantation owners imported numerous slaves to grow the extra...

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