Colonial discourse in the United States has tended to criminalize, pathologize, and depict as savage not only Native Americans but Mexican immigrants, indigenous peoples in Mexico, and Chicanas/os as well. While postcolonial studies of the past few decades have focused on how these ethnicities have been constructed by others, Disrupting Savagism reveals how each group, in turn, has actively attempted to create for itself a social and textual space in which certain negative prevailing discourses are neutralized and rendered ineffective. Arturo J. Aldama begins by presenting a genealogy of the term “savage,” looking in particular at the work of American ethnologist Lewis Henry Morgan and a sixteenth-century debate between Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda and Bartolomé de las Casas. Aldama then turns to more contemporary narratives, examining ethnography, fiction, autobiography, and film to illuminate the historical ideologies and ethnic perspectives that contributed to identity formation over the centuries. These works include anthropologist Manuel Gamio’s The Mexican Immigrant: His Life Story, Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony, Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera, and Miguel Arteta’s film Star Maps. By using these varied genres to investigate the complex politics of racialized, subaltern, feminist, and diasporic identities, Aldama reveals the unique epistemic logic of hybrid and mestiza/o cultural productions. The transcultural perspective of Disrupting Savagism will interest scholars of feminist postcolonial processes in the United States, as well as students of Latin American, Native American, and literary studies.
The only recent English-language work on Spanish-American indigenismo from a literary perspective, Estelle Tarica’s work shows how modern Mexican and Andean discourses about the relationship between Indians and non-Indians create a unique literary aesthetic that is instrumental in defining the experience of mestizo nationalism.
Engaging with narratives by Jesús Lara, José María Arguedas, and Rosario Castellanos, among other thinkers, Tarica explores the rhetorical and ideological aspects of interethnic affinity and connection. In her examination, she demonstrates that these connections posed a challenge to existing racial hierarchies in Spanish America by celebrating a new kind of national self at the same time that they contributed to new forms of subjection and discrimination.
Going beyond debates about the relative merits of indigenismo and mestizaje, Tarica puts forward a new perspective on indigenista literature and modern mestizo identities by revealing how these ideologies are symptomatic of the dilemmas of national subject formation. The Inner Life of Mestizo Nationalism offers insight into the contemporary resurgence and importance of indigenista discourses in Latin America.
Estelle Tarica is associate professor of Latin American literature and culture at the University of California, Berkeley.
Focusing on the often unrecognized role race plays in expressions of Chicano culture, Mestizaje is a provocative exploration of the volatility and mutability of racial identities. In this important moment in Chicano studies, Rafael Pérez-Torres reveals how the concepts and realities of race, historical memory, the body, and community have both constrained and opened possibilities for forging new and potentially liberating multiracial identities.
Informed by a broad-ranging theoretical investigation of identity politics and race and incorporating feminist and queer critiques, Pérez-Torres skillfully analyzes Chicano cultural production. Contextualizing the history of mestizaje, he shows how the concept of mixed race has been used to engage issues of hybridity and voice and examines the dynamics that make mestizo and mestiza identities resistant to, as well as affirmative of, dominant forms of power. He also addresses the role that mestizaje has played in expressive culture, including the hip-hop music of Cypress Hill and the vibrancy of Chicano poster art. Turning to issues of mestizaje in literary creation, Pérez-Torres offers critical readings of the works of Emma Pérez, Gil Cuadros, and Sandra Cisneros, among others. This book concludes with a consideration of the role that the mestizo body plays as a site of elusive or displaced knowledge.
Moving beyond the oppositions—nationalism versus assimilation, men versus women, Texans versus Californians—that have characterized much of Chicano studies, Mestizaje synthesizes and assesses twenty-five years of pathbreaking thinking to make a case for the core components, sensibilities, and concerns of the discipline.
Rafael Pérez-Torres is professor of English at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is author of Movements in Chicano Poetry: Against Myths, Against Margins, coauthor of To Alcatraz, Death Row, and Back: Memories of an East LA Outlaw, and coeditor of The Chicano Studies Reader: An Anthology of Aztlán, 1970–2000.
Latin America is characterized by a uniquely rich history of cultural and racial mixtures known collectively as mestizaje. These mixtures reflect the influences of indigenous peoples from Latin America, Europeans, and Africans, and spawn a fascinating and often volatile blend of cultural practices and products. Yet no scholarly study to date has provided an articulate context for fully appreciating and exploring the profound effects of distinct local invocations of syncretism and hybridity. Rise and Fall of the Cosmic Race fills this void by charting the history of Latin America’s experience of mestizaje through the prisms of literature, the visual and performing arts, social commentary, and music. In accessible, jargon-free prose, Marilyn Grace Miller brings to life the varied perspectives of a vast region in a tour that stretches from Mexico and the Caribbean to Brazil, Ecuador and Argentina. She explores the repercussions of mestizo identity in the United States and reveals the key moments in the story of Latin America’s cult of synthesis. Rise and Fall of the Cosmic Race examines the inextricable links between aesthetics and politics, and unravels the threads of colonialism woven throughout national narratives in which mestizos serve as primary protagonists. Illuminating the ways in which regional engagements with mestizaje represent contentious sites of nation building and racial politics, Miller uncovers a rich and multivalent self-portrait of Latin America’s diverse populations.
Gloria Anzaldúa’s narrative and theoretical innovations, particularly her concept of mestiza consciousness, have influenced critical thinking about colonialism, gender, history, language, religion, sexuality, spirituality, and subjectivity. Yet Anzaldúa’s theory of spiritual mestizaje has not been extensively studied until now. Taking up that task, Theresa Delgadillo reveals spiritual mestizaje as central to the queer feminist Chicana theorist’s life and thought, and as a critical framework for interpreting contemporary Chicana literary and visual narratives. First mentioned by Anzaldúa in her pioneering book Borderlands/La Frontera, spiritual mestizaje is a transformative process of excavating bodily memory to develop a radical, sustained critique of oppression and renew one’s relation to the sacred. Delgadillo analyzes the role of spiritual mestizaje in Anzaldúa’s work and in relation to other forms of spirituality and theories of oppression. Illuminating the ways that contemporary Chicana narratives visualize, imagine, and enact Anzaldúa’s theory and method of spiritual mestizaje, Delgadillo interprets novels, memoir, and documentaries. Her critical reading of literary and visual technologies demonstrates how Chicanas challenge normative categories of gender, sexuality, nation, and race by depicting alternative visions of spirituality.