University of Illinois at Chicago
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Violent Fronteras: The Neoliberal State of Latina/o Bodies in Contemporary Narratives

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posted on 2012-12-13, 00:00 authored by Kristy L. Ulibarri
My dissertation explores the relationship between the nation and a “free market” economy in 20th- and 21st-century Latina/o Literature and film. Although new political theories pronounce the “withering away of the state”—once a Marxist dream and now a neoliberal one—I challenge these theories by arguing that contemporary Latina/o literature and film reveals and exemplifies the remaining centrality of the nation even with neoliberal efforts to transcend it. My dissertation explores how Latina/o literature and film exposes and embodies an interdependent, albeit contradictory, relationship between the nation and a privatized economy, where free markets relies on nationalisms to operate. Violent Fronteras approaches the relationship between the nation and the neoliberal economy through representations, first, of nationalisms (chapters 2-4) and, second, of the nation-state (chapters 5-6). Analyzing figures like one of Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez’s Latina heroines who performs the stereotypical role of a “spicy Chicana” for her job in The Dirty Girl Social Club, I argue this emblematizes an interlocking relationship between economic institutions and cultural nationalisms in the equal-opportunity workplace. Cristina Garcia’s Dreaming in Cuban is another novel that builds upon the way the economy normalizes nationalisms, as Pilar, a 1.5 Cuban-American teen who buys punk albums to pay homage to her idealist vision of socialist Cuba, portrays how nationalisms are a mechanism for economic consumption and also uneven development. My dissertation ends on the way the nation-state continues to maintain the border while simultaneously promoting policies such as NAFTA, where capital is mobile but people are not. For instance, Alex Rivera’s film Sleep Dealer imagines a future where the capitalist needs of cheap labor in the U.S. are fulfilled without physical migrations or citizen outcries of an “alien invasion”: the border (and thus the nation) remains intact, while Mexican laborers stay in Mexico operating U.S. machines through a Matrix-like virtual reality. The film’s speculative premise demonstrates a compatibility with the maintenance of national difference, labor and immigration laws, and the creation of international/global markets. Ultimately, I show that Latina/o cultural production uncovers and exemplifies mystifications, contradictions, and the violence at the heart of the neoliberal state’s unprecedented rule.



Canuel, Mark



Degree Grantor

University of Illinois at Chicago

Degree Level

  • Doctoral

Committee Member

Aparicio, Frances R. Jun, Helen Dubey, Madhu Brown, Nicholas

Submitted date



  • en

Issue date


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