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Violent Fronteras: The Neoliberal State of Latina/o Bodies in Contemporary Narratives

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posted on 13.12.2012, 00:00 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.

History

Advisor

Canuel, Mark

Department

English

Degree Grantor

University of Illinois at Chicago

Degree Level

Doctoral

Committee Member

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

Submitted date

2012-08

Language

en

Issue date

13/12/2012

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