Racial Immanence

Racial Immanence will be published by New York University Press in August 2019.

Racial Immanence is about how and why artists use the body in contemporary Chicanx cultural production.  In this book I try to make sense of the attention to disease, disability, abjection, and sense experience that I see increasing in Chicanx visual, verbal, and performing arts from the late-1980s to the early 1990s.  This attention to the body is, I argue, a way to push back against two distinct modes of identity politics: first, the desire for art to perform or embody an idealized abstraction of oppositional ethnicity; and second, the neoliberal commodification of identity in the service of better managing difference and dissent.  While these two modes seem mutually exclusive, the resistance the artists in my study exert towards both suggests a core similarity.  By contrast, the cultural objects I examine in Racial Immanence assert human bodies as processes, as agents of change in the world rather than as objects to be known and managed. 

I take up the body in Racial Immanence not as a vehicle for exploring identity and experience, but as a meditation on the possibility of racial embodiment.  Given the historically ambiguous racial status of Mexican Americans in the United States, Racial Immanence asks how theories of embodiment illuminate Chicanx racialization and point the way towards an ethical future.  Within Chicanx cultural production I locate an articulation of bodily philosophies that challenge the subject/object dualism leading to a global politics of dominance and submission.  Instead, Chicanx cultural production fosters networks of connection that deepen human attachment to the material world, creating the possibility of progressive social change. 

Chicano Nations

Chicano Nations was published by New York University Press in 2011.

In Chicano Nations I argue that the transnationalism that is central to Chicano identity originated in the global, postcolonial moment at the turn of the nineteenth century rather than as an effect of contemporary economic conditions, which began in the mid nineteenth century and primarily affected the laboring classes. The Spanish empire then began to implode, and colonists in the “new world” debated the national contours of the viceroyalties. This is where I locate the origins of Chicano literature, which is now and always has been “postnational,” encompassing the wealthy, the poor, the white, and the mestizo. Tracing its long history and the diversity of subject positions it encompasses, Chicano Nations explores the shifting literary forms authors have used to write the nation from the nineteenth to the twenty-first centuries. I argue that while national and global tensions lie at the historical heart of Chicana/o narratives of the nation, there should be alternative ways to imagine the significance of Chicano literature other than as a reflection of national identity. I offer a way to think of early writers as a meaningful part of Chicano literary history by looking at the nation, rather than the particularities of identity, as that which connects Chicano literature over time.