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. 

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