Race and Classification: The Case of Mexican America

Race and Classification: The Case of Mexican America

Race and Classification: The Case of Mexican America

Race and Classification: The Case of Mexican America

Synopsis

This innovative and provocative volume focuses on the historical development of racial thinking and imagining in Mexico and the southwestern United States over a period of almost five centuries, from the earliest decades of Spanish colonial rule and the birth of a multiracial colonial population, to the present. The distinguished contributors to the volume bring into dialogue sophisticated new scholarship from an impressive range of disciplines, including social and cultural history, art history, legal studies, and performance art. The essays provide an engaging and original framework for understanding the development of racial thinking and classification in the region that was once New Spain and also shed new light on the history of the shifting ties between Mexico and the United States and the transnational condition of Latinos in the US today.

Excerpt

The casta paintings made in Mexico during the eighteenth century have fascinated scholars and a wider public in recent years. the dozens of sets of these paintings illustrate racial mixture in family settings, with parents and children combining Spanish, African, and Indian ancestry in a bewilderingly fractionalized calculus. This recent interest in the paintings has led to path-breaking cross-disciplinary scholarship that reveals much about what they are, where they are found, and who they were for. It also invites the question of why we are especially interested in them now. Neither the why of their making or of our interest in them has a simple answer.

The occasion for the symposium that led to this collection of informed and provocative essays was a major exhibition of casta paintings at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2004, curated by Ilona Katzew. in the spirit of the “Inventing Race” theme and the California venue of the exhibition, participants across disciplines in the social sciences and humanities gathered to consider the enduring significance of race in Mexico, the United States, and a southwestern “Mexican America,” with casta paintings serving as a touchstone. the essays share a basic approach and several themes. All view race as a social and political construction, with a history that valorizes whiteness; all recognize that racial classification is always about more than just race; and all contribute to historical thought about a “third space” straddling national boundaries that Ilona Katzew and Susan Deans-Smith highlight in their introduction.

Casta paintings amount to a pictorial artifact of Spain's and New Spain's entry into eighteenth-century notions of a more secular modernity. They were . . .

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