Academic journal article MELUS

Bio-Politics and the contamiNation of the Body in Alejandro Morales' the Rag Doll Plagues

Academic journal article MELUS

Bio-Politics and the contamiNation of the Body in Alejandro Morales' the Rag Doll Plagues

Article excerpt

With the rise of the modern nation-state during the eighteenth century, power, discourse, and knowledge have constituted central elements in controlling the populace. Especially in the West, the nation-state has governed the lives of its people, creating the mirage of internal and external security, economic growth, and cultural identity in exchange for power, money, and certain rights. In addition, the positioning or, rather, projection of an Other as a potential threat to the nation has played a crucial role in the discursive construction of national communities. Part of this construction has been the projected fear that alien elements infect and ultimately destroy the ostensible unity of the national body through racial and cultural difference. As a method of self-constitution, discourses of the nation have generally excluded marginal voices of race, ethnicity, gender, age, or sexual preference and have thus desired to keep the collective body pure from radical alterity.

While national narratives have been designed to level out certain differences within the ethnos, there always remains a certain degree of otherness which cannot be assimilated but is in fact necessary to delimit the ideal social body from certain nationalities and groups that reside within the confines of the nation. Similar to nation-building processes in the "centers," the ignition of national consciousness in the "peripheries" was also based on an imagined cultural substratum. Within many anti-colonial and civil rights struggles, those in control of discursive practices have often silenced voices of alterity in order to unify a people in the struggle against colonial, hegemonic orders. (1)

In recent years, postcolonial scholars and New Americanists have focused on these topics of national inclusions and exclusions in their analyses of cultural and literary texts. For example, New Americanists have introduced the term "postnational" to convey a sense of opposition to the discursive constructedness of the nation in cultural representations. A postnational perspective hence exposes the exclusionary practices of national discourses by debunking and criticizing the embedded patriarchal, essentialist, and heterosexual hegemonies. (2) Such a research perspective also seeks to explore critically the points of intersection between American studies and postcolonial theory in order to explore notions of empire in relation to the US. This marks an important intervention because, in the past, many literary and cultural critics have discarded the notion of the United States as postcolonial. It has often been claimed that the US had its "postcolonial" moment after 1776, but soon developed its own distinct colonial and imperial endeavors, domestically and abroad. (3) However, recent debates have suggested an inclusion of certain experiences in the United States for instance, slavery, migration, "internal colonialism," and minoritarian struggles for civil rights under the auspices of postcolonial studies (cf. King).

The relations between Anglo America and Mexican Americans call for an incorporation of the Chicana/o experience into the field of postcolonial studies because they were historically marked by many features of colonialism proper: internal political oppression, economic exploitation, and cultural dominance. Since the 1960s, a number of Chicana/o critics have adopted the theoretical concept of "internal colonialism" to account for their group's subordinate socio-economic and cultural position within US society) Supporting this claim, Fredric Jameson has suggested that "in the United States itself, we have come to think and to speak of the emergence of an internal Third World and of internal Third World voices, as in Black women's literature or Chicano literature" (151). Hence, a growing number of Chicana/o studies scholars are debating and testing the applicability of certain postcolonial paradigms--colonial discourses, national liberation projects, border crossings, or hybridity--to literary and cultural representations of the Mexican American condition (see, for instance, Arteaga; Aldama and Quinonez; Perez-Torres; Karrer). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.