El Corazón de Dixie

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(Image from Julie M. Weise’s website for Corazón de Dixie: Mexicanos in the U.S. South Since 1910)

0. Historian Julie M. Weise’s new book Corazón de Dixie: Mexicanos in the U.S. South Since 1910 (UNC Press, 2015) is a welcome addition to the scant resources relating to the historical amnesia that surrounds the story of Latinos in the south. Her book’s companion website should build interest as we prepare for the exhibit at the Valentine Museum on Latino Dixie. Note as you scroll through her site’s “chapters” the way an historian uses primary and secondary sources in order to curate a compelling visual narrative to accompany and complement her story. You should also note how she methodologically brings the reader into the story with proximal language techniques based on “Euroem5 Intercomprehension” (i.e., from defamiliarization to familiarization and back). What strategies will you use to make the curated exhibit come alive through sight, sound, and affective registers?

I. Keywords


-Review “PEP”: Privatization, Economic expediency, and Personal responsibility

Civil Rights Act of 1964

Morrill Act

What do you think were the implications of President Lincoln’s signing of the Morrill Act? What does it mean that one of the original Morrill Act universities, the University of Wisconsin, is now losing tenure protections?

Regents of University of California v. Bakke (1978)

II. Sonia Sotomayor and the American Dream

In our discussion today we talked about Neoliberalism and how it’s affected education, along with the implications of having a less informed, less educated citizenry. Dominique asked an important question: How could this happen?

The link to Professors in Poverty will give you a sense of the scope of the problem and how it relates to Sonia Sotomayor’s story of educational success as she tells it in My Beloved World (2013 and ss.).

How is the American Dream related to education? How is demography related to educational access? How does adjunctification of the professoriate affect students (and professors)?

Sonia Sotomayor enters Princeton in 1972 and graduates from Yale Law in 1979. How and why are these dates important to her story in My Beloved World in light of the Civil Rights Act and the Bakke case? In what ways do you think Sotomayor’s professors were like those whose lives were depicted in Professors in Poverty? Do you feel that the memoir perpetuates historical amnesia? If so, how and why? If not, why not?























Latinos in Dixie

I. Meg Medina


II. Schleef and Cavalcanti, Latinos in Dixie readings:

How do Schleef and Cavalcanti define Latinos in Dixie? What is unique about Latinos in Richmond?

What do Schleef and Cavalcanti say about Latino political participation in Richmond? How does it connect with Beltran’s discussion of the “sleeping giant”?

Schleef and Cavalcanti suggest that the pan-ethnic collective does not exist in Richmond? Why so?  How does their idea of pan-ethnic collective differ from Beltran’s discussion of pan-ethnicity?

How are democracy and demography intertwined?

III. Medina, Meg. Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass

Class guided conversation

IV. Breaking the black and white binary

Historical contexts: 1848-1865-1898-2016

Curating Latino Lives

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The Young Lords were a political advocacy group of students and decolonial thinkers who were active in the 1960s and 70s. The YLs gals were many but coalesced around advocacy for the enfranchisement of the Latino community. Comprised primarily of Puerto Ricans, the YLs were modeled after the Black Panther Movement (BPM).

In the absence of state action to treat Latino communities equitably (Fourteenth Amendment), the YLs disidentified themselves from sanctioned political organizations in order to create concientización (historical consciousness) through direct action. In this sense, the Black Lives Matter Movement is the latest iteration of this broader search for deliberative justice in the absence of procedural justice. Frequent confrontations with star actors (police, representatives, etc.) cause a shift toward reparative justice that was often at odds with procedural justice. Related to Latino concientización the Brown Berets, active in the west and south-west, worked on related goals under the banner of Chicano Unity. Whereas the Brown Berets sought an historical accounting of the American 1848 (US-Mexico War and its aftermath), the YLs sought to counter historical amnesia after 1898 and the legacies of empire.

Recently discovered footage from the WPIX Archives highlights the takeover of the First Spanish United Methodist Church in East Harlem that occurred on Dec. 28, 1969. Media coverage of this pivotal event in the grassroots movement features key players David Perez, Pablo “Yoruba” Guzmán, Juan González, and Chairman Felipe Luciano.

Border Drones and Latino Labor-Bots


Sleep Dealer (2008 [released 2009]) is set on the U.S.-Mexico border where high-tech factories (Maquiladoras) allow the protagonist, Memo, and other migrant workers, to plug their bodies into a network to provide virtual labor for the North. Sleep Dealer constitutes one of the first instances of “Latino Sci-Fi” film and genre making and this is significant. Why? Because there is no tradition of Latino science fiction writing or film to speak of. There are no Octavia Butlers or Samuel Delanys, as in the African American tradition, no Laurence Yeps or S. P. Somtows, as in the Asian American tradition, to engage in a sustained critique of the ideology of genre as it pertains to a future subject position yet to be imagined; an ideation of Latino futurity that has not yet achieved an ideology of form in the present. What are we to discern from the absence of science fiction writing in Latino literary and cultural studies? What are we to make of this and how should we read this absence?

As I’ve noted in The Latino Body (2007) and elsewhere, from “the American 1848” to the present, Latino literary and cultural interventions have been surprisingly consistent in making their relationship to the state historical. From one the earliest “Mexican American” novelist like María Amparo Ruiz de Burton writing in the XIX century to the extreme contemporary of Latino memoir, literary production has sought to create a logic of presence in the past, anticipating one of the fundamental conundrums raised by Fred Jameson’s recent work; namely, how to own the “inevitable failures” of the past without making defeatism the foregone conclusion of their inheritance. Understood from the confines of a “Latinocentric” perspective, Jameson’s observation might be rendered in the form of a question: By haunting the cultural sphere of the past, do we depoliticize the possibility for a viable Latino future? Or, even better, Why have we allowed the very futures of Latinidad to be colonized through an insistence on the narrative renderings of our stories, our lives, our Latinidades, in the preterite and imperfect tense of the historical imagination?

Exile, diaspora, loss, memory, trauma, history, U.S. military campaigns in our countries, language barriers and borders, all emblematic of the Latino experience in the U.S. and carved into niche marketing strategies for publishers, only tell, retell, and package part of historical desire. What those stories can’t imagine is the possibility of making our relationship to the state anything other than historical. In the process, I believe we run the risk as cultural agents in the academy of allowing majortitarian political actors to colonize the very futures of Latinidad.

One of the fundamental questions of Latino studies, then, should be: How do we decolonize the future? If following Jameson, “History is what hurts,” then how might, say, Latinos in space redress that hurt by imbricating our “ethno-racial” particularisms in a future imagined from our present as owners of that future before it is wrested from us like our seemingly unwritten past? I believe that such a decolonizing move, both in the theoretical gesture of investigating why this is so as well as the creation of futurity projects, might have us instantiate the emancipatory potential of a Latino studies project for our moment. A paradigm shift within our inherited race and ethnic studies models would require a recognition that what is at stake is not the location of the known but, rather, how the location of the knower dictates what counts as a legitimate object of study.

Ethnic studies, after all, exists because other disciplinary formations aren’t doing their job. Yet the move requires that our students learn to ask more than how they can identify as social and political beings in a racist culture, but how the unequal distribution of social and material resources is in part managed through understanding the ethnic subject as a fractured subject who must answer the inevitable “Who am I?” before being allowed — if at all — to state the declarative “I will be.” And we, all of us in the academy, are imbricated in this impasse. Being able to move away from just such navel gazing makes it more difficult to substitute culture for the state, thereby preventing us from confusing culture with the politics of the state. As when Memo’s father in the movie asks, “Is our future a thing of the past?,” Sleep Dealer, along with the histories it haunts, admonishes us not to sleepwalk through history lest we be tempted to dream somebody else’s dream.

Film Analysis, Alex Rivera, dir., Sleep Dealer (2008 [released 2009])

I. Pre-Viewing Activity


Genre: Sci-Fi

Immigration v. Migration

“Zombie” democracy

II. Citizenship and Justice

Be prepared to define and give examples of the following keywords based on our class discussions:

Procedural Justice (following the law without irrespective of just outcomes)

Deliberative Justice (emphasizing just outcomes despite stare decisis/legal precedent)

Reparative Justice (praxis/action correctives that ignore the rule of law)


How are these keywords related to Identity, Identification and Disidentification?

III. Analysis


Is Rudy’s decision to bomb the damn, and his eventual self-exile and loss of state-sanctioned citizenship/”illegality,” the result of either deliberative justice or reparative justice?

What does Rudy love? Is he selfless or selfish in your opinion (Give examples.)

Can you imagine yourself loving an idea or a feeling enough to engage in reparative justice? If so, what would move you to do so?

Is Memo’s obsession with knowledge (“the bite of the apple”/hacking) the cause of his father’s death?

Dystopias present us with visions of an upside down world: the legal as illegal, the patriot as the traitor, patriotism as terrorism, and many more inversions. What other inversions does the film present of either the “American Dream” (Tocqueville) or “Democracy” gone awry?

Describe the interior spaces of Rudy’s home as seen in the film (dinning room). How does the space of the dinning room signify? The colors, the table, the trinkets, the photograph of Rudy as a boy, the conversation with his parents, etc.  Finally, how do Rudy’s parents reconcile war with patriotism as a “space at the table.”

IV. Intersectionality

Discuss “the Black Lives Matter” movement and the “No One is Illegal” movement. Points of contact and divergence in relation to reparative justice.

Latino Communities


I. Latino Communities. Questions for reflection.

The answers to the questions below will serve as a springboard for discussion next week.

How does the presence of Latinos transform established places politically and materially?

What do these spaces tell us about the trajectory of Latinization in Richmond?

II. Additional Readings

What historical contexts and circumstances from the readings made you more aware of Latino in the U.S. and in Richmond? Why and how is this related to to “historical amnesia”?

III. Latinos in Dixie 

What do you think of the theory that Latinos are “the new Irish”? What does this mean and what is implied in this model?

What is the segmented assimilation model?  How about spatial assimilation? What is the role of class and of ethnicity in these two models?

What is meant by the term “symbolic ethnicity”? (For those of you who are interested, Mary Waters’ book Ethnic Options: Choosing Identities in America is a fascinating read.)

What do you think of the three profiles that Schleef and Cavalcanti use to structure their work? Can you think of other profiles that might work?

How do you tie our visit last week to the readings for this week?

Why did 20% of all Latinos in Richmond come directly here, to a city that has had virtually no Latinos living here before 1970?

What are some of the ways that the Latinos interviewed for this book negotiate the overlapping categories of class, race and ethnicity? How do they feel that Richmond’s historic racial binarism affects how they are treated in regard to these categories?

IV. Race, Place, Spaces of Violence Against Latinos

Border Patrol Video Game

Border Crossing enactment experience theme park

Democracy in America

0. Keywords: New and for Review




I. Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (1835):

Political philosophy: What is it?

De Tocqueville’s contributions to political philosophy include the following key observations:

1.Democracy breeds materialism.

Pecunia Americana and the question of discernment

Money is only achievement Americans respect well. Capitalism creates a standard for value judgements heretofore unknown (e.g., if a book doesn’t sell well then it must not be valuable, etc.).

For Tocqueville, democracy produces workers and consumers, not citizens.

2. Democracy breads envy and shame

Hard work and the “American Dream”: Equity v. equality.

3. Tyranny of the majority (chapter: “What Sort of Despotism Democratic Nations Have to Fear”)

For Tocqueville “democratic despotism” wasn’t torture or execution but moral and intellectual domination. (C.f. Foucault’s concept of “governmentality“)

Tocqueville turns his attention to the “three races”: whites, Native Americans and enslaved blacks. What does he opine about these three races?

After 1865, how do people of Latin American ancestry living in the United States get classed as a group in relation to these “three races”? How is American cultural and historical amnesia related to this paradigmatic understanding of race in America?

Tocqueville, “What Sort of Despotism Democratic Nations Have to Fear”:

“[…] After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.”

4.Democracy turns us against authority (no distinction between classes)

5.Democracy undermines independence of mind

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Americans give up on critical thinking when they believe their representatives truly represent their interests. (C.f.: Citizen’s United)

II. Performing Latino USA

Lin-Manuel Miranda, In the Heights: Chasing Broadway Dreams (2009)

Lyrical Latinidades: “Inútil
Live performance: “Paciencia y fé
Live performance: “Carnaval


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Keywords and historical markers:

Keywords allow us to anchor our in class-discussions within historical context and interpretive frames. Review the following keywords and related historical markers. The linked terms allow you to delve deeper into our ever accumulating archive of keywords and historical markers as the semester progresses. You should be prepared to define them and give examples for each:

1848: Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo


1898: “Spanish American War

Cultural Amnesia

Cultural Memory



“The Ecumenical Standard”


Historical Amnesia

Historical Memory



Manifest Destiny

Political emergence

Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848)

New Keywords:

Double consciousness


Res ipsa loquitur

Reverse racism

Additional Resources:

Marta Tienda and Faith Mitchell. National Research Council (US) Panel on Hispanics in the United States. Hispanics and the Future of America (2006)



Latinos — people of Latin American ancestry living in the United States — are the nation’s largest “minority” group at over 54 million strong and also the most underrepresented in the nation’s circuits of power and political representation. How has this come to be in a representative democracy? This community-based learning Andrew W. Mellon Foundation “Tocqueville American Studies Seminar” explores the question of “deliberative democracy” in an America that has been demographically and culturally transformed by Latinos and asks, What do citizens, cultural citizens, and their democratically elected representatives owe each other for the laws they enact and the social contract that binds them?

Informed by theater and performance studies, arts practice, law and literature, this course examines how Latinos have creatively engaged the politics of national belonging. We will develop a critical understanding of the history of Latinos in relation to the construction of group-based identities in democratic systems, the relationship between Latino history and the spaces of democratic emergence, historical inequalities and power relations between “minority” groups in the U.S., and the divergent interpretations of who counts as an “American” and the conditions under which such “political emergence” can happen.

Viewings and analysis:

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The Lone Ranger (1949) (Above: Lone Ranger television series. How does historical memory elide as much as it seemingly captures?)

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Absolut México (Above: A 2008 advertisement created for Swedish Absolut Vodka that ran in Mexico shows a map of the border of Mexico and the United States where it stood before the Mexican-American War of 1848. The publicity campaign caused a scandal at the hight of the global economic crisis and Absolute had to remove the ad from social media, billboards, and their company’s materials.)



1848-1898: Map quests and the visual cultures of imperialism.

US-Mexico War (1846-48) and Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848)

Articles VIII, IX and X (stricken)

The Lone Ranger (1949)

John Calhoun, “The Government of a White Race” (1848)

Walker Texas Ranger (1993-2001)


Excerpts from John Leguizamo’s Mambo Mouth (1991) & Spic-O-Rama (1993)