Making racial subjects: Indigeneity and the politics of Chicano/a cultural production
Aranda, Jose F., Jr.
Doctor of Philosophy
Representations of indigeneity abound in late-twentieth-century Chicano/a cultural productions, occupying genres as diverse as the political treatise, novel, poem, and news report. The work that follows traces the construction and ideological implications of indigenous Mexican culture, or 'Indian' signifiers in Chicano/a cultural production, a fundamental but often overlooked feature of Chicano/a subject formation. I bring Chicano/a indigenism into conversation with two historical and social phenomenon, Mexican indigenous migrants in the US and post-Revolutionary Mexican national discourse, to explore their influences and challenges to notions of authenticity and nationalism. "Mestizaje," a product of Mexican post-Revolutionary national discourse, subsumes the "Indian" within the Chicano/a and ultimately within the Chicano/a political imaginary. I argue that Mexican indigenous migrants in the U.S. constitute a new critical mass that contests mestizaje and Chicano/a as potential decolonial constructs. Such socio-political projects, I argue, forces us to rethink the uses of indigenism in the production of racialized Chicano/a political identities such as "la raza cosmica" and radical epistemological frameworks such as Anzaldua's "mestiza consciousness." While, the mythologization of the Mexican Indian is a strategy that initiates counter-hegemonic discourse it also simultaneously undercuts the emancipatory objectives of its authors. I employ a comparative framework to conduct an analysis of Chicano/a and indigenous cultural productions and reveal the multifaceted positionings of ethnic subjects in the U.S. For example, the affiliations and divisions between Oaxacan indigenous migrant and Chicano/a strategies of decolonization bring to light the complex and contradictory impulses embedded in the relationship between first world and third world marginalized subjects who, while occupying vastly different subject positions, are bound together by negotiations of citizenship and language, as well as formations of nation, race, class, and ethnicity.
American literature; Hispanic American studies