Violence and Naming: On Mexico and the Promise of Literature
Reclaiming the notion of literature as an institution essential for reflecting on the violence of culture, history, and politics, Violence and Naming exposes the tension between the irreducible, constitutive violence of language and the reducible, empirical violation of others. Focusing on an array of literary artifacts, from works by journalists such as Elena Poniatowska and Sergio Gonzalez Rodriguez to the Zapatista communiques to Roberto Bolano's The Savage Detectives and 2666, this examination demonstrates that Mexican culture takes place as a struggle over naming-with severe implications for the rights and lives of women and indigenous persons. Through rereadings of the Conquest of Mexico, the northern Mexican feminicide, the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, the disappearance of the forty-three students at Iguala in 2014, and the 1999 abortion-rights scandal centering on Paulina, which revealed the tenuousness of women's constitutionally protected reproductive rights in Mexico, Violence and Naming asks how societies can respond to violence without violating the other. This essential question is relevant not only to contemporary Mexico but to all struggles for democracy that promise equality but instead perpetuate incessant cycles of repression.