The embodied epistemology of Chicana/o mestizaje

Authored by: Rafael Pérez-Torres

Routledge Handbook of Chicana/o Studies

Print publication date:  August  2018
Online publication date:  August  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138847873
eBook ISBN: 9781315726366
Adobe ISBN:


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Mestizaje stands as a privileged category in Chicana/o critical discourse. At one level, the term simply represents the mixture of two races. In a Chicana/o context, the word evokes a bloody history of Spanish imperial reach into a world once home to millions of Indigenous inhabitants. It recalls, too, long-standing and long-reaching U.S. governmental intervention in the politics and policies of Mexico. A history of invasion, repression, and exploitation freights the mixture of European and Indigenous races and practices in what we now call the Americas. 1 Chicana/o mestizaje as a condition embodies the conflicted historical legacy of contact and conquest; and, so, at a visceral level it seems to provide a racialized identity. This embodiment rests on the fairy dust of representation, of course, as both history and the body’s position in it are constructed socially through language. So Chicana/o mestizaje only seems to reside as some ontological condition. Its repeated deployment in artistic, literary, theoretical, and critical realms underscores the power and contingency of language as a tool of self-reflexivity. And, at the same time, the affect this power takes is real and often painful. For a vast array of reasons, many brown bodies in the United States by word and deed are devalued, denigrated, and discarded, often into carceral warehouses where they are disavowed precisely because they are brown bodies.

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