The Persistent Geography of the indio bárbaro Racial Representation, Racism, and the Mexican Migrant

Introduction by Professor Susan Schweik, Department of English, UC Berkeley.

Why does the citizenry of the United States so frequently represent the Mexican migrant as a would-be rapist, drug dealer, or murderer, and as the source of economic problems? This talk examines the representation of the threatening Mexican immigrant through the long history of constructing Mexicans as barbaric Indians. I examine this genealogy from the beginning of Spanish colonization in the early 16th century through the Anglo-American expansion of colonialism on the western frontier; from the 1846 U.S. war of aggression against Mexico through the application of Jim Crow in the Southwest; from the Chicano nationalist movement through the proliferation of the drug economy under the shadow of NAFTA. By understanding the historical function of the deathly Indian/Mexican bandit, we gain insight into the long life of this myth that has become part of our collective unconscious.

María Josefina Saldaña-Portillo is a Professor with the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis and the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at New York University, and is a Visiting Associate Professor with the Department of English at UC Berkeley. Her book, Indian Given: Racial Geographies across Mexico and the United States (Duke 2016), was awarded the 2017 John Hope Franklin Prize as the most outstanding book published in American Studies, and the 2017 NACCS Book Award for an outstanding book in Chicana & Chicano Studies.  She is the author of The Revolutionary Imagination in the Americas and the Age of Development (Duke 2003).  Saldaña-Portillo has co-edited Des/posesión: Género, territorio, y luchas por la autodeterminación with Marisa Belausteguigoitia Rius, (UNAM 2015), and has published widely on revolutionary subjectivity, subaltern politics, indigenous peoples, racial formation, migration, and Latin American and Latino cultural studies.

This event will be held in the Multicultural Community Center, MLK Student Union Building, UC Berkeley. 

Presented by the Center for Race & Gender Spring 2018 Distinguished Guest Lecture and The Campus Climate Speaker, Affirmation, and Empowerment Series.

Co-sponsored by: Division of Equity & Inclusion; Multicultural Community Center; Center for Latino Policy Research; Chicana/o and Latina/o Studies; the Program in Critical Theory