War and the Neoliberal Condition: Death and Vulnerability in Contemporary Mexico

Thursday, Sept. 15 @ 5:30 PM
UF Smathers Library East

Dr. Ignacio Sanchez

Since former president Felipe Calderón declared a full-in war on drug cartels, Mexico has been the site of an astonishing number of violent deaths: over 125,000 in the most recent counts. While official explanations of this staggering figure generally attribute it to collateral damage in the war, this paper contends that the phenomenon runs deeper. The paper will focus on the ideas of “precarization” and “vulnerability” as essential to understand death in contemporary Mexico, and will attempt to show, through different cultural artifacts (from literature, cinema, journalism and the arts), that death is rather a symptom of two intertwining factors. On the one hand, the “war on drugs” is in reality a set of multiple wars that recently escalated longstanding conflicts between different actors in Mexico, from class antagonisms to political confrontation. On the other, I will contend that these wars are the effect of the economic and political precarization of Mexicans in the neoliberal era, when the erosion of citizenship, economic enfranchisement and other social achievements of the 20th century has rendered people vulnerable to be killed. This phenomenon will be explored through three figures: the Central American migrant, the recruits of drug cartels and the bystander.

Dr. Ignacio Sánchez Prado is Associate Professor of Spanish and Latin American Studies, and Editor of the Latin American Review at Washington University in St. Louis, in St. Louis, Missouri. He received a Licenciatura (B.A.) in Literature from the Universidad de las Américas-Puebla in Mexico, and a Ph.D. in Hispanic Languages and Literatures from the University of Pittsburgh. His recent published works include Screening Neoliberalism: Transforming Mexican Cinema 1988-2012 and A History of Mexican Literature.

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Lecture organized by the UF Center for the Humanities and Public Sphere. Please visit their website for more information.