My research considers Mexico from the colonial era to the present through critical race theory, the environmental humanities, and political economy.
My current project, Rift and Remedy: the Construction of Race and Land in Mexico, 1521-2021, demonstrates how Mexican elites have responded to agrarian crises through what I call the race/land remedy. I ask how and why colonial congregación–the creation of planned rural villages for “dispersed” indigenous populations–resurfaced in the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries through readings of colonial texts, cultural production, and contemporary development projects. In July 2019, I published an article from the project in the Journal of Latin American and Cultural Studies.
Missionaries believed that congregación would repair the devastation of the conquest by transforming indigenous people and land such that both would foster the productivity of the other. By spatially concentrating the indigenous population, missionaries created a class of people they called “Indians,” defined by their potential to either improve or degrade the land depending on the presence of pastoral care. Yet congregación did not disappear with political independence. Rift and Remedy challenges linear narratives of secularization and capitalist progress, showing that the idea of congregación has endured in the minds of elites and in state institutions, while adapting to an array of divergent political ideologies. Literature and culture are essential to detecting this continuity. Post-independence, post-revolutionary, and present-day elites have all viewed the project of congregación with an often dangerous nostalgia, embracing the race/land remedy to modernize the nation’s agrarian society and solve the “Indian Problem.”
My work raises new questions about the production of race and nature in Mexico by bringing ecocriticism into dialogue with recent materialist and spatial approaches from critical race theory and feminist theories of labor. A wide temporal sweep allows for the consideration of Mexico’s present alongside its colonial past and challenges periodizations that overlook the exchange between prior moments and the modern state. By considering capitalism as a way of organizing nature, the historical dependency by states on racialized and gendered labor becomes evident. Thus, my interdisciplinary approach analyzes cultural production to reveal the shared logics of sovereignty, racialization, and nature, by articulating how racialized populations and the state negotiate the historical legacies and shifting terrains of global capital.
As I adapt my dissertation project, “The Only Way,” into Rift and Remedy, I have also begun work on a second project that incorporates Mexican literature, film, and media as they relate to the environment and social reproduction in Mexico and Central America. I have recently submitted an article on representations of the family and childhood in Valeria Luiselli’s Lost Children Archive and her essay, Tell Me How It Ends that is an example of this framework. I presented a preliminary essay on this project at the Tepoztlán Institute in July 2019 and at the University of Michigan in October 2019.