The Checkered Past of Brazil’s New Race Court (JWJI Race & Difference Colloquium Series)

Posted in Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Live Events, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Religion, Social Science on 2017-02-06 02:37Z by Steven

The Checkered Past of Brazil’s New Race Court (JWJI Race & Difference Colloquium Series)

Jones Room, Woodruff Library
The James Weldon Johnson Institute for the Study of Race and Difference
Emory University
Atlanta, Georgia 30322
Monday, 2017-02-06, 12:00-13:30 EST (Local Time)

Ruth Hill, Andrew W. Mellon Chair in the Humanities, Professor of Spanish
Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee

A categorical crisis around racially-mixed persons has become a legal quagmire in Brazil. In August 2016, the Brazilian government announced the formation of the Racial Court (Tribunal Racial) to confront the steady stream of legal challenges that has beset the racial segment of the country’s Quotas System (Sistema de Cotas). The latter is an affirmative-action program giving preference to the disabled, the economically-disadvantaged, graduates of public schools, and specific racial groups (Amerindians and persons of African ancestry) in government offices and higher education. Litigation and media attention are centered on the program’s interstitial racial category, pardo. The category preto—the straightforward “black” in Brazil until it was jettisoned in educated quarters for negro, “negro”—and the category pardo (of European and an undefined amount of African and/or native origins) are often treated as subsets of the category negro. Still, color not descent is invoked when it is stated that persons “of pardo color” or “preto color” are eligible for the racial quotas for government posts, which are set aside “for negros and pardos.”

Whether colors or categories, where does pardo end and branco (“white”) or negro begin? In other words, when does afrodescendente (“Afro-descendant”) end and branco begin? In this Race and Difference Colloquium, Ruth Hill (Andrew W. Mellon Chair in the Humanities, Professor of Spanish, Vanderbilt University) argues that the pardo problem of today streams from the first global and systematic investigation into racial admixture, in the sixteenth century, which came on the heels of legislation to “uplift” Catholic neophytes in the Iberian empires. Those centuries-old arguments over mixed-race neophytes anticipated the moral and legal dilemmas of Brazil’s present-day affirmative-action program.

The Race and Difference Colloquium Series, a weekly event on the Emory University campus, features local and national speakers presenting academic research on contemporary questions of race and intersecting dimensions of difference. The James Weldon Johnson Institute is pleased to have the Robert W. Woodruff Library and the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript and Rare Book Library as major co-sponsors of the Colloquium Series.

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Unmaking Race and Ethnicity: A Reader

Posted in Anthologies, Asian Diaspora, Barack Obama, Books, Brazil, Campus Life, Caribbean/Latin America, Europe, History, Law, Media Archive, Mexico, Religion, Slavery, Social Justice, Social Science, Teaching Resources, United States on 2017-01-30 01:51Z by Steven

Unmaking Race and Ethnicity: A Reader

Oxford University Press
2016-07-20
512 Pages
7-1/2 x 9-1/4 inches
Paperback ISBN: 9780190202712

Edited by:

Michael O. Emerson, Provost and Professor of Sociology
North Park University
also Senior Fellow at Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research

Jenifer L. Bratter, Associate Professor of Sociology; Director of the Program for the Study of Ethnicity, Race, and Culture at the Kinder Institute for Urban Research
Rice University, Houston, Texas

Sergio Chávez, Assistant Professor of Sociology
Rice University, Houston, Texas

Race and ethnicity is a contentious topic that presents complex problems with no easy solutions. (Un)Making Race and Ethnicity: A Reader, edited by Michael O. Emerson, Jenifer L. Bratter, and Sergio Chávez, helps instructors and students connect with primary texts in ways that are informative and interesting, leading to engaging discussions and interactions. With more than thirty collective years of teaching experience and research in race and ethnicity, the editors have chosen selections that will encourage students to think about possible solutions to solving the problem of racial inequality in our society. Featuring global readings throughout, (Un)Making Race and Ethnicity covers both race and ethnicity, demonstrating how they are different and how they are related. It includes a section dedicated to unmaking racial and ethnic orders and explains challenging concepts, terms, and references to enhance student learning.

Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • UNIT I. Core Concepts and Foundations
    • What Is Race? What Is Ethnicity? What Is the Difference?
      • Introduction, Irina Chukhray and Jenifer Bratter
      • 1. Constructing Ethnicity: Creating and Recreating Ethnic Identity and Culture, Joane Nagel
      • 2. The Racialization of Kurdish Identity in Turkey, Murat Ergin
      • 3. Who Counts as “Them?”: Racism and Virtue in the United States and France, Michèle Lamont
      • 4. Mexican Immigrant Replenishment and the Continuing Significance of Ethnicity and Race, Tomás R. Jiménez
    • Why Race Matters
      • Introduction, Laura Essenburg and Jenifer Bratter
      • 5. Excerpt from Racial Formation in the United States From the 1960s to the 1990s, Michael Omi and Howard Winant
      • 6. Structural and Cultural Forces that Contribute to Racial Inequality, William Julius Wilson
      • 7. From Traditional to Liberal Racism: Living Racism in the Everyday, Margaret M. Zamudio and Francisco Rios
      • 8. Policing and Racialization of Rural Migrant Workers in Chinese Cities, Dong Han
      • 9. Why Group Membership Matters: A Critical Typology, Suzy Killmister
    • What Is Racism? Does Talking about Race and Ethnicity Make Things Worse?
      • Introduction, Laura Essenburg and Jenifer Bratter
      • 10. What Is Racial Domination?, Matthew Desmond and Mustafa Emirbayer
      • 11. Discursive Colorlines at Work: How Epithets and Stereotypes are Racially Unequal, David G. Embrick and Kasey Henricks
      • 12. When Ideology Clashes with Reality: Racial Discrimination and Black Identity in Contemporary Cuba, Danielle P. Clealand
      • 13. Raceblindness in Mexico: Implications for Teacher Education in the United States, Christina A. Sue
  • UNIT II. Roots: Making Race and Ethnicity
    • Origins of Race and Ethnicity
      • Introduction, Adriana Garcia and Michael Emerson
      • 14. Antecedents of the Racial Worldview, Audrey Smedley and Brian Smedley
      • 15. Building the Racist Foundation: Colonialism, Genocide, and Slavery, Joe R. Feagin
      • 16. The Racialization of the Globe: An Interactive Interpretation, Frank Dikötter
    • Migrations
      • Introduction, Sandra Alvear
      • 17. Excerpt from Becoming Mexican American: Ethnicity, Culture, and Identity in Chicano Los Angeles, 1900-1945, George J. Sánchez
      • 18. Migration to Europe since 1945: Its History and Its Lessons, Randall Hansen
      • 19. When Identities Become Modern: Japanese Emigration to Brazil and the Global Contextualization of Identity, Takeyuki (Gaku) Tsuda
    • Ideologies
      • Introduction, Junia Howell
      • 20. Excerpt from Racism: A Short History, George M. Fredrickson
      • 21. Understanding Latin American Beliefs about Racial Inequality, Edward Telles and Stanley Bailey
      • 22. Buried Alive: The Concept of Race in Science, Troy Duster
  • Unit III. Today: Remaking Race and Ethnicity
    • Aren’t We All Just Human? How Race and Ethnicity Help Us Answer the Question
      • Introduction, Adriana Garcia
      • 23. Young Children Learning Racial and Ethnic Matters, Debra Van Ausdale and Joe R. Feagin
      • 24. When White Is Just Alright: How Immigrants Redefine Achievement and Reconfigure the Ethnoracial Hierarchy, Tomás R. Jiménez and Adam L. Horowitz
      • 25. From Bi-Racial to Tri-Racial: Towards a New System of Racial Stratification in the USA, Eduardo Bonilla-Silva
      • 26. Indigenism, Mestizaje, and National Identity in Mexico during the 1940s and the 1950s, Anne Doremus
    • The Company You Keep: How Ethnicity and Race Frame Social Relationships
      • Introduction, William Rothwell
      • 27. Who We’ll Live With: Neighborhood Racial Composition Preferences of Whites, Blacks and Latinos, Valerie A. Lewis, Michael O. Emerson, and Stephen L. Klineberg
      • 28. The Costs of Diversity in Religious Organizations: An In-Depth Case Study, Brad Christerson and Michael O. Emerson
    • The Uneven Playing Field: How Race and Ethnicity Impact Life Chances
      • Introduction, Ellen Whitehead and Jenifer Bratter
      • 29. Wealth in the Extended Family: An American Dilemma, Ngina S. Chiteji
      • 30. The Complexities and Processes of Racial Housing Discrimination, Vincent J. Roscigno, Diana L. Karafin, and Griff Tester
      • 31. Racial Segregation and the Black/White Achievement Gap, 1992 to 2009, Dennis J. Condron, Daniel Tope, Christina R. Steidl, and Kendralin J. Freeman
      • 32. Differential Vulnerabilities: Environmental and Economic Inequality and Government Response to Unnatural Disasters, Robert D. Bullard
      • 33. Racialized Mass Incarceration: Poverty, Prejudice, and Punishment, Lawrence D. Bobo and Victor Thompson
  • Unit IV. Unmaking Race and Ethnicity
    • Thinking Strategically
      • Introduction, Junia Howell and Michael Emerson
      • 34. The Return of Assimilation? Changing Perspectives on Immigration and Its Sequels in France, Germany, and the United States, Rogers Brubaker
      • 35. Toward a Truly Multiracial Democracy: Thinking and Acting Outside the White Frame, Joe R. Feagin
      • 36. Destabilizing the American Racial Order, Jennifer Hochschild, Vesla Weaver, and Traci Burch
    • Altering Individuals and Relationships
      • Introduction, Horace Duffy and Jenifer Bratter
      • 37. A More Perfect Union, Barack Obama
      • 38. What Can Be Done?, Debra Van Ausdale and Joe R. Feagin
      • 39. The Multiple Dimensions of Racial Mixture in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: From Whitening to Brazilian Negritude, Graziella Moraes da Silva and Elisa P. Reis
    • Altering Structures
      • Introduction, Kevin T. Smiley and Jenifer Bratter
      • 40. The Case for Reparations, Ta-Nehisi Coates
      • 41. “Undocumented and Citizen Students Unite”: Building a Cross-Status Coalition Through Shared Ideology, Laura E. Enriquez
      • 42. Racial Solutions for a New Society, Michael Emerson and George Yancey
      • 43. DREAM Act College: UCLA Professors Create National Diversity University, Online School for Undocumented Immigrants, Alyssa Creamer
  • Glossary
  • Credits
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The (Un)Happy Objects of Affective Community

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Social Science on 2017-01-28 01:30Z by Steven

The (Un)Happy Objects of Affective Community

Cultural Studies
Volume 30, Issue 1 (2016)
pages 24-46
DOI: 10.1080/09502386.2014.899608

Alexandre Emboaba Da Costa, Assistant Professor, Theoretical, Cultural and International Studies in Education
University of Alberta, Canada

Affect permeates understandings of racial and cultural mixture as well as racial democracy in Brazil. Sentiments of interconnectedness, harmony and conviviality shape the ways in which Brazilians of diverse races/colours feel identity and belonging. These sentiments also drive hopeful attachments to possibilities for moving beyond race, influencing how people encounter and relate to racism and inequality. However, studies of race in Brazil tend to either take the affective for granted as positive unifying force or ignore its role in shaping the appeal of dominant racial discourses on identity, nation and belonging. Through an examination of the different ways people feel, experience and live orientations towards mixture and racial democracy as the dominant affective community, this paper analyzes the role the affective plays in constituting racial ideologies and shaping anti-racist action. I explore the ways histories of race, racism, privilege and disadvantage generate unequal attachments to and experiences of mixture and racial democracy as what Sara Ahmed calls ‘happy objects’, those objects towards which good feeling are directed, that provide a shared horizon of experience, and that shape an affective community with which all are assumed to be aligned. Not everyone attaches themselves to the same objects in the same way and for the same reasons – the affective community involves positive, hopeful attachments for some and an unhappy, alienating and unequally shared burden for others. These affective states demonstrate that histories of race and racism cannot be wished away through commonly asserted attachments to abstract ideals of shared belonging. At the same time, examining these affective states provides deeper understanding of the ways unequal attachments move people towards action or inaction in relation to race, racism and discrimination.

Read or purchase the article here.

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The ‘Failed’ Project of Blackness in Contemporary Afro-Puerto Rican Discourse

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2017-01-27 19:50Z by Steven

The ‘Failed’ Project of Blackness in Contemporary Afro-Puerto Rican Discourse

A Contra corriente: A Journal on Social History and Literature in Latin America
Volume 5, Number 3, Spring 2008
pages 243-251

Sonja Stephenson Watson, Director of the Women’s & Gender Studies Program; Associate Professor of Spanish
University of Texas, Arlington

Escritura afropuertorriqueña y modernidad (2007), by Eleuterio Santiago-Díaz, is an insightful critical work on contemporary afropuertorican discourse with an emphasis on the writings of Carmelo Rodríguez Torres. The work commences by situating Puerto Rico in the “Black Atlantic,” that is, the greater African Diaspora. Ironically, Santiago-Díaz begins and ends his study noting that his research on Afro-Puerto Rico and Rodríguez Torres is simultaneously an affirmation and a negation of black identity because it counters official discourses of racial homogeneity during the island’s nation-building period which posited blackness over whiteness. This racial oppression and suppression of blackness stems from early twentieth-century (1930s and 1940s) Puerto Rican national discourse which erased blackness from the national imaginary and contributed to the failed black project of modernity. Thus, Santiago-Díaz argues that afropuertorican discourse is a failed modern project stemming from Antonio de Nebrija’s seminal text Gramática castellana (1492) and the literary whitening that resulted from it. Instead of illustrating the complexity of Afro-Puerto Rican discourse, these contemporary texts illustrate the suppression of Afrocentricity that can be traced to the publication of Gramática. As the title suggests, Santiago-Díaz places the work in modernity and views it from a cultural studies perspective, stemming from the identity politics research of black British cultural critic Paul Gilroy (The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness 1993) and the late Afro-American intellectual W.E.B. Du Bois. Du Bois’ work on double consciousness (The Souls of Black Folk 1903), that is, the duality of being both black and (North) American, explicates the problematic of identity and the complexities of it in Puerto Rico, which is rooted in multiple representations of identity (white, mixed-race, mulatto, black, etc.) Finally, he uses performance studies to illustrate that blackness is a performance that is never realized due to a colonial discourse of whiteness…

Read the entire article here.

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“Double Bind / Double Consciousness” in the Poetry of Carmen Colón Pellot and Julia de Burgos

Posted in Caribbean/Latin America, Latino Studies, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2017-01-27 19:28Z by Steven

“Double Bind / Double Consciousness” in the Poetry of Carmen Colón Pellot and Julia de Burgos

Cincinnati Romance Review
Volume 30 (Winter 2011)
pages 69-82

Sonja Stephenson Watson, Director of the Women’s & Gender Studies Program; Associate Professor of Spanish
University of Texas, Arlington

Carmen Colón Pellot and Julia de Burgos constructed a female literary poetics and created a space for the mulata as a writing subject instead of a written object in early twentieth-century Puerto Rican negrista literature. Because of their gender and the societal norms and limitations placed upon blacks, they each found it difficult to reconcile their heritage as mulatas in a white male Hispanic society. They each testify to the “double bind” of black female authors who strive to identify themselves as both women and as blacks. In her seminal article “Feminism and Afro-Hispanism: The Double Bind,” Rosemary Feal notes that the double bind of scholars when reading texts written by Afra-Latin American writers “is to uphold the dignity of all Afro-Latin American characters…while engaging in legitimate feminist practice” (30). Feal also notes that in order to study the intersection of race and gender in works by black Latin American female writers’s texts, we must adhere to the racial, historical, and social specificities in each country. She further explains that, “‘[a]lterity’ in feminist Afro-Hispanic scholarship has as its imperative the formulation of alternate interpretive practices, and it is through analyzing the link of race and gender that we can gain more complete access to that world of difference” (30). The double bind inherent in Afra-Hispanic literature is not only that of scholars but also of the authors themselves who comprise the focus of this study. The double bind of Colón Pellot and de Burgos compels us to return to W.E.B. Du Bois’s seminal essay on double-consciousness, The Souls of Black Folk (1903), where he presented the problem of duality that plagued blacks at the turn of the twentieth century:

It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his twoness, an American, a negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder. (5)

Although Du Bois’s theory of double-consciousness does not include gender, it incorporates the problematic of race that African Diaspora figures continue to face in the twenty-first century. The double bind/double- consciousness of Colón Pellot and de Burgos is multiple and deals with their multiracial heritage as women of color. The present study examines the intersection of race and gender in both of their writings building upon the theoretical framework of double bind/double-consciousness as espoused by Feal and Du Bois. This analysis also builds on the work of Consuelo López Springfield and Claudette Williams who analyze the themes of gender and race separately in their studies on the single authors…

Read the entire article here.

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Degrees of Mixture, Degrees of Freedom: Genomics, Multiculturalism, and Race in Latin America

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Forthcoming Media, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Mexico, Monographs, Social Science on 2017-01-17 01:03Z by Steven

Degrees of Mixture, Degrees of Freedom: Genomics, Multiculturalism, and Race in Latin America

Duke University Press
2017-05-05
328 pages
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-6358-3
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8223-6373-6
12 illustrations

Peter Wade, Professor of Social Anthropology
University of Manchester

Race mixture, or mestizaje, has played a critical role in the history, culture, and politics of Latin America. In Degrees of Mixture, Degrees of Freedom, Peter Wade draws on a multidisciplinary research study in Mexico, Brazil, and Colombia. He shows how Latin American elites and outside observers have emphasized mixture’s democratizing potential, depicting it as a useful resource for addressing problems of racism (claiming that race mixture undoes racial difference and hierarchy), while Latin American scientists participate in this narrative with claims that genetic studies of mestizos can help isolate genetic contributors to diabetes and obesity and improve health for all. Wade argues that, in the process, genomics produces biologized versions of racialized difference within the nation and the region, but a comparative approach nuances the simple idea that highly racialized societies give rise to highly racialized genomics. Wade examines the tensions between mixture and purity, and between equality and hierarchy in liberal political orders, exploring how ideas and scientific data about genetic mixture are produced and circulate through complex networks.

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Interview with Scenters-Zapico

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Interviews, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Mexico, United States on 2017-01-16 20:53Z by Steven

Interview with Scenters-Zapico

As Us
Issue 2 (December 2015)

Casandra Lopez, Co-Founder, Editor-in-Chief

“As a poet, I’m interested in what art can be created from the anxieties of being from such a place. What can we create from these experiences? I’m a poet, not a rhetorician—it’s not my place to tell you as a reader how best to interpret the world. I want to write about the things that keep me longing and the things that keep me up at night.”

[Casandra Lopez]1. Having read some of your work in workshop I was delighted to read your full manuscript. Can you describe what your manuscript is about. I am particularly interested in hearing about the “twin” element that is prevalent in many of your poems and how place functions in your work.

[Natalie Scenters-Zapico] On a literal level this manuscript is about where I am from, the sister cities of El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juárez, México. It stems from a place of longing for where I am from, both what it is and what it used to be. They are poems about immigration, language, pollution, brutality against women and men, war, love, marriage, weddings, and the hybrid sense of these things that exists in these two cities. The metaphor of the cities being twins runs throughout the manuscript. El Paso and Cd. Juárez were one city, El Paso del Norte, that was then divided by the river into the U.S. and México leaving them forever in a state of longing for each other. In the manuscript, this longing manifests itself in a variety of ways and I became interested in how twins can feel a connection that is beyond that of regular siblings. I also liked that I could write about a relationship between a set of twins and only hint that they might be cities….

[CL]2. Can you talk a little about how you identify both as a poet and as an individual. How or in what ways to do think these identities influence your writing and topics you choose to explore in your work.

[NSZ] This is a very interesting question for me, mainly because I have such a hybrid identity and experience. My father is Anglo, from Wisconsin, and my mother is from Asturias, Spain. My mother came to the U.S. in her twenties after falling in love with my father. I grew up in a fully bi-lingual household, in a bi-lingual city, El Paso, Texas, and went to a high school at a time when over half of my graduating class was from Cd. Juárez and crossed the bridge every day for school. I also married a Mexican man, who was educated in México and the U.S. and is also bilingual. I grew up surrounded by hybridity and a variety of experience. I grew up where multiplicity was never seen as a positive or negative thing, only a fact of existence on the border. I think that all of these things affect how I identify as an individual and then what my concerns are as a poet…

Read the entire interview here.

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Meet the Afro-Mexicans connecting to their African roots through dance

Posted in Africa, Anthropology, Arts, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Mexico on 2017-01-16 00:11Z by Steven

Meet the Afro-Mexicans connecting to their African roots through dance

Ventures Africa
2017-01-05

Iroegbu Chinaemerem Oti

“Based on your culture, history, and traditions, do you consider yourself Black, meaning Afro-Mexican or Afro-descendant?” – MEXICO’S 2015 Intercensal Survey

The sound of Bata drums filled the air as girls, with printed scarfs tied around their waists and white or yellow dots painted on their faces, danced to the fervent rhythm, their feet and waists moving vigorously at the same time. As their left legs leave the floor, their right legs replace them, while their waists responding with a seesaw movement. This is an African dance performed by an Afro-Mexican group, the Obatala, for the purpose of connecting with their African roots. They live in the southern state of Oaxaca, Mexico and tour various regions of the state to create awareness with their energetic and beautiful dance.

“All the dances are from Africa’s northeastern region, we chose this area because after researching on the internet, we realised that that’s where the slaves that came from our town came from. Our dance troupe did the research and we learned those dances,” Anai Herrera, one of the lead dancers, said…

Read the entire article here.

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A Conversation With Natalie Scenters-Zapico

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Interviews, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Mexico, United States on 2017-01-13 20:52Z by Steven

A Conversation With Natalie Scenters-Zapico

The American Literary Review
2016-03-27

Sebastian Hasani Paramo, Poetry Contest Coordinator

Natalie Scenters-Zapico is from the sister cities of El Paso, Texas, U.S.A. and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, México. She is the author of The Verging Cities, which won the 2016 Great Lakes Colleges Association’s New Writers Award, the National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies Tejas FOCO Award, was featured as a top ten debut of 2015 by Poets and Writers, and named a Must-Read Debut by LitHub (Center For Literary Publishing, 2015). A CantoMundo fellow, her poems have appeared in American Poets, The Believer, Prairie Schooner, West Branch, Best American Poetry 2015, and more. She lives with her husband, border rhetorics scholar José Ángel Maldonado, in Salt Lake City.

Scenters-Zapico’s debut collection was recently named a top ten debut by Poets and Writers. Before that, her poetry was featured in American Poets, a publication by The Academy of American Poets, and was introduced by Dana Levin. That issue was my first introduction to her work and I eagerly anticipated her book. Many others have since applauded her aforementioned collection, The Verging Cities. Dana Levin writes that Scenters-Zapico “engages politically and personally charged material…with signature intimacy and fairy-tale strangeness.” In 2015, her book was featured on several top lists and included in Best American Poetry 2015. When I read her collection, I read it eagerly. Her poems in this collection are dark, visceral, haunting, and will echo for days in your mind. Here’s one of the most thought provoking lines in the collection:

I write of the boy I love gone missing, his father found with no teeth
In an abandoned car. Some say you have no right to talk about the dead.
So I talk of them as living, their bodies standing in the street’s bend.

Throughout, she builds and breaks down the boundaries of love, place, identity, and memory in ways that are unexpected, and uses them to great effect to write the political and engage us in the surreal violence of our time. I was fortunate to be able to interview her via email.

Sebastian Hasani Paramo: In reading The Verging Cities, I loved this idea of “verging” and the many forms it took. Your use of the Oxford English Dictionary as a guide for exploring this idea was very incredible. The relationship you created between the speaker and borders seemed to create much tension and conflict. Can you talk about this idea and how it culminates into the title poem?

Natalie Scenters-Zapico: When I started writing about El PasoCd. Juárez just about everyone had a reading list for me to take home. There are so many wonderful writers who have come before me who share the same love affair with the border. And yet, the more I read the more I felt that I had a very different relationship with the border than the ones I saw being described. So, I started talking about the border as verging—the beginning of one thing and the end of another in constant cycle. When I looked up the term “verge” in the OED I was fascinated by its long history and deeply masculine roots. So I set out to write poems that addressed the verging cities—being beaten by them, escaping them, returning to them. By the time we get to the title poem, “The Verging Cities,” I wanted the reader to get a sense that they are in fact one place, only to turn to that poem and hear two distinct voices, one from each city, in an abusive, violent, incestuous relationship. In it I turn to the history of border crossing into El Paso and the use of Zyklon-B, strip searches, etc. I wanted to point to how the use of these things continues. The past and the present are in constant cycle, there is no beginning or end…

SHP: What influences were important for you in writing about identity and what things do you say to young writers about feeling more comfortable writing about themselves? As a younger writer, I felt sometimes I didn’t always see myself in the writers I read, but when I started to–I saw many more possibilities for my writing.

NSZ: As a young writer I often made the mistake of looking for myself in the writing of others. As though, only if they mirrored my identity or experience in some way could I learn something from them. This is a huge, embarrassing mistake on my part. Because how could I, with my hybrid, messy, one could argue “pocha” identity see myself in a piece of literature as a complete mirror reflection? This is impossible. I understand that some people have this “mirror” experience in reading the work of others, but I don’t think I ever will. However, when I stopped looking for a reflection and instead looked for refracted moments, or places where I could feel deep empathy, or ways of dealing with and examining trauma that I could apply to myself that is when I felt I could truly learn.

I also have to give a huge shout out to people who are doing great work when it comes to hybrid identity in our field. I’ll never forget when I was nineteen I went to a reading at the University of Texas at El Paso by Rosa Alcalá in which she read from her amazing collection Undocumentaries. Here was this woman who looked like me, who was bilingual like me, who was willing to call herself Latina, and was questioning our traditional notions of that word. I left that reading nearly in tears, because it felt like she was talking to me, it felt like she was making me see the world in a way that both empowered me and made me question my pain. I don’t think I’ve ever thanked Rosa for that moment, but it changed me deeply.

I also love the work that Rosebud Ben-Oni is doing in advocating for people who don’t fit the mold perfectly, people who question the use of strategic essentialism, whose very existence won’t allow for it because it’s just so damn complicated. And of course, I personally am very interested in liminal spaces, and the art that can come from existing in that space. I wrote more about that in my introduction to the liminal spaces interview series I did for The Best American Poetry blog. I think it’s important to recognize that to be Latinx is to be hybrid. There is no such thing as purity in Latinidad, if you even buy into this very American idea of Latinidad…

Read the entire interview here.

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The Verging Cities, Poetry

Posted in Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Mexico, Poetry, United States on 2017-01-09 02:02Z by Steven

The Verging Cities, Poetry

Center For Literary Publishing
2015
80 pages
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-885635-43-3
6.5 x 8.5 inches

Natalie Scenters-Zapico

  • Poets and Writers Top Debut Poets 2015
  • Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award
  • NACCS-Tejas Foco Best Poetry Book of 2015

Ninth in the Mountain West Poetry Series, edited by Stephanie G’Schwind & Donald Revell

From undocumented men named Angel, to angels falling from the sky, Natalie Scenters-Zapico’s gripping debut collection, The Verging Cities, is filled with explorations of immigration and marriage, narco-violence and femicide, and angels in the domestic sphere. Deeply rooted along the US-México border in the sister cities of El Paso, Texas, and Cd. Juárez, Chihuahua, these poems give a brave new voice to the ways in which international politics affect the individual. Composed in a variety of forms, from sonnet and epithalamium to endnotes and field notes, each poem distills violent stories of narcos, undocumented immigrants, border patrol agents, and the people who fall in love with each other and their traumas.

The border in Scenters-Zapico’s The Verging Cities exists in a visceral place where the real is (sur)real. In these poems mouths speak suspended from ceilings, numbered metal poles mark the border and lovers’ spines, and cities scream to each other at night through fences that “ooze only silt.” This bold new vision of border life between what has been named the safest city in the United States and the murder capital of the world is in deep conversation with other border poets—Benjamin Alire Saenz, Gloria Anzaldúa, Alberto Ríos, and Luis Alberto Urrea—while establishing itself as a new and haunting interpretation of the border as a verge, the beginning of one thing and the end of another in constant cycle.

Read an excerpt here.

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