Latinidad in the Age of Trump: On Ricardo Ortiz’s “Latinx Literature Now”

lantinxliteraturenow

[Many thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.] Renee Hudson (for the Los Angeles Review of Books) reviews Latinx Literature Now: Between Evanescence and Event (Palgrave, 2019) by Ricardo L. Ortiz. Here are excerpts:

[. . .] Drawing upon the work of José Esteban Muñoz, Ortiz argues for an analogous relationship between latinidad and queerness to think about how latinidad emerges “as desire, as wish, and as project: that is, as a not-yet-realized occasion for the production of resources for survival and cultivation.” In creating such a parallel between latinidad and queerness, Ortiz highlights the utopian possibilities for latinidad. With this framing, Ortiz moves beyond the “prison house” of the present, as Muñoz describes it, to imagine the future perfect of latinidad. He projects a future site of knowing — a future perfect when Latinx Studies, and Latinxs themselves, will know what Latinx literature and latinidad was. In pointing to the “still-just happening, or not-yet happening, or about-to happen,” Ortiz suggests the unique position of Latinx Studies within Ethnic Studies as the former operates within the realm of the speculative, the site of future possibilities.

Such moves characterize his book, which frequently turns to the conditional to imagine what Latinx scholarship could look like. For example, at the end of his third chapter, on Julia Alvarez’s In the Time of the Butterflies and In the Name of Salomé, he writes, “A more extensive version of this discussion might have turned next to Alvarez’s parallel narration of Salomé’s daughter Camila’s life story,” and, “Such extended work could also revisit the question of the archive.” These and other uses of the conditional demonstrate how Ortiz resists a singular narrative of latinidad. Instead, he offers multiple conceptualizations that open up Latinx literature and literary study and, more importantly, cue us in to a latinidad that we can use. Our current political moment may be characterized by fear and disbelief as Latinx futures appear to be foreclosed and negated, but Ortiz presents a theory of latinidad that offers hope by opening up new horizons of study.

Indeed, Latinx Literature Now posits imaginative sites of inquiry for theorizing latinidad that are far from mainstream practices, such as joining together Area and Ethnic Studies by incorporating Latin Americanist critics like John Beverley to theorize Latinx literature. Ortiz also argues for the inclusion of Edwidge Danticat as a Latinx author. The latter is an especially useful intervention as it highlights the shared histories of colonization between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Further, his project foregrounds blackness in latinidad, rather than reinforcing its complicity in white supremacy and the continued prevalence of the idea of mejorar la raza — to better the race by marrying lighter-skinned people. Incorporating Haiti and the Caribbean beyond the Spanish Caribbean operates against such racial logics and instead highlights shared histories of colonization, occupation, and resistance. Latinx Literature Now is thus uniquely suited for thinking latinidad in the age of Trump. Where Trump homogenizes Latinxs, Ortiz expands definitions.

[. . .] Latinx Literature Now is a particularly timely piece of literary criticism, not only because of our current political moment, but because of the increasing institutionalization of Latinx Studies. Colleges and universities are dedicating resources to departments, programs, and centers and continue to hire tenure-line faculty within the field, but as Lorgia García Peña’s recent tenure denial at Harvard demonstrates, Latinx Studies as a valued and viable area of study is still far from secure. In fact, what García Peña’s tenure denial and others like hers illuminates is that even during the Trump presidency, when Latinxs are being caged and killed, institutions of higher education still do not see the value of Latinx lives, much less literature and culture. In this way, one of Ortiz’s major accomplishments in Latinx Literature Now is to demonstrate how Latinx literature is a literature of survival, despite active and ongoing state violence in places as varied as Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and, well, the United States. [. . .]

For full review, see https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/latinidad-in-the-age-of-trump-on-ricardo-ortizs-latinx-literature-now

For book information, see https://www.palgrave.com/us/book/9783030047078

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