Date of Award

5-2014

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

College/School

College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Department/Program

English

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Melinda Knight

Committee Member

Emily Cheng

Committee Member

Laura Jones

Subject(s)

Deborah Parédez--Selenidad, Roberto Bolaño (1953-2003)--2666, Women--Crimes against--Mexico--Ciudad Juárez, Ciudad Juárez (Mexico)--In literature

Abstract

Published posthumously in 2004, Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 portrays a vast range of perspectives and locations. Divided into five distinct parts, the book traces the interconnected specters of violence across the wild sprawl of the 20th century and its futures. The largest part of the novel, “The Part About the Crimes,” represents a fictionalized account of the feminicide in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, in which hundred of women were killed over the span of years without substantive explanation or legal conclusion. The women, both in reality and in 2666, are often workers at maquiladoras, giant industrial factories whose existence is predicated on a web of economic factors related to the global order of millennial late capitalism. Bolaño describes the bodies of these women as they are found, often mutilated and abandoned in the maquiladora’s dumps (furthering the assertion that the women are the physical bi—products of multinational corporations), objectively describing the possessions found on the victim. These descriptions pile into the hundreds in Bolaño’s book, defying narrative linearity, creating a sense of chaos. Just as the circumstances of the victims’ life and death are varied, so too are the possible perpetrators. The descriptions Bolaño provides are not clues that lead us towards a single point: the reader instead begins to understand that the perpetrators of these ideas are larger than a single person or entity—it is a broader ideology that in essence allows these patterns of violence to keep repeating. This thesis is an examination of this ideology as Bolaño delineates it in his novel (that includes social, economic, and cultural factors), not only in the section about the feminicide, but also in the text as a much larger whole. My hypothesis is therefore that the feminicide in Ciudad Juárez is enabled by cultural attitudes that are propagated and sustained by exploitative economics enabled by globalization.

Necessary to this conversation too is an examination of how the media and popular culture reify and disseminate narratives about these systems of objectification and violence. As the scope of 2666 makes clear, the crimes in Ciudad Juárez are not an isolated phenomenon of the ways ideology and its relationship to economics and gender manifest themselves. I explore this issue specifically by looking at the 1995 murder of the pop star Selena and the troubling symbiosis between her subsequent cultural deification and the emergence of Latinas as a corporate demographic in America. Both the text and her death assert clear cultural narratives about the gendered violence in a specifically Latina context. The cultural remembrance of the singer after her death, characterized by Deborah Paredez as “Selenidad” (in her book of the same name), serves as a problematic intersection of the articulation of this ideology in a specific Latina context. Selena’s visibility and cultural significance simultaneously serve as empowering representations and as problematic reifications of narratives of violence and death in conjunction with Latina bodies, giving us a clearer picture of the ways this ideology operates in evening seemingly inane contexts.

Though the section about the deaths in Ciudad Juárez (the section is aptly titled “The Part About the Crimes”) is the largest section of 2666, the novel also touches on a circle of academics obsessed with a mysterious German writer, Mexican journalists and politicians, as well as World War II and the Holocaust. Each one of five sections is a different part of the same conversation about how globalized systems of power participate in the cycle of gendered exploitation the maquiladoras represent. This speaks urgently to the “so—what” of examining his text: what real—world implications can we learn by studying the ways these economies and modes of cultural production function? This is the true question at the heart of 2666. Its later discussion of the Holocaust too creates echoes we hear in Ciudad Juárez: how do dominant systems of cultural and economic power perpetrate death on such a horrific scale?

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