Blurred Borders: Transnationalism, Identity, and Cultural Formation

Friday, February 6, 2015
10:30am – 11:45am
Race Conference Room 201, Lavin-Bernick Center (LBC)
Moderated by: Dr. Yuri Herrera, Department of Spanish and Portuguese, Tulane University

Sagas of Resistance Versus Acts of Rebellion: Alfredo Véa Jr.’s The Silver Cloud Café as an Attempt Toward “the Beyond”
Cynthia Martinez, Indiana University

“Juxtaposing the real with the fantastical, the narrative world created in Alfredo Véa Jr.’s 1996 novel The Silver Cloud Café explores the contemporary constructs of difference through history, memory, crime, and spirituality. Set primarily in modern-day San Francisco, the novel traverses the borders of space and time through its diverse cast of Mexican, Filipino, Hindu, European and African-American characters. Véa’s semi-autobiographical characters serve as representations of varying categorizations of racial, ethnic, sexual, and physical difference. As each character navigates the complexities of difference both within and outside of the confines of national boundaries and reality itself, the novel seemingly privileges its narrative space of San Francisco’s “Rafael’s Silver Cloud Café” as a place to comfortably perform the difference condemned outside of its confines.
Considering the novel’s thematic treatment of difference, this project seeks to dialogue with current criticism on The Silver Cloud Café that privileges its narrative world as a resistant response to U.S. multiculturalism as an essentializing cultural policy, proposing that the novel offers heterogeneity and hybridity as alternatives. Providing an analysis of the origin and development of the notions of heterogeneity and hybridity, I propose that Véa’s novel, rather than provide a resistant alternative within the confines of the U.S. system of cultural policy, creates rebellious moments existing outside the novel’s mimetic hegemonic system, thereby actualizing and illuminating the very limits present within current negotiations of difference. To this end, through an analysis of the novel’s genre and language, which cannot be contained by easily definable and comprehensible constructs, I suggest that, rather than an idealized heterogeneity, the novel can be aligned more closely to Alberto Moreiras’s notion of savage hybridity, offering an alternative reading to a binarizing resistance.”

Poéticas de emergencia: Rafa Saavedra, nueva ciudadanía e identidad fronteriza
Jorge Ramirez, University of California San Diego

Rafa Saavedra (Tijuana, 1967-2013), creador de la frase “Tijuana Makes me Happy” es autor de una obra narrativa que abarca dos décadas en las cuales los discursos mueven su base de la posmodernidad y el multiculturalismo hasta la necropolítica y el horrorismo. Durante los últimos años del siglo pasado y hasta el día de su muerte Saavedra, a través de su narrativa, generó un ejemplo de identidad fronteriza y promovió un tipo de ciudadanía ejercida desde la periferia. La obra de Rafa Saavedra no ha sido aun muy estudiada por diversas razones de las que destaco el que sus libros fueron publicados en editoriales independientes de poca distribución y el que su obra sea marginal en relación al centro cultural mexicano: la ciudad de México. De igual forma el concepto de ciudadanía fronteriza del norte de México ha representado históricamente un ejercicio complejo que pretendo abordar en mi ponencia. Buten Smiley (1997), Lejos del Noise (2003) y Dios me persigue (2013) son tres de los libros de relatos con los que intentaré trazar un desarrollo de identidad y ciudadanía fronteriza paralelo al intento del Estado mexicano de tomar el control cultural de esta ciudad fronteriza. Poéticas de emergencia son esas herramientas que le permiten a un autor determinado producir desde un espacio y tiempo de conflicto. En el caso de Rafa Saavedra estas poéticas versan desde los nuevos medios hasta la interdisciplinariedad, herramientas determinantes en su creación del imaginario fronterizo. La narrativa de Rafa Saavedra ejemplifica cómo se puede vivir el espacio público tijuanense con las ventajas y desventajas de abordar como escenario esta ciudad de flujos migratorios, y proyectada bajo un sistema neoliberal hacia una elusiva idea de modernidad.

Cinematic Construction of Touristic Voyeurism in Elia Sulieman’s “Diary of a Beginner”
Krista Weirich, Indiana University

Contemporary Havana is often conceptualized as a city in transition, caught in between socialism and the free market, ruins and renovation, splendor and decadence, stasis and change, age and vitality. The foreign eye seems to be perpetually fixed on this urban space, fascinated by the splendor of its ruined architecture, perplexed by the contrasting resilience and resourcefulness of its citizens, and speculative about its future. During the economic crisis of the 1990s, the government instated loosening measures to stimulate the stagnant economy. One of these, the creation of a ministry of tourism in 1994, significantly influenced Cuban cultural production by introducing a pronounced awareness of and interaction with foreign markets and the transnational construction of Cuban identity in this transitional period. The voyeuristic curiosities of foreigners who visited the island inspired widely circulated travelogues, photography books and documentaries that disseminated images of Cuba. Simultaneously, Cuban writers, filmmakers and artists found themselves entering a global market for literature that could reflect the daily Cuban “reality” that seemed so removed from that of the rest of the world. The presence of the tourist and the economic and aesthetic implications of the arrival of the tourist industry to special period Cuba have important implications for Cuban cultural production. In this paper, I analyze Elia Suleiman’s short film Diary of a Beginner, part of the collaborative transnational production 7 días en La Habana, as a transnational response that confronts problematic foreign-produced representations of Cuban identity. By studying the figures of the tourist and foreign photographer in in this short film, I explore how national identity is reconfigured vis-à-vis the foreign gaze and how the urban space of Havana is reimagined against the aesthetic of ruins that characterized much of the foreign cultural production in the 1990s and early 2000s.