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Trace Fleeman y Garcia presents his work at the 50th Anniversary Convention of the Northeast Modern Language Association

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Convention Theme: Transnational Spaces: Intersections of Cultures, Languages, and Peoples

Washington, D.C.

March 21-24, 2019

11.7 Memory, Time, and the Aftermath: Visualizing Histories That Hurt in the Americas (Roundtable)

Chair:  Campbell Birch, Columbia University
Chair:  Daniella Wurst, Columbia University

Cultural Studies and Media Studies & Interdisciplinary Humanities

“Time, Photography, and the Interstitial Moment in Franz Krajnik’s Uchuraccay”
Daniella Wurst, Columbia University 

“Scar Tissue:  Indigeneous Identity, Colonialism, and Undecidability in Chicanx Visual Art”
Trace Fleeman y Garcia, Oregon Institute for Creative Research

“Layering Traumas:  Jewish Narratives of Holocaust and Dictatorship in the Southern Cone”
Charlotte Gartenberg, Graduate Center, CUNY

“Winesburg, Ohio (1919) and Sad Small Communities in American Films a Century Later”
Michael West, University of Pittsburgh

“Regarding the Pain of the Past:  Red Records, Racial Terror, Memory Museums”
Campbell Birch, Columbia University

“Scar Tissue:  Indigeneous Identity, Colonialism, and Undecidability in Chicanx Visual Art”
Trace Fleeman y Garcia, Oregon Institute for Creative Research

Abstract:  In 1962, Richard Chavez, brother of the better-known Chicano labor activist Cesar Chavez, designed the now famous logo of the National Farm Workers Association: an upturned Aztec pyramid in black, transformed into an eagle, the traditional symbol for Mexico since pre-Columbian times.  This was neither the first nor the last reference to a pre-colonial history during the Mexican-American Civil Rights Movement: From murals and flags to tattoos and decorative car hoods, a pervasive folk memory of a noble indigenous past persists as well as the ever-present scar tissue of 1492.  Intentional or not, the use of indigenous imagery in la causa elicits a clear narrative, that of a native people who, colonized by a foreign, outside power, now wield their own heritage as a weapon in la lucha, the fight—a view at odds with that of Anglo-Americans, which relegates the Chicanx to the outside margins of society as immigrants, an external threat to white hegemony.  From this perspective, the position of the Chicanx is undecidable and Chicanismx uniquely revolutionary at multiple levels.  The colonial structure is unable to classify Chicanxs according to its constituent oppositions, the wide variety of races in cohesive Latin-American communities completely disrupting racial biopolitics, while Folk Catholicism, with its traces of indigenous syncretism, complicates Christian-pagan schemas, and the presence of Spanish and Nahuatl names in ex-Mexican states betrays the archetype of the Mexican immigrant. Through a semiotic analysis of Chicanx visual culture, novel and self-consistent systems of thought can be uncovered, with their ultimate origin rooted in the folk memory of ancient civilizations and their downfall occurring at the hands of Western Europeans. Only apparently absent, these older structures continue to underpin, and determine, Latinx identity.  Pre-Columbian institutions survive, their material forms having been re-configured into new, and sometimes unpredictable, abstract and visual manifestations.