Offering a new interpretation of cultural nationalism in Chicana/o identity, this provocative work examines the relationship between globalization and the rise of feminism and gay/lesbian activism.
Series: Chicana Matters Series, Deena J. González and Antonia Castañeda, editors
In recent decades, Chicana/o literary and cultural productions have dramatically shifted from a nationalist movement that emphasized unity to one that openly celebrates diverse experiences. Charting this transformation, Postnationalism in Chicana/o Literature and Culture looks to the late 1970s, during a resurgence of global culture, as a crucial turning point whose reverberations in twenty-first-century late capitalism have been profound.
Arguing for a postnationalism that documents the radical politics and aesthetic processes of the past while embracing contemporary cultural and sociopolitical expressions among Chicana/o peoples, Hernández links the multiple forces at play in these interactions. Reconfiguring text-based analysis, she looks at the comparative development of movements within women's rights and LGBTQI activist circles. Incorporating economic influences, this unique trajectory leads to a new conception of border studies as well, rethinking the effects of a restructured masculinity as a symbol of national cultural transformation. Ultimately positing that globalization has enhanced the emergence of new Chicana/o identities, Hernández cultivates important new understandings of borderlands identities and postnationalism itself.
- Chapter 1. Postnationalism: Encountering the Global
- Chapter 2. Idealized Pasts: Discourses on Chicana Postnationalism
- Chapter 3. Cultural Borderlands: The Limits of National Citizenship
- Chapter 4. Chicana/o Fashion Codes: The Political Significance of Style
- Chapter 5. Performativity in the Chicana/o Autobiography
- Chapter 6. Denationalizing Chicana/o Queer Representations
In this book I consider postnationalism as a precursor to Chicana/o transnational culture, though some prefer the term "borderlands" or even "Latina/o globalization" to discuss the myriad dislocations of U.S. Mexican-American culture developing over the past thirty years. Throughout the book, I enumerate the processes by which Chicanas/os gain entry into transnational cultural formations. No single social, political, or disciplinary process provides a thorough answer to all facets of transnational identity. While traditional elements of nationhood or of belonging, in the case of national minorities, still exist in ethnic, race, and class structures, I conclude that gender and sexuality offer more varied responses to the idea of the dissolution of the nation than any other identity process. I thus argue that gender and sexuality are categories that arose in response to exclusion from the nation. It is from this location that gender and sexuality may help us better understand how people construct desires, produce their own social critiques, and formulate useful interpretations of the changing world.
The issues I raise in this book develop from an interdisciplinary frame of analysis; I look at the transformation of a nationalist-based identity in studying Chicanas/os living in the United States. Interdisciplinary models, rather than identity-based methods or perspectives, will be necessary in the twenty-first century to comprehend global culture's complexity and its many faces. The trajectory I track is specifically the social categories of gender and sexuality as central to the emergence of Chicana/o transnational culture. Although such other areas of interest as immigration, drug trafficking, and commerce suggest immediately a predominantly economic notion of the transnational, they do not account for more provocative social and political formations. In transnational fields of study, gender and sexuality alone do not create a basis for Chicanas/os' emergence into transnational global culture; however, the categories are critical for understanding how mechanisms of desire are figured into the nation. The gendered and sexualized body offers striking demarcations within capitalism that continually inform and transform the Chicana/o and Mexicana/o as a semiotic system of signs, enabling distinct historical and popular expression as well as eroding nationalism as the sole basis for Chicanas/os' emergence. Three terms as I use them here reflect national cultural differences: Chicanas/os are U.S.-born residents of Mexican descent and displaced immigrants; Mexicanas/os are Mexican-born people who identify with Mexico as their homeland; and Latinas/os are those who immigrated from other Latin American countries and some parts of the Caribbean and have a different relationship to the United States than the other two groups have. "Chicana/o" also more specifically refers to the political, social, and cultural movement begun in the 1960s that intersected historically with the U.S. civil rights movement.
The transnational frame of analysis is useful because it encompasses not just a border zone but also an unmapped terrain and space for a new frontier that extends beyond the traditional geographies, whether geopolitical, cultural, social, or even physical. My use of several fields of study as well as the embedded social symbolic process serves my interdisciplinary goals for the book by adding dimensions otherwise not often considered. It is not enough to focus on close readings of literature or texts, for example, when their social context is missing. I use interpretative strategies throughout to illustrate the growing need in the academy to draw from different experiences and approaches in order to provide a reliable reading of the complex systems that we have entered as a result of transnational global culture.
For Chicanas/os, and especially within feminist discourse, this time is critical for developing the field of transnationalism. Moving beyond the cultural nationalist period has not been easy, and despite the many civil rights glories associated with the 1960s and 1970s, the fact that a new cultural logic has slowly made its way into our daily lives makes some matters (urbanization, immigration, and education) ever more pressing. Even as a critique of cultural nationalism began to emerge following its heyday in the 1960s, the limitations of cultural nationalism as a public social discourse encountered resistance from women and men alike. At the same time, the cultural and aesthetic expression built into the Chicana/o movement gave Chicanas/os the only source of expression at a time when speaking out and publishing material seemed impossible except in small presses or on older mimeograph equipment. Distribution was restricted to local populations; newsletters appeared and disappeared because mainstream media were largely inattentive.
In the many works I examine throughout this book, I engage the persistence of social discontent with nationalism as it surrounded a discomfort with Chicana/o cultural nationalism, even though it allowed a vital criticism to take shape. Briefly, Chicana/o cultural nationalism of the type I explore herein had a political arm—grassroots organizations like the Brown Berets and Chicana/o committees—and a cultural arm in artists' collectives like ASCO. In highlighting and even celebrating achievements of intellectual formation within the Chicana/o movement, it is equally important to note that Chicana/o cultural nationalism began to change in the early 1980s. The benefits of these changes have far outweighed the losses, and Chicana/o discourse gained from its engagement with a discussion about gender and sexuality because this engagement stimulated a larger and more heterogeneous arrangement of class, identity, and nation.
My own encounter with transnationalism derives from my experience in a women's studies department where I have been able to traverse the boundaries of the nation more freely than in any other academic discipline. Women's studies departments have changed significantly as well. In this frame of analysis, my focal point developed from the experience of working in the field of gender and sexuality. It has been much easier to incorporate an intersectional and interdisciplinary trajectory in teaching and researching under a women's studies model, mostly because the expectation to center gender or sexuality is already fraught with complications. But in addition to the rigors of academic life, the experience of the global and transnational condition derives from another experience of dislocation. Commuting a hundred miles each way from Los Angeles to my home institution, UC Santa Barbara, has given me firsthand experience with travel, dislocation, and the transnational condition, albeit on a much smaller scale, with home and work divided by a commute.
Within temporary spaces of dislocation, logistically speaking, I and others who share the highways or airports increasingly come to terms with economic and social displacement. Historians have commented in recent works that the example of Los Angeles International Airport alone makes this statement daily: thousands of tourists, thousands of immigrants, and thousands of others seeking to move to Los Angeles produce an image of a city where half the residents speak a language other than English in their homes and where more than two hundred distinctive languages are spoken.
These moments of dislocation led me to think about the postnational. The term "postnational" seems to capture something contemporary, moving beyond the modernism of the late twentieth century. Debates at Berkeley in the late 1990s about transnationalism lent the term diverse meanings. One arm—the drive to formulate a transnational feminism—became a leading new area of study; several attempts then to categorize Chicana/o representation by other feminists fell short because the area of transnationalism reflected more the specific interests of Third World feminism and not necessarily issues of greater concern to U.S. women of color. I was not convinced that we needed to import the issues and problems into U.S. feminism. A desire to abandon the condition of U.S. women of color who had endured hardships across the different spaces of ghettos and barrios had been suspended, too, while the focus often fell instead on women in revolutionary Latin America or in liberation struggles for indigenous rights across the hemispheres.
Was there a space, an experience that U.S. women of color could attest to in thinking about transnationalism? It appeared impossible, so like many of my fellow graduate students and junior faculty, I came to an understanding that U.S. minorities might have a different experience that required different terminology. "Postnational" characterized an effect of time similar to that in "postcolonial" and even in "postmodern," conceptually speaking, and it became a succinct way to categorize the dislocation of Chicanas/os caught or suspended between the national order and an emerging transnationalism. Because "postnationalism" sounded more like a transitory phase between the old version of nationalism with which I was familiar (1960s standard Chicano-movement rhetoric), the postcolonial and transnational areas of study seemed newer and more exciting. My definition of postnationalism thus took into account a heterogeneous arrangement of a nationally based feminism with creative and intellectual links to queer studies and sexuality.
Postnationalism characterizes many of the elements that abound within the systems and networks called "transnational global culture." Transnational feminism was only a starting point for many other matters that pertained to a global framing of U.S. people of color. The naming of a new movement or, rather, the absence of such a name led me to think about identity formations arising from this period just as Chicanas/os began their entry into transnational culture. This new time is not without its own critical crisis. I worried that a search for a new paradigm would make it seem like we were completely abandoning the historical basis for the Chicana/o movement and U.S. minority criticism when in fact the history of U.S. civil rights opened so many opportunities for us all. Historically, the U.S. civil rights movements of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries offered a public discourse on equality that was necessary to locate the material dislocation U.S. minorities had experienced under segregation, on reservations, and in barrios. Such a legacy inspired other participants in the movement to claim a sense of themselves through self-styled identity practices that became part of the revamped social movements.
Throughout the writing of this book, I naturally questioned what would become of the Chicana/o struggle in a transnational stage of capital development but, most importantly, what would become of U.S. civil rights as a model of social organization for U.S. minorities in an age of globalization. What then is the relationship of U.S. civil rights to transnational culture? Are these not the same civil rights we want to compel emerging nations to espouse and follow while seemingly suspending our own rights and claims to self-representation under the rules of global culture? The importance of such civil rights histories and influence on humanism and the social fabric led me to conclude that Chicanas/os have a stake in establishing a place in transnational cultures without necessarily compromising the rights, ethics, and social power that U.S. minorities have gained in recent decades.
Cultural critic Norma Alarcón sees contradictions and critical binds inherent in the cultural experience of being Chicana/o in an age of global and transnational cultures; these contradictions surface as "real life" problems and dilemmas. Emerging from advances in civil rights, how does one account for the irony and queerness apparent in a TV show like Ugly Betty about a young Hispanic woman working in the world of fashion or in the packaging of celebrity "J Lo," Jennifer Lopez, as examples of a global commodification of latinidad? These issues seem relevant to the mixed signs and structures upon which we have relied as the nation alters its symbols and popular images, or what we might term "the symbolic."
If national discourses provide us with an endless assortment of contradictions, as Norma Alarcón, Homi K. Bhabha, and others have articulated so well over the past several decades, then do the contradictions also mean that U.S. minorities must contend with increasingly complex issues that cannot be defined or even recognized in a national or transnational discourse? Where are we, since nationalist projects no longer address the issues of identity or no longer seem relevant in academic and cultural situations—not because there is nothing more to say but because the way in which we talk about, write about, perceive, represent, and express ourselves within our own nation, culturally speaking, has dramatically changed? These are the questions that interest me most because they offer a lens of cultural matters at large, of where to locate that "we" and an "us."
Altered by movements to be closer in our relationships with peers in other nations and by what we call transnational culture and globalization, we find ourselves in a bit of a critical quandary: Chicanas/os, like other U.S. minorities, still seem rooted in a history, legacy, memory, and dialectics of the civil rights era that cannot easily be forgotten, even as a popular television show, for example, might appear to distort minority mappings. In this study's central concern with one U.S. minority's position within transnational networks, I consider areas in which Chicana/o transnational culture became something that has yet to be fully recognized. In Postnationalism I suggest that an in-between state exists and links advanced capitalism with U.S. ethnic formations in a way I find intriguing to follow.
One critical thread throughout this study is the reformation of historical, spatial, and thematic reflections of culture. For example, national civil rights have been subsumed into a global movement toward human rights; an emphasis on border culture replaces a nationalistic center or core; and the rational, resident subject is substituted by the displaced or dislocated citizen. Ethnic minority, gender, and sexual identity frameworks have been developed most proficiently in strong correlation between developmental frameworks. I examine the constituting forces at work in mitigating the cultural domains I examine here not across ethnic or gender or sexual lines but rather as a conversation among them all.
Postnationalism thus extends beyond the experience of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands and includes issues pertinent to a nation-state in apparent decline. Many of the issues I discuss here also may apply to comparative studies of ethnic, gender, and sexual minorities. I contend that gender and sexual subjectivities facilitated the emergence of a Chicana/o transnational culture as sites of identity production and as a discourse on difference, enabled but not supported by the advance of global capitalism, because of the internal mechanisms that prompted change.
Like the geographical concept of borderlands, postnationalism is a new theorization in interdisciplinary studies. Because nationalism has been replaced by far more complex world economic systems, it may seem increasingly irrelevant to many citizens. The centeredness of U.S. critical perspectives may no longer work for minorities within the United States. Or it might even be the case that identity processes beyond those with which we are familiar—race, class, gender, sexuality—are simply fabrications of our political imaginary to remain at the center of race and ethnicity globally. Other questions persist and loom: How are these processes coterminous with capitalism? Or are such facets as displacement and hybridity aligned with new democratic ideals that have the possibility of reaching far beyond our limited form of state and national governance?
We find U.S. society and communities at a peculiar juncture where macroeconomic decisions meet daily life: gasoline prices, war, terrorism, and natural catastrophe are examples. A human element has been lost because of the way people are organized in global and transnational exchange, and as people's sense of location becomes less tangible, so does the value of their lives. From undocumented workers to immigrants, including children, from migrants to sexual minorities and women, the usurpation of humanness and humanities within global exchange can be unsettling. What remains as a result is a scattered organization of ethnic minorities, feminists, the diasporic, immigrants, and a loose cluster of postcolonial peoples who in turn now represent the heirs of the current U.S. national racial discourse and the future of the global sector, economic and humanitarian. Interestingly, the same groups have different stakes in creating political alliances and social movements or in protesting the role of the United States as guardian of the world economy. One critique I present in this work is to challenge Chicana/o intellectuals to reconsider conventional assumptions concerning racial and ethnic formations without erasing our shared recent history. I ask that we imagine ourselves beyond the nation, beyond geographic locations, and beyond identity. We, too, are part of the global movement of capital exchange, except that even as the fastest-growing demographic group in the U.S. population, we still are cast at the lowest range of the economy and not among the nation's strongest intellectuals, poets, and writers. We are also that.
In setting forth the basis for a discourse on the historiography of culture, U.S. Chicana/o cultural nationalism refers, thus, to a loose-fitted attempt to gain entry into national social politics and the process of eventually moving beyond them. Viewed as a necessary recourse to exclusion from Anglo-American domination and nationalist discourse, cultural nationalism in today's lens fits more appropriately into the scheme of a countercultural movement than does a recalcitrant, postcolonial, socialist movement. In my theorization, however, it is not just the fact that Chicanas/os set out to redefine the national expatriation of the Mexican-American population due to broken land treaties and to the marginalization of citizens of Mexican descent. The emergence of Chicanas/os in rhetorical and political construction, in the Chicana/o social protest movement, and as documented in plans such as El plan espiritual de Aztlán and El plan de Santa Barbara of 1969, for example, formalized a belief in direct action that prompted a performative discourse on citizenship. Each would ultimately reinscribe Mexican-Americans into American culture.
What motivated me to pursue this interpretation of the Chicana/o experience is that inclusion into mainstream American culture has not been completed, equality has not been achieved fully, and the aesthetic processes that were created and unleashed some thirty years ago do not provide a suitable cultural "logic" for the twenty-first century. This new logic implies that the postnational frame is necessary to establish a foundation in literature, poetry, and history, and such cultural logic ultimately situates a critique of global economics from an interdisciplinary perspective.
A thoughtfully imagined cultural form of representation in the spatial imaginary, Aztlán (the mythical homeland of the ancient people in what is now Mexico), brought forth a culturally nationalist method for inscribing Mexico in North America. Along with it, the closed system of nationalism coupled with the mood of the 1960s could not continue as the contradictions of social change and cultural traditions mixed. Chicana/o literary and cultural production altered its trajectory from a cultural nationalist movement to one that openly celebrated difference; this is perhaps one of the greatest achievements in Chicana/o discourse since its inception. The creative nationhood building implied in the social symbol of Aztlán offered a response to the racism inherent in segregation. The intended goal of cultural nationalism was expressed as emancipation from an oppressive state power that created an uneven and disenfranchised culture based upon separatism. The problem, however, lies in the public and celebratory aspects of cultural nationalism, because the exuberance of national unity takes place at the level of the symbolic and is understood at the level of culture as national pride, patria, and patrimony—that is, as masculinities.
By virtue of these masculine-inscribed meanings determined by patria and nationalism, global and transnational culture appears to offer alternatives to the formed masculinity apparent in twentieth-century thinking. Its presence can be noted in organized protest movements around the world. During the massive protests that took place across the United States in spring 2006 for immigrant rights, social justice resounded as a demand for greater inclusion and protection under the national credo of equality and representation. A comprehensive examination of U.S. policy on immigration along with the shift to a global culture reveals a diminishing significance of U.S. citizens simultaneous with enhanced trade and commercialization, all without registering the toll on human life. So in writing this book I have considered the imposition of a new form of capitalism on Mexico as analogous to a steroid injection that suddenly, artificially boosts the user's illusion of strength while effectively damaging his or her body. Young women die at the El Paso-Juárez border moving northward pursuing the promise of better wages in the many manufacturing plants transplanted from the U.S. side to the Mexican side. The ill effects of transnational global capital, noted in the violent deaths of these women, call for a reassessment of the way economic development and gender play significant roles in determining border life. Missing from this equation is a humanities-based critique of the social structure.
While in this book I am not concerned with globalism of the type defined elsewhere as neoliberalism or as the advancement of capitalism around the world, the study turns to the cultural dynamics within Chicana/o production itself to make explicit how globalization will eventually intrude upon a people's sense of self. The nation-space continues to be a site for immense social and political change, even though such primary cultural practices within the nation-space run the risk of seeming reactionary, nostalgic, and essentialist in nature. Numerous inconsistencies abound in any drive to promote advanced capitalism around the world, and it is very important at this juncture to respond creatively based on what national minorities, in this case Chicanas/os, have formulated.
Postnationalism—although in process and not yet achieved—presents a new direction of intellectual, social, and economic factors in the production of Chicana/o expression. The move away from nationalism does not necessarily lead to a global, postmodern, or postcolonial perspective as it has been organized in the academy, as works I examine here will attest. Rather, the move toward postnationalism appears as a discontinuous or fragmented part of an earlier cultural nationalism, in both political and aesthetic offerings. Cherríe Moraga's and Gloria Anzaldúa's example as authors and cultural critics resulted in distinctive contributions after the publication in 1981 of the pathbreaking anthology they edited, This Bridge Called My Back. Now, nearly three decades later, cultural nationalism as an organizing theme for community and cultural works no longer sustains the same effect of unifying Chicanas/os. The response to Moraga and Anzaldúa's noted anthology is one example of many that suggest how coalitional forces that brought many Chicana/o thinkers together dissipated and dispersed into actual, published responses to culture after nationalism.
The postnational may bear some similarities to critiques of globalism, but the gaps and ruptures that globalism produces do not necessarily qualify Chicanas/os' participation in a global discourse as freely as one may suppose. In the 1970s Chicanas/os reflected on issues that were personal and individualistic by becoming more introspective in their writings, with a more sardonic approach that was psychological and existential in style and representation. Added to this, the influences of feminism had prompted more interest in a radical sexual politics in which American women in general, as well as women of color, looked at sexuality as a way of liberating women's personal lives. Meanwhile, AIDS nationalized the plight of gay men as they struggled to be recognized by the medical establishment, and the government and media refused to look at the crisis; after all, some forms of sexual liberation could be dangerous.
The terms of struggle obviously changed, and for Chicanas/os so did the commitment to ethnic and racial concerns. Some were well established in scholarship, but when the problem of homophobia and sexism arose at conferences, the silence over sexual rights became all too revealing and unsettling. The terms "emancipation" and "liberation," considered the indispensable rhetorical claim of America's progressive discourse in the 1960s and 1970s, now connoted a critical impasse; the divide serves as a basis for examination in this study: how did these so-called liberatory movements morph into sad commentaries of collective angst?
The dissimulations of a national identity and their bodies appear to unfold once the discussion of nationalism shifts to a postnational context. A nationalistic approach has been supplanted by feminist, performative, borderlands, and queer approaches. My argument hinges on one fundamental point: Chicana/o literary and cultural interpretations have focused intensely on embodying Chicana/o political and class subjectivity to the exclusion of all other terms, including color, sex, gender, and sexuality. This focus therefore became a problematic and critical choice in later years. Because the terms of capital production have shifted significantly enough so as to impact the cultural material space in ways that could not be effectively interpreted in the traditional Marxist empirical model upon which those early studies of Chicano nationalism relied, I argue that the locations and politics of Chicana/o representations and aesthetics have moved dramatically across the map and thus warrant a different way of reading and interpreting Chicana/o cultural production.
Today the vast scope of Chicana/o cultural production merits closer, if intersectional, examination. For one thing, and curiously the most problematic, the use of cultural nationalism as a model of resistance for many Third World nations continues to revert to a fundamentalist view of "the original" national character. Nationhood has been radically transformed by global economic forces. This dramatic reshaping of the world has been in motion for some time. The effort to globalize national economies and cultures has been a goal in the extensive propagation of late capital. In this book I am therefore also deeply concerned about the effect on cultural representation, which has taken on added significance in the face of a global economic and communications evolution through the Internet, cellular phones, and digital technology. Latina/o populations especially experience a type of assimilation process into the global scheme that will eventually reshape identities and their social spaces, and not for the better. Today the metropolitan areas of Los Angeles, Miami, Houston, Chicago, New York, and San Francisco are experiencing a migration flux of significant proportions. This strand of movement and change shapes the analysis in the ensuing chapters.
While the subject of this work is not the process of immigration, I reference global and transnational culture to elucidate Chicana/o cultural production over the past twenty-five years. Much has been written about Chicana/o nationalism as a positive and emancipatory narrative that gave rise to a new identity and political process for people of Mexican origins in the United States; cultural nationalism also has been viewed as a strategy of decolonization by ethnic minorities. Its basic tenet of resistance was to interrogate the dogmas of liberal economics in twentieth-century state formation. In the social milieu of a global framework, however, the nature of dissent, while a product of modernity, is only possible insofar as local/global, particular/universal dichotomies are established. In the main, Chicanas/os never settled and kept migrating, from rural to urban, from village to pueblo to cities and towns and toward the metropolis.
My engaged use of "postnational" rather than "transnational" or "global" mirrors the discussion of capitalism's lack of effectiveness at the local level. Critical departures from a celebrated global or transnational culture do not automatically revert to a nationalist position. I am motivated more by the contradictions of the binarism between the national and the global, as if either of those terms can account for the experiences of most people. Fredric Jameson, in his preface to The Cultures of Globalization (1998), finds the terminology vexing and problematic. In an apparent attempt to capture the slipperiness of global lore, he describes how
to "define" globalization as an untotalizable totality which intensifies binary relations between its parts—mostly nations, but also regions and groups, which, however, continue to articulate themselves on the model of "national identities" (rather than in terms of social classes. (xii)
Postnationalism suggests otherwise and aptly describes a refusal or inability to enter into global modernity. Chicanas/os are global, migratory, displaced, and yet situated in an intellectual movement that possesses a cultural nationalist bent that for the most part provided a foundational logic about origins. In other words, the birth is at odds with the development that follows. From within the expansive work that has since taken hold of Chicana/o cultural production, postnationalism signals an alteration in character, rhetorical style, and thematic presentation. Stories, approaches, and the organization of knowledge no longer appeal to the emancipated male heroism or innocence in coming-of-age representation. Realistic images of plight and self-discovery have been replaced by representations of anomalous states, the marginal figures of culture, the displaced, the lost or forgotten, the dead, and the survival epics of new worldism, each of which characterizes the arduous journey into the new age. Postnationalism is neither direct resistance to global capitalism nor an unconscious drive within nationalist imperatives to maintain a tribal lineage best encapsulated as the mestizo, mixed-race Chicano. Postnationalism marks a position, to a certain extent, but is not an attempt to situate an essence or a "Chicano" character within it.
Postnationalism should be viewed as an adjustment phase, a period of immense progress despite its lack of origins, against the reactive political elements and degenerate aspects of capitalism that flourished during the post-1960s era. The postnationality framing of this book is a way to account for the lost nationalist aspects of the Chicana/o movement, to explore how the subtle shift to embrace various aspects of social, cultural, and sexual differences was as much a political necessity as it was an inevitable historical facet of economic development. The Chicana/o identity's traversal of the national, global, and transnational fields of study depicts a lived experience that cannot be contained by standard depictions of nationhood or of nationality. Changing social conditions made possible the sudden shift from a less nationalistic mode. The formation of cultural "difference" both as an aesthetic process and a political device are associated with the advance of late capitalism into places where difference was otherwise unintended. The conclusion is that capitalism is the source and means of expanding human rights and cultural expression. Sadly, though, the consequences of capitalism are hardly ever noted. In the midst of this realignment of culture has been the degeneration of the liberal nation-state. With its orthodoxy hinging upon definitive boundaries or Berlin Walls, drawn according to the identity of a given nation, the composition of the nation has seen better days.
Minorities within the U.S. national frame have endured the loss of freedoms such as, for some individuals, the suspension of habeas corpus in the years after 9/11 as policing of minorities intensified. The lost sense of freedom seems oddly inconsistent with the global and even transnational shift to expand labor and consumer goods until one considers the resulting limits on citizen participation in the flow. In this study, however, I hope to explain Chicana/o cultural nationalism's shift within a philosophical and rhetorical composition that once relied upon national coding and that would have had recourse to its own initiation of a heterogeneous arrangement of human life or dignity. The formation of Chicana/o literature and cultural production initially marked an entry into a form of representation that Mexico or the United States could register. Chicanas/os' mimicry of a national identity arose at a time when liberal economics were being redefined. Of course, Aztlán. It became the symbol for all that was right and all that was wrong with Chicano cultural nationalism.
The area in which the tendency is most clearly expressed is the cultural representation of the public space, the literary expression and cultural responses to hegemonic reorderings of power. In museums, comic books, novels, and scholarly writing, the reordering of power is both contested and illustrated. While the tendency to locate Chicanas/os within a global perspective still falls on the topics of immigration, drug policy, social welfare, and bilingual education, I conclude that we have at last moved out of the corner in which nationalism had us trapped. Less stylized as an organizing theme, postnationality is a series of sentiments that have altered the direction in Chicana/o production. Postnational devices are an entry point to newer ideas and are indicative of the cultural and literary influence of contemporary social movements. These are fluid and can go anywhere.
Among the issues embraced by heterogeneous Chicana/o postnationalism is the organization of knowledge produced by gays, lesbians, and feminists. The social critiques of borderland/periphery models have been the primary interlocutors of critical knowledge in the field we now call cultural studies. U.S. cultural studies can be seen as an unconscious response to the insufficiency of mainstream humanities to exact an argument for social inequity as much as a counterhegemonic response to the sexism, homophobia, and intensified capitalism that have prospered under the aegis of mainstream culture.
The observations that situate the politics of Chicana/o representations and aesthetics have changed sufficiently to warrant a different way of reading, interpreting, and criticizing Chicana/o cultural production. But such observations also serve as a basis for developing women's studies and sexuality studies. My original formulation for this book centered on nationalism as a subjugated knowledge of groups and individuals who would eventually suffer and accomplish what little they could as they endeavored to construe nationalism to suit their interests. More recent effects of the global, geopolitical economy have changed all that.
In the next six chapters I address specific issues surrounding postnationalism. The general premise resides in a notion that cultural national identity formation provided a provisional means of participation within a segregated society. Once some measure of representation in mainstream U.S. culture was achieved, the economic shift toward global society altered the dialectics—and direction—of U.S. civil rights minority movements, including those affecting Chicanas/os. In Chapter 1 I discuss the critical foundational theories in the development of postnationalist thought by looking at the formation of cultural nationalist and transnationalist aesthetics. As I developed the book's theoretical and methodological basis, the transformation from a nationalist perspective to a postnational one required that I look at several theoretical moments from the 1960s to the present. In Chapter 2 I examine Chicana feminist discourse as a unique component of postnational discourse, with its critique of exclusion from both the U.S. feminist movement and the early Chicana/o movement. Chapter 3 focuses on the excesses of border culture and the limitations of citizenship. Rather than looking at the border as an aesthetically progressive area, I find that the border zone functions as a visual and geographical site of regulation. In Chapter 4 I take up the postmodern play of fashion codes as they facilitate a more direct relationship to identity formation within consumer culture. Chapter 5 presents an examination of the autobiographical tradition in Chicana/o studies that functions as a social text with exemplary and national features such as an idealized masculinity captured in Richard Rodriguez' peformativity and ideas about citizenship. And finally, in Chapter 6 I review queer Chicana/o experiences by looking at the U.S. gay-lesbian movements; I examine the institutional and political contexts for Chicana/o aesthetics that emerge out of a Chicana/o queer experience.
In the field of transnational studies today, the traditional scholarly arrangement of study leaves Chicanas/os confined to a national perspective. In a twenty-first-century study, this problem is especially critical as new representatives of "the nation" emerge. Here we might think about the possibility that the work surrounding marginalized citizenship could occupy a central role in the academy. This book, finally, is about undoing the subjugation of citizenship, about viewing it not as a necessary outcome of an overly capitalized world; rather, humanity or human beings resisting any notion of "illegal" personhood, of being aliens upon any land, is one of its conclusion