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Visible Borders, Invisible Economies

Visible Borders, Invisible Economies
Living Death in Latinx Narratives

A thorough examination of the political and economic exploitation of Latinx subjects, migrants, and workers through the lens of Latinx literature, photography, and film.

Series: Latinx: The Future is Now

November 2022
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312 pages | 6 x 9 | 16 b&w photos, 2 b&w illus. |

Globalization in the United States can seem paradoxical: free trade coincides with fortification of the southern border, while immigration is reimagined as a national-security threat. US politics turn aggressively against Latinx migrants and subjects even as post-NAFTA markets become thoroughly reliant on migrant and racialized workers. But in fact, there is no incongruity here. Rather, anti-immigrant politics reflect a strategy whereby capital uses specialized forms of violence to create a reserve army of the living, laboring dead.

Visible Borders, Invisible Economies turns to Latinx literature, photography, and films that render this unseen scheme shockingly vivid. Works such as Valeria Luiselli’s Tell Me How It Ends and Alex Rivera’s Sleep Dealer crystallize the experience of Latinx subjects and migrants subjugated to social death, their political existence erased by disenfranchisement and racist violence while their bodies still toil in behalf of corporate profits. In Kristy Ulibarri’s telling, art clarifies what power obscures: the national-security state performs anti-immigrant and xenophobic politics that substitute cathartic nationalism for protections from the free market while ensuring maximal corporate profits through the manufacture of disposable migrant labor.

  • List of Illustrations
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: Imagination in the Age of National Security and Market Neoliberalization
  • Part I. Documenting the Living Dead
    • Chapter 1. Games of Enterprise and Security in Luis Urrea, Valeria Luiselli, and Karla Cornejo Villavicencio
    • Chapter 2. Documenting the US-Mexico Border: Photography, Movement, and Paradox
    • Chapter 3. Latinx Realisms: The Cinematic Borderworlds of Josefina López, David Riker, and Alex Rivera
  • Part II. Imagining the Living Dead
    • Chapter 4. Markets of Resurrection: Cat Ghosts, Aztec Zombies, and the Living Dead Economy
    • Chapter 5. Speculative Governances of the Dead: The Underclass, Underworld, and Undercommons
    • Coda: Dreaming of Deportation, or, When Everything “Goes South”
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index

Kristy L. Ulibarri is an assistant professor in the Department of English and Literary Arts at the University of Denver.