restricted access Critical Introduction
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3 Critical Introduction If one accepts that some of the first incursions of neoliberal capital in the Americas occurred in the mid-​ 1960s with the Border Industrialization Act, which allowed the first maquiladoras to arrive on the U.S.–­ Mexico border, one must also acknowledge that U.S. Latinx theater emerges in the neoliberal period.1 And, that it continues to dwell there. Although the movement of many Latin American countries to center-​ left democracies (again) at the turn of the millennium caused scholars to opine that we are moving into a post-​ neoliberal age, this post-​ neoliberal era has not occurred.2 Thus, I suggest that it is important to think of the last forty years as a single neoliberal era, albeit one that has oscillated in terms of its tactics. Which means, as Jon D. Rossini and I have written elsewhere, that Latinx theater has always been responding within, if not to, neoliberal conditions understood as such.3 This book, however, primarily concentrates on Latinx plays written from 1992 to the present. The playwrights featured in this book, then, are responding to neoliberalism in process rather than in emergence, after the rise and fall of cultural nationalist and Third World solidarity movements of the 1960s and 1970s. The situations they face include forced migration, femicide, state-​ sponsored terror, and the escalation of transnational business practices that employ violence in various ways; while some of these forms of violence are hypervisible, such as the display of corpses by narcotraffickers, others are silent and invisible, such as the slow death by near starvation caused by the economic pressures of neoliberal life in post-​ Soviet Cuba. These conditions ask for political critique that privileges making economic violence perceivable and comprehensible. In order to respond to these conditions, playwrights employ new tactics that both play upon and depart from earlier Latinx theatrical strategies. In the ’60s and ’70s, Latinx artists who thought transnationally in the wake of decolonization used Third World revolutionary paradigms to resist assimilation into the U.S. mainstream, to protest their marginalization by allying themselves with non-​ European and non-​ U.S. liberation movements throughout the world, and to imagine a revolutionary present or near future. These modes of cultural production were also, of course, often explicitly or implicitly anticapitalist but did not interrogate now instantiated modes of neoliberal global capitalism as a mode of violence. In the ’90s and 2000s, in contrast, theater artists speak about transnational capitalism from a vantage 4 Critical Introduction point that is postrevolutionary and less optimistic.4 For some of the playwrights in this book, the transition between paradigms is directly related to their embodied or textual return to Latin America, where they encountered the damage wrought by the early decades of neoliberalism. Their trips were journeys, imagined and real, to the roots of their identities, a trope common to Latinx American literature from the 1960s to the present. But in the last twenty years or so, more often than not, these Latinx playwrights’ travels have led them elsewhere—­ to thinking about the politics of migration , capitalism, pan-​ indigenous solidarity, and state terror throughout the hemisphere. In coming to terms with these histories of oppression in their home countries or those of their parents and grandparents, these playwrights have newly imagined affective, political, and economic ties in the Americas. These artists’ experiences have inevitably revealed the limitations of certain U.S.-​ based conceptions of identification and dramaturgies of belonging that depend on mainstream conceptions of the frameworks of Latinx identity : unidirectional migration, an emphasis on cultural authenticity, and the assumption of the stability of national sovereignties and national identities . Nonetheless, these plays and the world in which they were born also show that Latinx subjects are certainly not post-​ identity, post-​ ethnic, or post-​ racial in any sense of the words. Racism and neocolonialism clearly persist. I do not, then, disavow ethnicity-​ based political movements or solidarity movements, or the artwork of people of color as people of color from the 1960s to the present as being out of time or place under neoliberalism . Instead, I ask that we consider Latinx theater in the times of neoliberalism as a transnational, post-​ nationalist, and (mostly) post-​ cultural nationalist perspective aware of its own historicity. This paradigm shift sets the parameters for this study. Historically, this book engages a period of neoliberalism in the Americas in which travel/migration (or its stultification ), is a primary mode of governmentality; it is also a period in which...