restricted access Chapter 3. Neoliberalism Is a Serial Killer
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105 Chapter 3 Neoliberalism Is a Serial Killer Lina: The last chapter of the 20th century, The last decade—­ Which starts for us in 1993 The year when men found Angelica Luna Villalobos dead—­ Has been sketched on desert sand —­Victor Cazares, The Dead Women of J-​ Town and Smiley Victor Cazares’s The Dead Women of J-​ Town and Smiley (2008) features a chorus of dead women of J-​ Town (Juárez) greeting the newly killed Mayra, who still has the glow of life on her.Together with Lina and Mariana, the curators of the Museum of the Dead Women of Juárez, a charismatic drag queen named Smiley, and a pair of less than charming border patrol agents, they traverse a border landscape called the “necropolis of sand.”1 The ambiance of the play is clearly post-​ 9/11—­ the migra are busy looking for terrorists when they run into the dead women instead. But the full force of the killings does not become clear until a darkly comic scene in a McDonald’s restroom late in the play when one of the dead women, Jessica, compliments Lina’s shoes: Jessica: I like your shoes, Lina. Lina: Oh, Thank you, is that—­ (Lina checks to see Jessica’s shoes) Lina: Jessica, very nice of you—­ But they are ruined, all bloody and—­ (Jessica shows Lina her shoes: they’re much worse and they weren’t that much better in life.) Jessica: These were my favorite. I got them because the protagonist from my favorite telenovela wore some like mine. 106 Chapter 3 Chela: Which telenovela was it? Jessica: MariMar—­ ow. Haha, I still remember the theme song. I love Thalia. I wanted to be just like her. Chela: Oh, MariMar was a good one. Lina: MariMar—­ That aired in 1994, almost two decades ago—­ The grand finale was good—­ one of the best I remember. Chela: Ay, no, no no not at all! I hated it. Jessica: What happened? Lina: You did not watch it? Jessica: No. Lina: How did you miss it? I thought it was your—­ Jessica: I was killed a couple of days before the finale.2 The punch line of Cazares’s joke, of course, makes light of a death come too soon—­ before the finale of a popular telenovela with a rags-​ to-​ riches story for María, played by a very young Thalía Sodi. The disparity between María’s miraculous fate and Jessica’s as a femicide victim is an especially painful form of irony that underscores the disjuncture between reality and the popular entertainment forms that infuse the play. Yet, Cazares’s reference to the 1994 sensation Marimar does other critical work by linking the rise of the telenovela as a transnational product to the killings in Juárez. With this juxtaposition Cazares implicitly argues that they are both transnational , sensationalized products of neoliberalism. Both industries flourish around the time of NAFTA and are eerily copresent as part of the intensification of free trade.3 The Women of J-​ Town’s juxtaposition of Marimar and the Juárez killings also makes a temporal intervention because it pairs the seriality of femicide to the telenovela’s formal mode of presentation. Indeed, the author subtitles the play as “chapters of a global telenovela.” Following Cazares’s lead, I meditate on seriality as form of temporality under neoliberalism. The use of the term seriality is a risk and will require some unpacking. The Merriam-​Webster definition simply denotes a “serial quality or state.” The larger definition of serial is quite wide-​ ranging, including “appearing in successive parts or numbers” or “belonging to a series maturing in installments periodically rather than a single maturity date.” The term is used colloquially to talk about broadcasts of radio, television, or digital media that are presented in this manner. Feminist scholars, following Marion Iris Young, have used seriality as an alternative designation for a group of individuals perceived to have common qualities, who do not self-​ identify or organize as a group, that is, “women.”4 Chillingly, this term fits the victims of the femicides; the young Mexicans killed in Juárez were perhaps killed because of how they were perceived—­ as female, poor, unimportant, or even disposable . They are in fact only defined as a group by what Young calls their Neoliberalism Is a Serial Killer 107 common interaction with particular material conditions. Today, of course, the crimes’ seriality is most directly linked to serial...