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Reviewed by:
  • Dead Subjects: Toward a Politics of Loss in Latino Studies
  • Juan Velasco
Dead Subjects: Toward a Politics of Loss in Latino Studies. By Antonio Viego. Durham: Duke University Press. 2007.

Dead Subjects focuses, as its author states, on the "attempt to articulate psychoanalysis with a politics of race and with contemporary notion of Latino subjectivity and experience in particular" (1). Mining in between both notions of psychoanalytic and Latino/a subjectivity, Dead Subjects proposes to rectify some of the failures underpinning present ideas of Latino/a's ethnicity and racial identification. Three categories, the psychoanalytical, political, and sociohistorical, are crucial to the analysis developed in the introduction, the seven chapters and the conclusion.

The analysis is further continued through a series of interrelated propositions: first, a psychoanalytic approach is needed to change the reductionism of the ethnic and racialized subjects derived from American ego psychology; second, that Latino/a studies should engage with Lacanian psychoanalytic theory in order to accurately explain the experience of the emerging Latino/a populations of the U.S.; third, that the highly heterogeneous composition of the Latino experience matches the Lacanian call for a barred subject, or Lacan's Border subject. More specifically, within the first two chapters, Viego defines racism's dependency on the transparency of the ethnic-racialized subjects and Lacan's language-based psychoanalytic theory as able to provide Latino/a studies with "tools to radically disrupt these colonizing, dominating, and ultimately racist interpretative practices" (6). Chapter 3 is a good response to the specific political and cultural pressures that Critical Race Theory faces as they help to circulate the "scripts for what it means to be a proper, that is, identifiable ethnic-racialized subject worthy of protection" (104). Chapter 4 and 5 offer a useful account of the problem that needs to be resolved within the traditional Latino/a studies concept of the border subject by "placing Latino studies and Lacanian theory into conversation as predicated on the critical space of overlap that (. . .) can be discerned and productively mined between Lacan's barred subject and Latino studies' border subject" (225). Viego proposes for Latino/a studies the model of Lacan's "hysterics discourse" and the "figure of the pachuco/a and zoot suiter for roughly similar reasons, because of how this figure undermined the master's discourse embedded in social science research" (164).

As the project comes to the final chapters and the conclusion, Viego proposes closing the gap between the psychoanalytic, the sociohistorical, and the Lacanian Border subject. Dead Subjects at this stage excellently exemplifies the challenges of the methodology as it needs to revisit (perhaps redundantly) the theoretical reasoning proposed by the initial chapters. The proposing model of a precipitating subject becomes more haunting as it comes closer to the end. Once the book addresses the limitations of the field of Latino/a studies, and creates a new proposal of a deeper interaction with psychoanalysis, as if running out of steam, the proposed precipitating subject's commitment to mourning unleashes what seems an anticlimactic conclusion: a call for a sort of Foucalt's "pesimistic activism." [End Page 303]

The book clearly states the new agenda and the theoretical tools necessary to accomplish the goal of this new, ever forming and ever moving "barred subject." This well researched book is able to show the enormous potential of the Lacanian approach to Latino/a studies, and the complexities that we must take into account in the field of Latino/a studies if we are to forge a new research agenda for the twenty-first century.

Juan Velasco
Santa Clara University


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pp. 303-304
Launched on MUSE
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