- War Echoes: Gender and Militarization in U.S. Latina/o Cultural Production by Ariana E. Vigil
Ariana Vigil’s War Echoes: Gender and Militarization in U.S. Latina/o Cultural Production examines US Latina/o subject formation and transnational feminist politics in relation to US warfare in Central America and the Middle East. Assembling a new archive of contemporary film, fiction, drama, and memoirs by Chicana/o and Central American US artists and soldiers, Vigil persuasively argues that Latina/o art responding to US militarism exposes the linkages between the heteropatriarchal and racial logic of military violence abroad and the militarization of US national borders and culture. Centering US Latina/o cultural production that captures the continuities of US militarism and neo-imperialism in multiple locales, Vigil provides a timely intervention in feminist scholarship and transnational antiwar activism. War Echoes not only recovers the specific histories of Chicana feminist and Latina/o responses to US militarism, but also elucidates how Latina/o art contributes a much-needed perspective on the productive tensions and transformative potential of transnational feminist movement-building.
A key contribution of Vigil’s work is situating US military policies, such as “Don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) and the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since the 1990s, in relation to earlier US military interventions in Central America during the 1980s. She illuminates the connections between institutional and foreign policies by tracing what she describes as glocal forces, or the “events and processes at the level of the family and ethnic community” that occur in relation to “multiple national contexts” and global forces, such as capitalism, that exceed national borders (5). Clarifying that glocal first emerged as a sociological concept to explain relationships between hyper-local and global processes, Vigil argues that an interdisciplinary adaptation of glocal offers a helpful framework for transnational feminist theory and activism. It uniquely describes the complex local and global connections between histories of colonialism and the ongoing racialized, gendered, and militarized violence of neo-imperialism following the Vietnam War. The benefits of adapting a glocal framework become increasingly clear in each chapter of War Echoes as Vigil analyzes Latina/o writers’ portrayals of identities and collaborations that exceed or are obscured by the national frameworks often anchoring feminist scholarship and transnational activism. In her readings of Lourdes Portillo and Nina Serrano’s film Después del Terremoto (1979), Demetria Martínez’s novel Mother Tongue (1994), and Ana Castillo’s play based on Sr. Dianna Ortiz’s memoir The Blindfold’s Eyes: My Journey from Torture to Truth (2002), Vigil foregrounds the narrative strategies and formal structure that Chicana artists and activists develop to identify [End Page 200] both the parallels and the uneven experiences of gender-based state violence in the United States, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As she convincingly argues, these texts encourage readers to explore decolonial love and alternative modes of revolutionary consciousness as strategies for building transnational feminist movements that are attentive to the interlocking and differential effects of US militarism along racial and national axes.
Subsequent chapters of War Echoes offer particularly innovative models for bridging the study of gender and US foreign policy with a feminist analysis of the institutional dynamics of the US military. In her readings of memoirs by Latino soldiers deployed in the Middle East, Vigil demonstrates that racial hierarchies within and outside the United States, as well as heteropatriarchal protocols of belonging and immigration policies, structure the US military. Drawing on Jasbir Puar (2007) and Richard T. Rodríguez (2009), Vigil traces what she calls an “ambivalent homonationalism” and potential queer model of kinship in the memoir Soldier of the Year (1994) by José Zuniga, a decorated Chicano soldier who publicly disclosed his sexuality to challenge DADT (123). Vigil deftly argues that Zuniga’s effort to balance his critique of heterosexism in the US military with his nationalist support for US militarism abroad exemplifies the mutually constitutive relationship between intra-national sexual politics...