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  • Latinx Theater in the Times of Neoliberalism by Patricia A. Ybarra
  • Marci R. McMahon
LATINX THEATER IN THE TIMES OF NEOLIBERALISM. By Patricia A. Ybarra. Performance Works series. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2017; pp. 264.

In Latinx Theater in the Times of Neoliberalism, Patricia Ybarra engages Latinx theatre of the past three decades that stages embodied and affective experiences of neoliberal violence, including forced migration, femicide, state-sponsored terror, and transnational business practices. With a specific focus on Latinx theatre about Cuba and Mexico, the book argues that these works make visible and audible the physical, emotional, and epistemic violence of neoliberal policies. It demonstrates that Latinx theatre of this period is not invested in countering neoliberal ideology and practice; instead, Latinx playwrights respond to the recursive, affective violence of neoliberalism by exposing the pain and trauma inherent in the constant battle to survive. Their works disrupt comfortable liberal narratives of immigration, unified subjectivity, and heteronormative, progressive time.

Although Latinx theatre artists have been responding to neoliberal conditions since the 1960s, Ybarra argues that Latinx theatre from the 1990s onward engages neoliberalism with new imaginings of affective, political, and economic ties. Departing from canonical neoliberal theory centered on European contexts, she turns to Latin American theorizations of neoliberalism in her introduction, including the works of Aníbal Quijano, Walter Mignolo, and Ileana Rodríguez. This history of neoliberalism and its impact on Latinx communities sets the stage for Latinx theatre’s unique approach to neoliberalism from 1990s up to the present that each chapter unfolds.

Chapter 1 considers works by Cherríe Moraga, Michael John Garcés, and Luis Valdez that engage with NAFTA, privatization, and economic liberalization, particularly these artists’ transnational reimaginings of well-established tropes of Latinx theatre from the 1960s, including indigenismo. The chapter examines Moraga’s Giving up the Ghost and The Hungry Woman in relationship to her development of neoliberal critique in her literary prose, arguing that Moraga’s representation of indigenismo is influenced by both the transnational present and cultural nationalist past. The chapter’s exploration of Moraga’s writings about her travel in Mexico elucidate how the playwright’s transnational encounters with Indigenous histories and cosmologies enhance her critique of neoliberalism. The chapter also examines contemporary work by El Teatro Campesino that moves away from strict cultural nationalism into a political transnationalism that engages neoliberal economic conditions. The chapter concludes with Garcés’s points of departure, which, like Moraga’s works, counters liberal forms of subjectivity with multifaceted characters that decenter liberal tragic heroes. Yet, differently from Valdez and Moraga, Garcés represents Indigenous people in the present, emphasizing how displacement is affectively experienced by their communities today.

Chapter 2 examines plays by Eduardo Machado, Jorge Ignacio Cortiñas, Nilo Cruz, Caridad Svich, and María Irene Fornés, highlighting shifting representations of the exile and migrant due to neo-liberal policies impacting Cuba. With its focus on the balseros, or the rafters, as both literal and figurative border crossers, the chapter argues that Cuban Americans, now considered migrants instead of exiles, share similarities with Mexicans and Central Americans. The chapter begins by examining Fornés’s, Svich’s, and Cruz’s depictions of ambiguity and motionlessness in their works, and then shifts to Machado’s Kissing Fidel and Havana is Waiting to reveal the affective experience of mobility under neoliberalism, which crosses not only national borders, but also both gay and straight sexualities. The chapter then shifts to Cortiñas’s Sleepwalkers, which depicts limited mobility and the affective states that pervade Cuba under hemispheric neoliberalism. [End Page 569] The last part of the chapter considers how queer sexuality intersects with both queer temporality and neoliberal commercial exchanges.

Chapter 3 turns to works by Svich, Victor Cazares, Coco Fusco, and Marisela Treviño Orta that engage with femicide in the Americas, specifically the killings in Juárez, Mexico. The chapter argues that these plays’ nonrealistic modes of representing violence, in contrast to documentary forms or the testimonio, expose the theatricality of the crimes and allow for a more effective critique of neoliberal violence. The bulk of the chapter examines Cazares’s The Dead Women of J-Town and...


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pp. 569-570
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