- The Abject Architecture of Decontainment in the Mexico of Sergio González Rodríguez
What to make of the varied work of critic, journalist, and novelist Sergio González Rodríguez (1950–2017), who died unexpectedly at the height of his career, not at the hands of one of the anonymous figures who decided to make good on the many death threats that he received throughout his life, but rather from a heart attack? At the time of his death, González Rodríguez enjoyed the trappings of an established writer (literary awards, translations, high-profile publishers, etc.) and was still turning out a number of essayistic and novelistic works, some of which were published posthumously. Despite an oeuvre that spans 30 years, González Rodríguez has arguably received little attention in North American academic literary criticism. It is difficult to predict the reception of a writer's work in academia, but I would [End Page 139] venture that even sympathetic readers (myself included here) find it difficult to gain a foothold in González Rodríguez's idiosyncratic writing practice. This challenge may be due, in part, to the ways that González Rodríguez draws from a cosmopolitan archive on diverse subjects that include religion, philosophy, literature, and the social sciences and juxtaposes these works in often surprising ways, as Ignacio Sánchez Prado points out (Sánchez Prado 2014, 287). What is more disconcerting is that this archive includes works on Nazi esotericism, extraterrestrials, secret mind-control experiments, spiritualism, theosophy, freemasonry, and other topics on the fringes of the publishing world.
The critic Anadeli Bencomo argues that González Rodríguez's work represents a productive direction for contemporary Mexican cultural studies. As with other critics, Bencomo focuses on the ways in which González Rodríguez addresses the issue of violence in Mexico, especially as it relates to narcotrafficking. Bencomo criticizes what she alternately calls "the culture of the spectacle" and "the industry of the spectacle" for depicting the violence without any sort of political, economic, or historical context, producing inaccurate representations that only exacerbate the problems facing Mexico. For Bencomo, critical analyses of the violence, then, fall to the discipline of cultural studies, and the work of González Rodríguez is an exemplar for this task, as it attempts to explain the violence as the result of a configuration of factors related to economic and political conditions (Bencomo 2011, 15). Bencomo finds in González Rodríguez's work an antidote that serves to deconstruct "las perspectivas dominantes que convocan versiones de la violencia cuya desembocadura en los imaginarios de miedo permea los modos de sociabilidad y ciudadanía" (the dominant perspectives that summon versions of violence whose outlet in the imaginaries of fear permeates the modes of sociability and citizenship) (Bencomo 2011, 16).1 An aspect of this work that Bencomo finds particularly important is the way in that González Rodríguez expands his scope of analysis to include both national and global dimensions, as well as the attempt to think through the tortuous ways in which these two become increasingly interdependent in a globalized world. One insight that Bencomo derives from this perspective is that, for González Rodríguez, the prevalence of violence is part of a constellation of forces that has produced a generalized [End Page 140] institutional crisis of the Mexican state. Though Bencomo's claim for the centrality of this crisis is on the mark, I argue that the inscription of his work in the discipline of cultural studies cannot account for the strand of philosophical reflection that can be found even in the author's more sociopolitical analyses. As I will show in this essay, this reflection calls into question key concepts of cultural studies, such as nation and people. At the same time, it is no less concerned with the state of affairs in Mexico and in the world at large.
Ignacio Sánchez Prado, like Bencomo, locates the starting point of González Rodríguez's work in some form of crisis. He argues that the situation in Mexico demonstrates that the categories or concepts employed to understand political...