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speculating Latina radicalism: labour and motherhood in Lunar Braceros 2125-2148

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Feminist Review

abstract

This essay unpacks the utopian impulse in Rosaura Sánchez and Beatrice Pita’s novella Lunar Braceros 2125-2148 (2009). As speculative fiction that has strong, explicit critiques on labour and globalisation, Lunar Braceros crafts a future-historical and future-present world where racialised forms of labour exploitation are the norm. The novella offers the radical response of worker revolution that can only ever be a potential and desire. The novella does this by presenting an ambivalent labour politics that results in the dismantling of the family as a heteronormative unit and that depend on the figure of the lost radical mother. The intervention this essay makes into Latina/o studies and feminist studies is to rearticulate the figure of motherhood through a specific lens of radicalism that is both queer and proletarian. By thinking about Latina radicalism through the intersections of labour, gender and non-normative sexuality in the novella, we see that the lost mother figure disrupts capitalist patriarchy by offering radical potentiality.

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Notes

  1. The nanotexts we read in the current novella form are Pedro’s organisation, so while his mother, father and their fellow braceros write these disjointed snippets to Pedro, Pedro is not simply the audience of them but also takes on an authorial role in the text, giving us some semblance of order. The framing narrative to Pedro’s order, however, stresses the centrality of Lydia leaving these texts when she joins the revolution and then disappearing indefinitely: the novella as a whole is Pedro’s ‘mother’s nanotext’ (Sánchez and Pita, 2009, pp. 5, 120).

  2. In this essay, I am defining ‘queer’ more along Muñoz’s (1999, p. 31) earlier lines of thought, where queer is a term that defies ‘notions of uniform identity and origin’. In particular, I am interested in it as a discourse and practice of defiance. Lee Edelman (2004, p. 3) takes this a step further when he argues that queerness is a figure for ‘resistance to the viability of the social while insisting on the inextricability of such resistance from every social structure’. Muñoz (1999) understands the non-normative impulse of queerness to be a space where ‘disidentification’ with dominant culture can take place, but Edelman (2004) sees this ‘dis-identification’ occur with the entirety of the social order. While this difference is important in that Muñoz favours the potential utopia of queerness and Edelman champions its dystopian impulses, the anti-relationality of queerness is about disrupting dominant (sexual) discourses and practice.

  3. While the question of absence is present in both Lunar Braceros and Waiting in the Wings, this narrative of familia and shared mothering differs from more neo-liberal versions. Catherine Bryan (2014, p. 40), in studying migrant mothers in the age of neo-liberalism, presents a picture of globalisation where we see the dismantling of state support forcing mothers to migrate. From this migration and ‘flexible’ labouring, these mothers must create complex and unsustainable familial networks that move money and goods back and forth, but these networks are also necessary to establish ‘those who mother in their absence’. The migrant and absent mother is also an ongoing question in Latina/o Studies, and is perhaps most famously interrogated in Sonia Nazario’s Enrique’s Journey. See also Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo and Ernestine Avila’s ‘“I’m here, and I’m there”: the meanings of transnational Latina motherhood’ (1997); Denise A. Segura and Patricia Zavella’s edited collection Women and Migration in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands: A Reader (2007); and Rosa Maria Sternberg’s ‘The plight of transnational Latina mothers: mothering from a distance’ (2010).

  4. Nilges draws on theories that have largely been the domain of white Western men, specifically Sigmund Freud and Alain Badiou, to map out the symbolic father figure as: 1) a literal father of the family, 2) a religious father-God and 3) representative of the State and its authoritarianism. As such, he largely omits in his reading of Octavia Butler’s (1993, 1998) speculative post-apocalyptic Parable novels, the socially specific context that the lost father has in black politics in the US, especially with the history of a state that removes black men from society and of the Prison Industrial Complex, relegating this to a brief note. He also elides the main female character’s potential queer politics when she fills a father-like role for a while. Nevertheless, he is interrogating a tradition that both institutes and explores how the father is a totalising figure in all social relations.

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Ulibarri, K.L. speculating Latina radicalism: labour and motherhood in Lunar Braceros 2125-2148 . Fem Rev 116, 85–100 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41305-017-0069-4

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