Mexican Transitions: Tlatelolco, stories of progress, and becoming adult in Mexico City

The program for the 2017 Conference of Latin Americanist Geographers meeting in New Orleans is now available online. I will present a paper I’m developing from out of my work in Mexico City (abstract below).


Mexican Transitions: Tlatelolco, stories of progress, and becoming adult in Mexico City

This paper examines a relay between memory and spaces of politics in post-1968 Mexico City, where popular memory of the events of 1968 lends consistency to how and where young people today practice politics. My research suggests that the disruptive force of student-popular protest in 1968 is, in cultural production and in rituals of commemoration, often reduced to a proper name for repression. “Tlatelolco” refers to 2 October 1968, when military and paramilitary forces opened fire on thousands of people who had assembled in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas. I argue that a tendency to substitute this signifier for the event of 1968 facilitates the articulation of at least two stories of progress that give shape to contemporary spaces of politics. On the one hand, I follow recent cultural studies of Mexico to argue that this tendency supports a state-centric narrative of democratic transition, once thought achieved with electoral defeat of the PRI, wherein traumas of past violence will be redeemed through benevolent state intervention in the future. On the other hand, I refer to ethnographic fieldwork to argue that “Tlatelolco” naturalizes a second transition – a life-course transition – according to which young people in Mexico City will predictably pass through a stage of youthful contestation proper to becoming an adult. This second story is sometimes articulated in a language of anti-stateness, but it paradoxically complements the state-centric narrative of democratic transition and sustains governable social-spatial order.

About nicholasjoncrane

Associate Professor of Geography and International Studies at the University of Wyoming
This entry was posted in 1968, Archives, Cities, Fieldwork, Memory, Mexico, My publications or presentations, Political Geographies of the State, Politics, Social Movements, The Americas, Young People. Bookmark the permalink.

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