I will give a talk here at the University of Wyoming next week at our Center for Global Studies. The arguments draw from my ongoing research with Oliver Hernández Lara at the Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México in Toluca. We’re in the early stages of developing the paper for submission to a journal later this year. I cut and paste a more substantial abstract below the flyer.
Activists in Latin America have long used the concept of “disappearance” to name the condition of being forcibly made absent from economic and political life. Activists have attributed the crime of disappearance, notably “forced disappearance,” to people who exercise sovereign authority but disavow their responsibility and indeed deny the existence of crimes for which responsibility must be assumed. In short, the concept of disappearance names a condition that sovereign authorities have otherwise naturalized by asserting a “historical truth” (see Ayotzinapa) of victims’ absence before disappearance. The politics around disappearance therefore occurs in what Melissa Wright calls “an epistemological gap.”
This paper draws on CGS-supported field research with Dr. Oliver Hernández Lara (UAEMex) and available data to show how three landscapes of disappearance in and around Mexico City are being politicized. Across these three scenes, the paper identifies practices of politicization through which activists and organizers are denaturalizing disappearance and revealing it to be the outcome of concrete productions of governable space that must be challenged in the name of dignity. Against justificatory discourses for violence against women, for failing infrastructure, for forced displacement, and for a war on the poor, all of which rely in different ways on a claim of victims’ absence before disappearance, activists and organizers in central Mexico are making visible the figure of the perpetrator and are overcoming exclusionary and depoliticizing constructions of “culture” and its spatiality to, in solidarity, challenge disparate enactments of sovereignty that are producing “the disappeared.”