By Vek Lewis (auth.)
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Extra resources for Crossing Sex and Gender in Latin America
This work was composed during the era of Porfirio Díaz, a time in which lo indio (Indianness) as representative of “la problemática nacional” (the national dilemma) was intensively discussed. In different parts of Latin America, such as Colombia, the Caribbean, and Brazil, blacks were attributed with a “slave mentality” and compliant attitude; Indians were identified for their inherent “resignation” and “passivity” (Franco 1970, 58). These tropes of race and their essentialist frameworks have persisted and interpellated blacks, mulattos, and indios as constitutive others to the so-called superior white European citizen of the civilized ideal nation.
This interpretation maps transsexuality as a desire for assimilation to dominant norms of privilege and escape from one position to another. Transgender thus can be read, on occasion, claims Butler, as a vector or vehicle for transcending certain material conditions curtailed by the usual restrictions of race and one’s standing. 16 The deployment of travestismo as an organizational grid that is a perfect metaphor from national and regional identity construction in Latin America—in a movement that reconstructs mestizaje as travestizaje— obtains theoretical authorization when critics cite Garber’s and Butler’s notions of “transgender” as a matrix of (gender, class, and race) identity construction.
Two landmark texts by Butler that deploy transvestites and transsexuals in their arguments, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (1990) and Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex” (1993), have exerted a major influence on ways of reading and writing trans figures. Although in more recent work, such as the previously mentioned Undoing Gender, Butler complicates her discursive foci by looking beyond the gestural and performative in regards to trans genders, these two earlier texts are still much more drawn upon by literary and cultural critics reading trans acts and identities in narrative forms.