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Review Journal of Iberian and Latin American Studies

Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies

Review Journal of Latin American Studies

Year: 2015 vol. 24 n. 4

Noble, Andrea (Introd.). Visual Culture and Violence in Contemporary MexicoMéxico
Visual culture, violence, Ayotzinapa case, visual evidence, political emotions


The essays on visual culture and violence gathered in this dossier are introduced through an examination of an event that postdates them, namely the disappearance of 43 students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers College of Ayotzinapa in the small hours of 26 and 27 September 2014. Homing in on the visual evidence deployed at a government press conference on 7 November 2014, this introduction analyses the way in which Mexico’s Attorney General sought to lay claims both to transparency and to national shared feeling; and at the same time, to present the case of the 43 students paradoxically as an ongoing, but closed case. Viewing the questions of visual culture, violence and (contested) historical truths explored in the essays in this dossier through the lens of the Ayotzinapa case (and vice versa), is to undercut the exceptionality of any single instantiation of violence, and instead brings into focus the very violence through which the modern social order has been structured. Finally, the introduction underlines the importance of taking political emotions seriously.

MacManus, Viviana Beatriz. ‘Ghosts of Another Era’: Gender and Haunting in Visual Cultural Narratives of Mexico’s Dirty WarIn  Visual Culture and Violence in Contemporary Mexico p. 435-452 México
Mexican Dirty War, documentary film, visual culture, state violence, gender and haunting, gender and Latin American guerrillas
Siglo XX


This article examines the politics of gender in armed guerrilla organizations during Mexico’s Dirty War (1960-1980s) and the role of visual culture in documenting histories of state violence and revolutionary struggle. By centering specifically on Mexican film-maker Luisa Riley’s documentary Flor en Otomí (2012), this article explores the possibilities and limitations of visual culture in representing gendered histories of trauma in recent Mexican history. As one of the few cultural texts that documents women’s participation in the history of Mexico’s armed socialist organizations, the film alludes to the difficulty of audiovisually portraying violence and the tensions that emerge when representing the gendered ghosts of Mexico’s Dirty War. Ultimately, this article argues that the eradication of thousands of (gendered) subjectivities from Mexico’s national consciousness has created a gendered haunting that holds contemporary neoliberal Mexico accountable to its recent violent past.

Haddu, Miriam. Political Violence and Fiction in Mexican Film: the Case of Carlos Bolado’s Colosio: el asesinato / Colosio: the Assassination (2012)In  Visual Culture and Violence in Contemporary Mexico p. 453-473 México
Political thriller, Mexico, Colosio, film


The year 2014 marked the twentieth anniversary of the assassination of Luis Donaldo Colosio, presidential candidate for the ruling Partido Revolucionario Institucional / Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). The impact of this event on perceptions of the PRI and the Mexican political system has prevailed within the public imaginary, and continues to fuel conspiracy theories in relation to the possible motives for the candidate’s assassination. This article examines a filmic exploration of this traumatic moment in recent Mexican history, an event that changed the way the nation viewed its then President, Carlos Salinas de Gortari’s, and subsequent PRI governments. At this moment the public mood was transformed, from a prevailing sense of false security, driven by the dictums of neoliberal policies under the banner of Salinismo, to a state of shock and fear of a society spiralling into increasing violence and an economic downturn, with repercussions for years to follow. Framing Colosio: el asesinato (Colosio: the Assassination) within discourses of the thriller genre, and borrowing from theoretical notions of ‘conspiracism’, I explore the significance of Carlos Bolado’s film in light of the timing of its release (prior to the 2012 presidential elections), and the contents of its narrative. Moreover, the article explores the role of history and fiction in this detective story, alongside the way in which film as a medium processes traumatic events. Ultimately, I examine how the film’s metanarrative format provides the exploratory premise from which to access otherwise un-visualized and complex theories surrounding the case.

Weinstein, Tania Islas. A Eulogy For The Coloso: The Politics Of Commemoration In Calderón’s MexicoIn  Visual Culture and Violence in Contemporary Mexico p. 475-499 México
Commemorations, monuments, public art, public sphere, transition to democracy, violence, Mexico


In 2010, ten years after Mexico’s so-called ‘transition to democracy,’ the country commemorated two hundred years of independence and one hundred years of revolution. To celebrate, the state spent nearly 230 million dollars on diverse sites of memory, mass spectacles, and works of art. These commemorative projects, including the controversial, gigantic statue dubbed the Coloso, triggered extensive debates that addressed the country’s myriad contemporary political issues. These discussions revealed a growing disappointment with electoral democracy and an increasing anxiety about the war on the drug trade launched by president Felipe Calderón. The state’s manifestation of power during the celebrations was paradoxically seen as a reminder of its inability to curb the growing violence, and the commemorations were widely regarded as a failure. This paper examines this failure by analyzing how the Coloso generated political discourses that fostered new forms of resistance and critique. Soon after its display, the statue was abandoned and inadvertently became an ephemeral monument. This paper argues that the literal rise and fall of the Coloso is symptomatic of the state’s increasing inability to control the nation’s symbolic landscape.

Gasiorowski, Dominika. Bodies that Do Not Matter: Marginality in Maya Goded's Photographs of Sex Workers in Mexico CityIn  Visual Culture and Violence in Contemporary Mexico p. 501-515 México
Mexican photography, Maya Goded, marginality, prostitution, sex workers, representation, Judith Butler, documentary ethics


Maya Goded is one of the most renowned contemporary Mexican photographers. This paper focuses on an analysis of a selection of photographs from her album entitled Plaza de la soledad (2006), which contains images of prostitutes working in the oldest red-light-district of Mexico City. After briefly situating Goded in the context of contemporary Mexican visual culture and its relationship with representing prostitution, the focus will shift to the ethical tensions involved in socially engaged visual production using Plaza de la soledad as an example. Drawing on Judith Butler's theories in Bodies That Matter (1993) Goded's photographs will be examined as cultural texts challenging gendered stereotypes in Mexico and visually resisting reductive binaries. They will also be studied as simultaneously forging a cultural space for otherwise unrepresented or underrepresented people and potentially fetishising and commercialising the suffering of others. To that end, recent theoretical debates about ethical ambiguities in documentary photography will be considered. Close analysis of a selection of photographs from the album will exemplify different representations of women within the frames of their internal and external displacements while examining the images' potential for empowerment as well the risks of exploitation.

Selimovic, Inela. The Social Spaces in Mutation: Sex, Violence and Autism in Albertina Carri’s La rabia (2008)In  Visual Culture and Violence in Contemporary Mexico p. 517-533 México
Albertina Carri, childhood, gaze, space, violence


This essay studies the abrupt mutations of social spaces that suffuse Albertina Carri’s La rabia (2008) through the presence, expressiveness, and art of an autistic child's subjectivity. In depicting such mutations, the film becomes a narrative on gender-based violence, especially in socially isolated settings in Argentine society. The key setting in the film – the airy and open pampas – is not, therefore, just a physical dimension with its culturally encrusted attributes but a terrain for the complexities of domestic violence, struggles with undiagnosed autism, and sexually crude co-dependencies. As the film progresses – tinted with rigid patriarchal ways of life – the immensity of the represented landscape grows increasingly more claustrophobic with each social interaction. The intricate role of the child’s cognitive otherness – her simple, candid yet stirring autistic familial ethnography – ultimately expounds on complex manifestations of interpersonal abandonment within a diegetic locale shaped by patriarchal structures in ruins.

Jarrin, Alvaro. Towards a Biopolitics of Beauty: Eugenics, Aesthetic Hierarchies and Plastic Surgery in BrazilIn  Visual Culture and Violence in Contemporary Mexico p. 535-552 Brasil
Beauty, eugenics, race, Brazil, plastic surgery, biopolitics


This article provides a historical and ethnographic perspective to explain the saliency of beauty within the reproduction of racial inequalities in Brazil. I argue that Brazil’s neo-Lamarckian eugenics movement was the first to craft beauty as an index of racial improvement within the nation, and this eugenic legacy undergirds many of the contemporary discourses of beautification. Plastic surgery, in particular, inherited the biopolitical aim to produce a homogeneous body politic through beautification, an aim that was easily adapted to the contemporary context of neoliberal self-improvement. Today, beauty is a technology of biopower, one which ranks the population within an aesthetic hierarchy that produces non-white facial characteristics as undesirable, and interpellates patients as responsible for their own surgical corrections, albeit with state support in the case of the poor. Thus, this article contributes to the literature that understands science and medicine as key within the history of racialization in Latin America, making explicit how biopolitics has fashioned race and beauty as inextricable and intertwined elements of social inclusion and exclusion.

Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies
Paper | Numerical version with subscription | Trimestral (desde 2011) | United Kingdom Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies. Travesia
Print ISSN: 1356-9325
Online ISSN: 1469-9575
Year of creation: 1992

Publisher: Routledge (Taylor and Francis Group)

Publica artículos sobre la historia y la análisis de la cultura latinoamericana así como sobre el desarrollo de teorías y de métodos a fines de estudiar las costumbres latinoamericanas. Los artículos multi diciplinarios que contribuyen a dar sentido a una área de investigación y de debate están particularmente bienvenidos así como las disciplinas de cierto interés tales como la antropología, la comunicación, la historia y la literatura.

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