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Domestic Violence and Empire: Legacies of Conquest in Mexican American Writing


Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1928/12859

Domestic Violence and Empire: Legacies of Conquest in Mexican American Writing

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Title: Domestic Violence and Empire: Legacies of Conquest in Mexican American Writing
Author: Johnson, Leigh
Advisor(s): Aleman, Jesse
Committee Member(s): Rebolledo, Tey Diana
Reyes, Barbara
Saldivar-Hull, Sonia
Department: University of New Mexico. Dept. of English
Subject: Mexican American, Chicano, Chicana, Empire, Domestic Violence, Violence, Gender, women, Ruiz de Burton, Maria Cristina Mena, Stephen Crane, Sandra Cisneros, Demetria Martinez, Testimonio, California,
LC Subject(s): Mexican American women--Crimes against--History
Mexican American women--Abuse of--History
Mexican American women in literature
Family violence in literature
Mexican American women authors
Sex role--Political aspects--United States--History
Sex role--Political aspects--Mexico--History
Degree Level: Doctoral
Abstract: This dissertation posits that writers can symbolically represent domestic violence to critique unjust gender relations as well as iniquitous US policy toward Mexican Americans. I use the term domestic violence because it most closely describes the double voiced discourse women engage to critique communities that condone violence against women as well as a country that perpetrates violence against Mexican Americans within its borders. Put broadly, domestic violence refers to threats of sexual, emotional, or psychological abuse within the home. Furthermore, patriarchal control over women’s agency, sexuality, and mobility in turn-of-the-century texts also indicates domestic violence through social and historical conditions. Violence is especially evident throughout this project as women’s rights challenge patriarchal structures and civil rights challenge racist policies. Revealing the perilous gains of women and Mexican Americans, social backlash encourages explosions of domestic violence. For this reason, each chapter explores the historical and social contexts surrounding scenes of domestic violence. Mexican American women remain tenuously between the spaces of home and nation as they experience domestic violence from state and familial institutions. Because these women are not safe within their homes, they have to participate in a broader societal push to define, describe, and defend themselves against domestic violence. Their resistance comes with a price—women, especially women of color, who resist patriarchal violence may be seen as cultural traitors, exposing their men to criticism from dominant society. The first chapter shows how women’s speech both uncovers and masks narratives of domestic violence through allegory using the testimonios taken for the Bancroft project on California history. The second chapter examines how the historical romance genre incorporates scenes of domestic violence against women’s protected space in the home and nation. The third chapter reveals how representations of domestic violence within Mexico reflect colonial anxieties about conquest and domestic policy. American travel writers’ encounters with domestic violence in Mexico reflect the anxieties surrounding American entitlement to Mexico and the bodies of the people living there. The fourth chapter observes limitations on women’s ability to leave violent situations within the home or the nation. This chapter utilizes scenes by Mexican American men, as they write about (and blame women for) domestic violence. The fifth chapter celebrates women writers’ activism through literary motherwork. Though these texts, with the exception of the last chapter, precede the Chicano Movement, they are politically engaged in a struggle to define and defend la raza through their intellectual agendas.
Graduation Date: May 2011
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1928/12859

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