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Third Word Subjects: The Politics and Production of Central American-American Culture

By Maritza E. Cardenas


This dissertation traces the emergence of an alternative Latino identity formation referred to as Central American-American. Informed by diaspora studies, subaltern studies, and cultural studies, it examines Central American and U.S. Central American texts to highlight how Central American-American identity and culture has been forged by such factors as: inherited ideologies from the isthmus, the socio-cultural landscape of the U.S, specifically the city of Los Angeles, and by its current (dis)location within Latinidad. As such, it reveals how Central American-American identity, emanating as it does from transnational networks composed from geo-political locations like “the isthmus.” the U.S., and translocal spaces like Los Angeles, alters what it means to be Central American. It also reveals the limitation present in Latino discourse which attempts to speak for, but which cannot account for all of its presumptive constituents. My analysis sketches the discursive contours of inclusive-exclusion as it pertains to the Central American nation and subject, as they are articulated within literary and cultural practices. In Chapter 1, I examine 19th and 20th century political and historical texts to argue that rather than being read as just an “isthmus,” Central America needs to be understood as a national formation known as Patria Grande, which produces a cultural nationalism that influences the way Central American immigrants re-constitute themselves in the diaspora. In Chapter 2 I analyze immigrant testimonials, the urban space known as “Little Central America” and the COFECA parade, in order to illuminate how these cultural expressions have facilitated a Central American pan-ethnic consciousness, and a thriving identity politics in Los Angeles. In Chapter 3 I explore the contentious and constitutive relationship between the Central American-American and Latino subject. In it, I suggest that Central American-American subjectivity is as an effect of power relations whereby the categories of Latino, Latin American and American are maintained through the exclusion of U.S. Central Americans. Subsequently, this dissertation highlights how these third-word subjects, labeled “Central American” in the U.S., often produce in their cultural expressions a notion of Central American-Americaness that both re-writes the Central American imaginary and challenges conventional articulations of Latinidad

Topics: Central American-American Culture, Identity , Subjectivity, U.S Central Americans in Los Angeles, U.S Central American Identity and Experience in Latino Culture, Alternative Latino Subjectivities
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