Making Disappearing Women Appear: Representing the Maquiladoras Murders (ASA 1/18/2010;11/18-21,2010)

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Making Disappearing Women Appear: Representing the Maquiladoras Murders
Panel Proposal for the American Studies Association 2010 Conference: "Crisis, Chains, and Change: American Studies for the 21st Century," November 18-21, 2010 San Antonio, Texas

The December 12, 2009 issue of the El Paso Times reports that the Inter-American Court of Human Rights sanctioned the Mexican Government for not fully investigating 3 of the 750 murders of girls and women that have taken place in proximity to the Maquiladoras in Ciudad Juárez and Chihuahua City since 1993. The article cites human rights' and government agencies' failed efforts to stop the sustained killing, but also notes that the murders "have inspired movies, books, documentaries, songs, and art expressions around the world."

What do these representations tell us about the ways in which gendered violence is understood now? Why has this particular form of gendered violence fostered so much artistic and cultural production? Which texts are capable of linking the murders to other histories, incidences, and systems, and which make them into contained and isolated emblems? Do they offer different ways of seeing and thinking about this violence against Mexican girls and women or do they implicitly sustain what geographer Melissa W. Wright (2001) describes as the "discord of value pitted against waste"? According to Wright, in the narratives that circulate through the media, the women and girls "represent cultural value in decline and in consequence are possibly not valuable enough in death to warrant such concern."

An installation such as Sub Rosa's "Can You See Us Now?" (2004-2005) warrants a sustained analysis, as it seeks to make the Juárez women visible by mapping the intersections of economic, cultural, and political forces that make their continued disappearances possible. Coco Fusco's performance and one-act play "The Incredible Disappearing Woman" (2003), which is dedicated to the women of Juárez, links the Maquiladora murders to the disappearance of women in Chile during Pinochet's "Dirty War" and the art world's complicity in sustaining multiple forms of raced and gendered erasure.

Building upon the work of Wright, who disinters the cultural logics that inform both the gendered labor of factory work at the border and responses to the murders, this proposed panel seeks to assess representations that attempt to call attention to the Maquiladoras murders and analyze the questions they raise about neoliberalism, disposable life, corporate culpability, and spectacle culture as well as the discourses of sex, femininity, value, profit, and vulnerability that sustain the inequitable (and gendered) intersections of the Global North and South.

Please send 500 word abstracts and 1-2 page C.V.s to Kimberly Lamm by January 18th, 2010. Inquiries welcome.