"New Italians" or "Criminal Aliens": The Contradictions of Latinos/as, Rights, and Race in the United States

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German Association for American Studies annual conference, “The United States and the Question of Rights”, Osnabrück, May 19-22, 2016

"New Italians" or "Criminal Aliens": The Contradictions of Latinos/as, Rights, and Race in the United States.

"The United States and the Question of Rights", Osnabrück, Germany, May 19-22, 2016.

Gabriele Pisarz-Ramirez (Leipzig) / Jesse Ramirez (Frankfurt am Main)

Latinos and Latinas, the largest minority group in the United States, are at the center of conflicting debates about rights, race, and racial hierarchies in an increasingly diversified US society. Some call them criminals, "illegals," burdens on the welfare system, a fast-breeding, Spanglish-speaking nation within a nation whose refusal to assimilate threatens Anglo-Protestant values. To others, they are patriots, hard workers, and model immigrants ("New Italians") who exemplify the continuing power of the American dream. Does the growing demographic, cultural, and political influence of Latinos/as mark the decline of the United States, or its longevity? How should we understand "Latino spin," which Arlene Dávila defines as the process by which certain discourses and knowledges about Latinos/as trump others? As a racially and socially hybrid group, how are Latinos/as positioned within what Eduardo Bonilla-Silva and David R. Dietrich have described as "a new pigmentocracy" in the United States--a social stratification consisting of whites at the top, light-skinned "honorary whites" in the middle, and dark-skinned or black people at the bottom?

This panel seeks to address these questions by reflecting on the ways that the contradictory position of Latinos/as mirrors the contradictions of rights and race in America. Paper topics may include, but are not limited to:

Latinos/as and the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, the United Farm Workers, contemporary immigrant rights movements;

the politics of immigration reform, militarization of the US-Mexico border, the intersection of anti-terrorism and anti-immigrant legislation;

the Latino/a consumer market, Latino/a media (Telemundo, Univision)
Figures of Latinidad, hybridity, and mestizaje in US literature and culture;

Spanglish and the question of linguistic rights;

theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of the Americas (hemispheric studies, transnationalism, borderlands);

the role of Latinos/as in debates about race, "neo-racism" (Etienne Balibar), and racial hierarchies in US society (including Afro-pessimist claims about the necessity of antagonism among racial and ethnic minorities).

Confirmed Speakers:
1. Prof. Dr. Josef Raab (Univ. Duisburg-Essen)
"The Disenfranchised Latin@ Alien in The X-Files and Beyond"
2. Prof. Dr. Horst Tonn (Univ. Tübingen)
"Imaginaries of Citizenship in the U.S.-Mexican Borderlands"
3. Dr. Markus Heide (Univ. Uppsala)
"Social Banditry and the Struggle for Equal Rights in Mexican-American Popular Culture"

Please send a 300-word proposal and a short CV to both organizers by January 11.

Prof. Dr. Gabriele Pisarz-Ramirez
Institut für Amerikanistik
Universität Leipzig
Beethovenstr. 15
04107 Leipzig

Dr. J. Jesse Ramirez, PhD
Institut für England- und Amerikastudien (IEAS)
Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main
Norbert-Wollheim-Platz 1
60629 Frankfurt am Main