At the Edges of Empire: Intimate geopolitics and embodied identity

Authors: Lucía Stavig*, University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill
Topics: Ethnicity and Race, Social Geography, Immigration/Transnationalism
Keywords: empire, race, racialization, phenomenology, embodiment, intimate geopolitics
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 2:40 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Studio 9, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Perhaps the most provocative contribution made by feminist geopolitics has been its focus on the body and the everyday as sites of geopolitical “knowledge production” (Massaro and Williams 2013: 569). This has produced a space for the recognition of an “intimate geopolitics” (Smith 2013) —one that “...makes the relationship between the intimate and the global evident” (Massaro and Williams 2013: 571). In this paper, I use my experiences as a white Latina to give flesh to the analytic of intimate geopolitics. Many persons I have encountered in North America have been surprised to learn that, as a white-skinned person, I am also Peruvian. Following Martinez’s Phenomenology of Chicana Experience and Identity (2000), I use my own life as a site in which I have come to understand my identity (Peruvian/Latina) and body (white) as diametrically opposed under construction race l in the US. My being confounds facile understandings of both whiteness and brownness and is subjected to repeated questioning through what I have deemed “the Litmus test”. I argue that the way in which Peruvians and US whiteness are imagined come together to make reactions to my identity a site of intimate geopolitics, of empire building. My identity likewise inserts nuance into critical race scholarship that asserts that white-skinned people can claim and discard cultural identities at will (Nagel 1994). I argue that this is not necessarily the case where a white-skinned person’s cultural identity is associated with a non-white race—such as US Latinos who are racialized as “brown.”

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