Dead Subjects

Toward a Politics of Loss in Latino Studies

Dead Subjects

Book Pages: 304 Illustrations: Published: November 2007

Author: Antonio Viego

Chicanx and Latinx Studies, Theory and Philosophy > Psychoanalytic Theory, Race and Indigeneity

Dead Subjects is an impassioned call for scholars in critical race and ethnic studies to engage with Lacanian psychoanalytic theory. Antonio Viego argues that Lacanian theory has the potential to begin rectifying the deeply flawed way that ethnic and racialized subjects have been conceptualized in North America since the mid-twentieth century. Viego contends that the accounts of human subjectivity that dominate the humanities and social sciences and influence U.S. legal thought derive from American ego psychology. Examining ego psychology in the United States during its formative years following World War II, Viego shows how its distinctly American misinterpretation of Freudian theory was driven by a faith in the possibility of rendering the human subject whole, complete, and transparent. Viego traces how this theory of the subject gained traction in the United States, passing into most forms of North American psychology, law, civil rights discourse, ethnic studies, and the broader culture.

Viego argues that the repeated themes of wholeness, completeness, and transparency with respect to ethnic and racialized subjectivity are fundamentally problematic as these themes ultimately lend themselves to the project of managing and controlling ethnic and racialized subjects by positing them as fully knowable, calculable sums: as dead subjects. He asserts that the refusal of critical race and ethnic studies scholars to read ethnic and racialized subjects in a Lacanian framework—as divided subjects, split in language—contributes to a racist discourse. Focusing on theoretical, historical, and literary work in Latino studies, he mines the implicit connection between Latino studies’ theory of the “border subject” and Lacan’s theory of the “barred subject” in language to argue that Latino studies is poised to craft a critical multiculturalist, anti-racist Lacanian account of subjectivity while adding historical texture and specificity to Lacanian theory.


“Bringing to bear psychoanalysis on the study of the Latino subject, Viego’s book manages to bridge two fields that until recently have not found a way to converse with one another. Building heavily on the work of French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, Dead Subjects provides a much-needed illumination of why Lacan matters to those thinking about race, ethnicity, and the politics of minority groups in the U.S.” — Ramón E. Soto-Crespo, MLN

“This well researched book is able to show the enormous potential of the Lacanian approach to Latino/a studies, and the complexities that we must take into account in the field of Latino/a studies if we are to forge a new research agenda for the twenty-first century.” — Juan Velasco, American Studies

“Viego provides performance scholars with an important theory to understand the psychoanalytic dimensions of the performance of identity—especially in relation to processes of ethnic racialization. . . . His analysis of the way that the subject exceeds language can lay the psychoanalytic foundation for what performance analysis has theorized in other dimensions as embodied repertoires and hauntings. In this way, Viego’s theorization can provide a strong foundation to include Lacanian psychoanalysis as an important dimension of identity-based performance analysis.” — Edwin Emilio Corbin Gutiérrez, e-misférica

“Viego’s impressive marshalling of Lacanian theory and its dense registers will prove particularly instructive for scholars of psychoanalysis, psychology and identity politics as well as those involved in advanced theoretical questions in Latin American Studies, Latino Studies and other Ethnic Studies programmes.” — Gilberto Rosas, Bulletin of Latin American Research

Dead Subjects offers an approach that could remediate many of the impasses and failures of the ego-psychological underpinnings of contemporary ideas of ethnicity and identification. These ideas have had a strong impact not only on academic ethnic studies but also on the very shaping of American law. Antonio Viego provides an important alternative model to them that will have immediate academic relevance. I also think that the influence of Dead Subjects may well be broader than the American case that Viego emphasizes. As thinkers all over the world struggle to frame new ways of dealing with immigrant and ethnic identities, the book can serve as an important guidepost. Viego’s carefully drawn distinction between the ego and the subject, based on Lacan’s work, is key to the new model.” — Juliet Flower MacCannell, author of Figuring Lacan: Criticism and the Cultural Unconscious

“A strikingly original contribution, Dead Subjects represents a new and sophisticated movement in Latino/a studies and the critical discourse on race and psychoanalysis. Arguing that the psychic realm should be read along with the social if our analysis of ethnic/racial subjectivity is ever to surpass ‘weak multiculturalism,’ Antonio Viego situates Lacanian analysis through carefully chosen case studies and examples. He reveals Lacanian thought as relevant in a way that will be nothing short of startling for most readers.” — José Esteban Muñoz, author of Disidentifications: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics


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Price: $27.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Antonio Viego is Associate Professor in the Program in Literature and the Department of Romance Studies at Duke University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

Introduction: All the Things You Can’t Be By Now 1

Chapter 1: Hollowed Be Thy Name 30

Chapter 2: Subjects-Desire, Not Egos-Pleasures 48

Chapter 3: Browned, Skinned, Educated, and Protected 75

Chapter 4: Latino Studies’ Barred Subject and Lacan’s Border Subject, or Why the Hysteric Speaks in Spanglish 108

Chapter 5: Hysterical Ties, Latino Amnesia, and the Sinthomestiza Subject 138

Chapter 6: Emma Perez Dreams the Breach: Rubbing Chicano History and Historicism ‘til It Bleeds 165

Chapter 7: The Clinical, the Speculative, and What Must Be Made Up in the Space between Them 196

Conclusion: Ruining the Ethnic-Racialized Self and Precipitating the Subject 224

Notes 243

Bibliography 267

Index 279
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing

Winner, 2007 MLA Prize in United States Latina and Latino and Chicana and Chicano Literary and Cultural Studies

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4120-8 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4099-7
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