Unspeakable Violence

Remapping U.S. and Mexican National Imaginaries

Unspeakable Violence

Latin America Otherwise

More about this series

Book Pages: 400 Illustrations: 8 figures, 3 tables, 5 maps Published: October 2011

American Studies, Chicanx and Latinx Studies, Gender and Sexuality

Unspeakable Violence addresses the epistemic and physical violence inflicted on racialized and gendered subjects in the U.S.–Mexico borderlands from the mid-nineteenth century through the early twentieth. Arguing that this violence was fundamental to U.S., Mexican, and Chicana/o nationalisms, Nicole M. Guidotti-Hernández examines the lynching of a Mexican woman in California in 1851, the Camp Grant Indian Massacre of 1871, the racism evident in the work of the anthropologist Jovita González, and the attempted genocide, between 1876 and 1907, of the Yaqui Indians in the Arizona–Sonora borderlands. Guidotti-Hernández shows that these events have been told and retold in ways that have produced particular versions of nationhood and effaced other issues. Scrutinizing stories of victimization and resistance, and celebratory narratives of mestizaje and hybridity in Chicana/o, Latina/o, and borderlands studies, she contends that by not acknowledging the racialized violence perpetrated by Mexicans, Chicanas/os, and indigenous peoples, as well as Anglos, narratives of mestizaje and resistance inadvertently privilege certain brown bodies over others. Unspeakable Violence calls for a new, transnational feminist approach to violence, gender, sexuality, race, and citizenship in the borderlands.


“It is impossible, of course, to wrangle such a wide-ranging and intelligent study into a few easy quips, and to attempt to do so would go against the notion that Guidotti-Hernández's examples of borderland violence reveal a complexity in Arizona's and Mexico's culture and history for which many historians, let alone politicians, don't always like to account.” — Tim Hull, Tucson Weekly

“Nevertheless, more work can be done to examine the interdisciplinary problems of investigating intersecting oppressions of race, class, gender, and nationality. Unspeakable Violence is a significant point of departure for this important work.” — Jason Oliver Chang, Hispanic American Historical Review

Unspeakable Violence has arrived on the scene like a breath of fresh air. . . . Unspeakable Violence further exemplifies how the most effective interdisciplinary scholarship is equally indebted to theoretical rigor and historical responsibility. Refusing to pull punches with its multifaceted assessment of Chicano nationalism and its unflinching methodological strategy, Guidotti-Hernández’s volume makes clear to historians the value of literary texts by writers like Jovita González and Monserrat Fontes, whose indelible contributions to an evidential archive are necessary to a more composite record of the past.” — Richard T. Rodríguez, American Literature

“[T]hose willing to make their way through this challenging, thought-provoking, and often disturbing work will be rewarded with fresh insights as to the multiple dimensions that violence has long assumed within the borderlands.”  — Karl Jacoby, Journal of Arizona History

“Unspeakable Violence will appeal simultaneously to historians of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands and to Chicana/o Studies scholars...[Guidotti-Hernandez’s] work makes an important contribution to transnational analyses of U.S.-Mexico border histories.”  — Belinda Linn Rincon, New Mexico Historical Review

“Nicole Guidotti-Hernández’s Unspeakable Violence takes on a lot of sacred cows from chicano(a) nationalism to Mexican indigenismo…One of the most exciting aspects of this book is its explicitly transnational approach.”  — Elliott Young, Bulletin of Latin American Research

"Guidotti-Hernández makes a major theoretical contribution to border theory and Chicano studies.... Guidotti-Hernández's work is quite useful in understanding how the racialized exercise of power requires the constant threat of terror tactics in order to maintain its grip." — Martha Idalia Chew Sánchez, Latin American Research Review

"Nicole Guidotti-Hernandez has produced a thoroughly researched book that complicates the fields of Chicano and indigenous studies. … This book is suitable for advanced undergraduates or graduate course in primarily interdisciplinary fields such as cultural studies, gender studies, ethnic studies or even history." — Jessic Auchter, International Feminist Journal of Politics

Unspeakable Violence is an outstanding analysis of violence in the U.S.–Mexico borderlands. As a historian, I am most impressed by the care that Nicole M. Guidotti-Hernández takes to ground her analysis in solid historical research. What I find so refreshing is her willingness to put forth courageous new arguments about what has been little discussed in Chicana/o studies, Latina/o studies, or ethnic studies more broadly. Rather than taking the standard approach of only analyzing violence when Latinas/os are the victims, Guidotti-Hernández reveals borderlands violence in all of its complexity. This is exceptional scholarship.” — George J. Sánchez, author of Becoming Mexican American: Ethnicity, Culture, and Identity in Chicano Los Angeles, 1900–1945

“In this exquisite book, Nicole M. Guidotti-Hernández examines little-known but critically important episodes of violence in U.S.–Mexican borderlands history. Providing a necessary, long-overdue corrective to Chicana/o and borderlands studies, she suggests that in recounting these events as instances of victimization or acts of resistance, Chicana/o feminist and nationalist scholars create tidy narratives for consolidating Chicana/o nationalist identity. In doing so, they disregard Mexican-American complicity in the very acts of violence they describe.” — María Josefina Saldaña-Portillo, author of The Revolutionary Imagination in the Americas and the Age of Development


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Nicole M. Guidotti-Hernández is Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of Texas, Austin.

Table of Contents Back to Top
About the Series ix

A Note on Terminology xi

Acknowledgments xiii

Introduction 1

Part One

1. A Women with No Names and Many Names: Lynching, Gender, Violence, and Subjectivity 35

2. Webs of Violence: The Camp Grant Indian Massacre, Nation, and Genocidal Alliances 81

3. Spaces of Death: Border (Anthropological) Subjects and the Problem of Racialized and Gendered Violence in Jovita González's Archive 133

Part Two

Introduction to Part Two 173

4. Transnational Histories of Violence during the Yaqui Indian Wars in the Arizona-Sonora Borderlands: The Historiography 177

5. Stripping the Body of Flesh and Memory: Toward a Theory of Yaqui Subjectivity 235

Postscript. On Impunidad: National Renewals of Violence in Greater Mexico and the Americas 289

Notes 297

Bibliography 343

Index 361
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Winner, 2011-12 MLA Prize in United States Latina and Latino and Chicana and Chicano Literary and Cultural Studies

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5075-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5057-6
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