Denaturalizing the Market, Revaluating the Body: Neoliberal Biopolitics in Latin American Literature and Film, 1990-2010
Caja, Ashley B.
During the last three decades of the twentieth century, neoliberalism was the dominant political economic discourse in Latin America, as many countries implemented a series of reforms to promote free markets and free trade. Yet neoliberalism is more than merely a set of economic practices; it is an ideology that generalizes economic principles to all aspects of life. This dissertation analyzes a selection of Latin American novels and films, produced over a twenty-year period from 1990 to 2010: Central do Brasil, directed by Walter Salles; Morena en rojo by Myriam Laurini; Cronicamente Inviável, directed by Sergio Bianchi; María llena eres de gracia, directed by Joshua Marston; 2666 by Roberto Bolaño; La Virgen de los sicarios by Fernando Vallejo; and O Matador by Patrícia Melo. All of these texts use depictions of the commodification of the human body as a way to contest neoliberal ideology. They portray certain bodies as contemporary manifestations of the homo sacer, the figure developed by Giorgio Agamben to describe human life that has no value in any social sphere, and thus is disposable and may be eliminated with impunity. This study argues that these texts utilize the concept of disposable life in order to signal to their audience how neoliberal capitalism makes certain segments of the population vulnerable to bodily harm, thereby denaturalizing neoliberal assumptions about human behavior. Furthermore, these texts emphasize how ordinary people contribute to creating an atmosphere of disposability through seemingly benign acts such as consumption. In this way, these texts force their audiences to recognize the ways in which they are complicit with the neoliberal system.
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