I am a fifth-year student in the Rhetoric Department, well into the dissertation process. I work at the intersection of legal studies, political theory, and colonial studies.
My dissertation analyzes Spanish-American identity formation in Mexico and the US. In Mexico, I analyze how courts and the constitution define national identity in contradistinction to ideas of “Indigenous peoples” and the “West.” I argue that this process re-articulates colonial categories that originated in Spain’s evangelical mission. In the US, I study the changing vocabularies in which the law has incorporated Mexican-Americans into its racial categories. In the nineteenth century, courts hesitatingly folded Mexicans into the category of “White” for naturalization effects. More recently, the “Hispanic/Latino” pan-ethnic category has been construed as a “non-White” internal minority, for instance, in discrimination lawsuits.
Both in Mexico and the US, Spanish-American identity evinces a complex relationship with the majoritarian concept of “the West” but also with its various negations. In Mexico, national identity is neither “Indigenous” nor “Spanish”. In the US, Hispanic ethnicity is and is not culturally “White”. Spanish-American identity is, therefore, both negation and extension of Europe and Spain. This is its colonial legacy.