Publication Date

2019-12-10

Availability

Embargoed

Embargo Period

2021-12-09

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)

Department

Modern Languages and Literatures (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense

2019-11-13

First Committee Member

George Yúdice

Second Committee Member

Elena Grau Lleveria

Third Committee Member

David Luis-Brown

Fourth Committee Member

Lillian Manzor

Abstract

My dissertation maps contemporary Central American cultural production in literature, music and grassroots networks for culture. It is focused on the postwar period in the region, from the signing of the Peace Accords in the 1990s onwards. I focus on emergent cultural narratives in order to analyze the reconstruction of isthmian imaginaries through a constructive lens. Cultural texts and discursive imaginaries are analyzed from a perspective grounded in local histories versus the grand homogenizing narratives that have historically defined the Central America isthmus, such as mestizaje and the revolutionary as paradigm. Through the analytical constructs of aterrizaje and descendencia, this dissertation demonstrates how artists, writers and cultural activists are elaborating recognition of the rich cultural heritage of the region in order to bring into being diverse forms of cultural expressions that more adequately reflect Central America’s heterogeneity. Aterrizaje, which means a landing, or a grounding in the very real interactions of people and place, refers to the recognition of heritage with the potential for its valorization and provides the theoretical-analytical frame for my analysis. It also describes the interdisciplinary methodology that combines historicized readings of cultural texts with participant observation and interviews. My theoretical apparatus draws on aterrizaje and desencanto as structures of feeling along with the term descendencia, which is debiologized and repurposed to refer to the elaboration and innovation of heritage. Together with these terms, I construct a vernacular cultural theory based on encounters with Central American residents, migrants, writers and musicians of differing walks of life. Aterrizaje with descendencia as a guiding principle is a perspective, a narrative in progress, grounded in the awareness of heritage as fertile soil from which to (re)construct possible worlds. These two terms structure the inquiry of this dissertation in which I historicize the movements and events that have led to both the widespread cultural malaise of postwar desencanto and the resurgence of Afro-Caribbean cultures in Central America with their more constructive, activist and collaborative approaches to culture. This dissertation looks at two areas with a more aspirational outlook – music and the Central American Caribbean versus literature more firmly rooted in disillusion and desencanto of the postwar. Excerpts of my own personal journey in the region have been included as evidence of landing in heritage from my own subject-position and the potential for elaboration of descendencia as part of the creative reconstruction of Central American imaginaries of which this dissertation forms a part.

Keywords

Central America; Caribbean; Imaginaries; Postwar; Heterogeneity; Heritage; Literature; Music; Networks; Cultural Innovation; Emergent Cultural Narratives

Available for download on Thursday, December 09, 2021

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