Citizenship and the Making of Mexican American Manhood, 1848-1959
In the first ever book-length study of Latino manhood before the Civil Rights Movement, Before Chicano examines Mexican American print culture to explore how conceptions of citizenship and manhood developed in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The year 1848 saw both the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that ended the U.S. Mexican War and the year of the Seneca Falls Convention, the first organized conference on women’s rights in the United States. These concurrent events signaled new ways of thinking about U.S. citizenship, and placing these historical moments into conversation with the archive of Mexican American print culture, Varon offers an expanded temporal frame for Mexican Americans as long-standing participants in U.S. national projects.
Pulling from a wide-variety of familiar and lesser-known works—from fiction and newspapers to government documents, images, and travelogues—Varon illustrates how Mexican Americans during this period envisioned themselves as U.S. citizens through cultural depictions of manhood. Before Chicano reveals how manhood offered a strategy to disparate Latino communities across the nation to imagine themselves as a cohesive whole—as Mexican Americans—and as political agents in the U.S. Though the Civil Rights Movement is typically recognized as the origin point for the study of Latino culture, Varon pushes us to consider an intellectual history that far predates the late twentieth century, one that is both national and transnational. He expands our framework for imagining Latinos’ relationship to the U.S. and to a past that is often left behind.
"Varon’s groundbreaking, beautifully written literary and intellectual history of Mexican-American manhood illuminates the ways in which Mexican Americans made claims to the public sphere by engaging with questions of citizenship, racialization, and transnational imagined communities. The book seamlessly brings together the rich literatures on feminism, nationalism, political theory, and queer theory in order to offer a brilliant, timely, and compelling historical narrative of belonging."
—Raúl Coronado, author of A World Not to Come: A History of Latino Writing and Print Culture
"Brings to bear archival work and print culture studies to uncover and analyze the cultural, historical, and literary texts involved in the “making” of Mexican American manhood and its correlation to notions of citizenship. Dr. Varon studies Spanish-language newspapers and political proclamations; fugitive narratives and short-story collections (some here analyzed at length for the first time); under-studied memoirs and long-ignored novels; and canonical figures in early Chicana/o literary histories. Dr. Varon expertly combines several fields—including American and Critical Race studies, recovery and archival work, and American literary scholarship and Chicana/o and Latino/a studies—to render the book’s study of the past presciently critical of contemporary debates about immigration, citizenship, and the presumed rights of Mexican Americans."
—Jesse Alemán, co-editor of The Latino Nineteenth Century
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