Spectacles of Relation: Race, Performance, and the Latinx Nineteenth Century


ACLS Fellowship Program


Chicano/Latino Studies


“Spectacles of Relation: Race, Spectacle, and the Latinx Nineteenth Century” is a cultural history of Latinx popular performance from the 1840s to the early 1900s. It argues that nineteenth-century performance culture, and in particular, spectacle, was essential to establishing Latinidad as a racialized category of difference during an increased period of American imperial expansion into Latin America and the Caribbean. It situates canonical figures of the Latinx nineteenth century and lesser-known subjects in a genealogy of “spectacles of relation:” displays of Latinx bodies in theater, literature, and popular entertainment that mediated how Latinxs sat in relation to existing racial hierarchies in the United States. Through an analysis of newspapers, photographs, plays, novels, memoirs, and popular ephemera, the project reconstitutes and traces these “spectacles of relation” along two vectors: how Latinxs were rendered as racially distinct in the imagination of Anglo-Americans, and how Latinxs understood themselves as minoritized subjects in relation to other people of color. By doing so, it insists on the significance of historical performance in shaping contemporary Latinx cultural politics.