Date of Degree
Hispanic & Luso-Brazilian Literatures & Languages
Arts and Humanities | Intellectual History | Latin American Languages and Societies | Latin American Literature | Spanish and Portuguese Language and Literature
Mexican Literature, Mexican Culture, Neoliberalism, Hegemony, Intellectuals, Octavio Paz
This dissertation studies a series of cultural products and practices that, between 1977 and 1996, either contributed to the formation and propagation of a neoliberal rationality in Mexico or opposed it. By analyzing objects as diverse as cultural magazines, art exhibitions, literary polemics and social movements, it addresses the reconfiguration of the Mexican cultural field triggered by the neoliberal turn in the 1980s as well as the construction of a new national narrative intended to displace the old revolutionary tale and to rationalize and facilitate the insertion of the country into the global economy.
The first chapter focuses on the politics of the literary magazine Vuelta during the 1980s. It claims that throughout these years this publication, founded and directed by Octavio Paz, experienced a radical ideological overturn, in some way parallel to that experienced at the same time by the national ruling class. It shows that the intellectual group assembled around the magazine abandoned the nationalist narrative inherited from the Mexican Revolution, and developed a new narrative device more suitable to the neoliberal strategy while defending the economic liberalization policies of the federal government.
The second chapter explores a series of texts, images and cultural operations constellated around the art exhibition Mexico: Splendors of Thirty Centuries, opened in October of 1990 in the Metropolitan Museum of New York. I affirm that by means of this exhibition a large network of Mexican officials, entrepreneurs and cultural agents attempted a reorganization of the national cultural archive and a rebranding of the nation with the aim of adapting Mexico’s international image to the new global economic conditions, all while negotiating a free trade agreement with Canada and the United States.
The third chapter examines a couple of feisty cultural polemics from the early 1990s. The first one opposed the magazines Vuelta and Nexos on the occasion of the celebration of the intellectual meeting “Coloquio de Invierno” in Mexico City in February 1992. The second one, which confronted the supporters of “literatura difícil” (difficult literature) with the proponents of “literatura fácil” (easy literature), revolved around the production of literary value and the management of cultural prestige in an increasingly globalized era. Both polemics, I assert, show the way in which the neoliberal rationality penetrated the Mexican cultural field and altered their spaces, practices and habits.
Finally, the fourth chapter no longer studies the construction and expansion of neoliberal hegemony in Mexico but its fractures and lines of exhaustion. By focusing on the early documents of the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (which emerged on the southern border of Mexico on January 1, 1994) and its political disagreement with Octavio Paz, I claim that this armed group deflated the national narrative that the political and cultural elites had outlined during the previous decade, and radically antagonized with the neoliberal reason by illuminating other knowledges and subjectivities. My assertion is that it was then, with the national political crisis that the Zapatismo prompted, when the possibility of producing and maintaining a neoliberal hegemony throughout the country entirely dissolved, and an era of posthegemonic conflict –that lasts until the present– was inaugurated.
Lemus, Rafael, "La nación está en otra parte: cultura y neoliberalismo en México (1977-1996)" (2017). CUNY Academic Works.