Tuesday 19th March – Femicide in Latin America

NOTE VENUE FOR THIS EVENT: Unlike the poster which says Silverstone 327, this week’s session will be held in THE TOP FLOOR OF BRAMBER HOUSE, site of the Occupy Sussex protest, from 1-2pm.

Lorena Fuentes (Birkbeck), ‘Bringing Political Economy Back-in: Theorizing the Femicides of Maquila Workers in Guatemala’.

Laura Joyce (University of Sussex) ‘Reproducing Violence: Rihanna, Chris Brown and the Aestheticization of the Ciudad Juarez Femicides’.

We hope to see you there!

Lorena’s abstract:

Building upon theories of political economy and conceptualizing the femicide of female maquila (factory) workers in Guatemala as a ‘site’ of overlap between gendered and economic violence, this paper critically engages with the question of what it means to appeal to legislation around women’s rights to live free from violence, in a context of the structural violence of neoliberal economic policies. Literature on women’s rights practices vis-à-vis the State in Guatemala has not adequately addressed the question of what new laws can substantively achieve ‘on the ground’ in terms of eradicating the femicide which has claimed the lives of hundreds of women and girls in the region. This paper contends that this lacuna is due to the relative lack of engagement with political economy perspectives in both feminist academic and activist arenas, and argues that the lack of a materialist analysis in accounts of the murders needs to be problematized for rendering invisible the linkages between global economic policies and violence against women. Taking a political economy approach allows for a theorization of femicide within the context of the neoliberal ‘remaking’ of Guatemala, and brings in a necessary engagement with questions of the respective roles that the market, state, and society play in the (re)production of violence against women. Furthermore, this approach provides an entry point for conceptualizing the strategies of situated women’s groups and for understanding the constraints imposed on them by the neoliberal context within which they operate. This paper then questions the transformational potential of laws that affirm women’s rights and criminalize femicide, using Guatemala’s “Law Against Femicide” to foreground this discussion, and concludes with a call for an engagement with political economy perspectives in theorizing about the murders— because this theorization both informs and constrains the strategies of women’s rights groups in the region.

Laura’s abstract:

When Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte worked with MAC to create their Autumn/Winter 2010 makeup collection and based their ideas on the murdered women of Ciudad Juarez, there was a public and industry outcry which led to the withdrawal of cosmetics with names such as ‘Factory’ ‘Juarez’ and ‘Ghost Town’. Rodarte tapped into the borderland mythologies of Juarez and crated an illusory fantasy world which sought to simultaneously obliterate and venerate the dead women. One eyeshadow, ‘Bordertown’, appears to look like chunks of rotting flesh streaked with blood. The models for their catwalk show had hollow blackened eyes, green-white pallor and lips that had been bloodlessly ‘lip-erased’ with a product specifically designed for the purpose.

In Spanish, maquillar is to make up, to assemble. The women in the factories are asked to repeat simple mechanical operations thousands of times a day to make up the products which will be sold by global corporations. At the same time their images are being assembled, made up and aestheticized to create a cosmetic erasure of the crimes which they are subject to. When two American women and a global company make profit from this dangerous cosmetic erasure in order to sell products, the borders between bodies, countries, art and crime become leaky through the act and the illusion of symbiosis between the women of Ciudad Juarez and the products they inspired is threatened by the haunting of exploitation.

Since then, the situation has become more complex. Chris Brown got a neck tattoo, based, he says, on the promotional material produced by MAC for the Rodarte sisters campaign. The image, which is of a skull, bears a striking resemblance to the police photographs of his ex, and now current, girlfriend, superstar Rihanna. The controversy over gendered violence, race and exploitation, begun by Rodarte and MAC, came back, haunting, once again. This paper seeks to address these connections, and ask what happens when domestic violence collides with globalism, fashion and murder.

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