A discussion of the idea of America, or American Exceptionalism, usually references two things: first, the fact or belief that the United States has been exempt from the kind of domestic class conflict that has afflicted the development of other nations; second, the fact or belief that the United States has been able to project an unprecedented degree of global power free from the kind of direct colonialism and militarism that has defined previous empires. But in all the debates over what is and isn’t distinct about the United States, little discussion has been paid to one variable that can, at least in relation to its global ascendance, unambiguously be called unique: its relationship with Latin America. Unlike their European counterparts, the Anglo and Saxon settlers who colonized North America looked to Iberian America not as an epistemic 'other' but as a competitor in a fight to define a set of nominally shared but actually contested ideas and political forms: Christianity, republicanism, liberalism, democracy, sovereignty, rights, and, above all, the idea of America.
Our facilitator has suggested reading Kennan's South American Diary in preparation for this discussion. Click here to download a PDF of the reading.
Greg Grandin is a Professor of History at New York University and the author of a number of prize-winning books, including most recently, The Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom, and Deception in the New World. Toni Morrison called this work “compelling, brilliant and necessary.” Released in early 2014, the book narrates the history of a slave-ship revolt that inspired Herman Melville’s other masterpiece, Benito Cereno. Philip Gourevitch describes it as a “rare book in which the drama of the action and the drama of ideas are equally measured, a work of history and of literary reflection that is as urgent as it is timely.”
Hemispheric Dialogues invites key thinkers to lead discussions about some of the pressing issues of our time. The series envisions informal yet sustained dialogue among faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, artists, and members of the community.
Tea and cookies will be served.
This event is free and open to the public. A photo ID is required to enter NYU buildings. 20 Cooper Square is a wheelchair accessible venue.
Perdidos y encontrados, exhibición fotográfica que reúne trabajo de Moysés Zúñiga de los últimos 5 años, documenta el peligroso viaje de migrantes centroamericanos rumbo al norte, a través de la frontera sur mexicana hacia los Estados Unidos. Las fotografías de Zúñiga presentan un sinnúmero de caras y vidas invisibilizadas por la violencia criminal y estructural que expulsa a cientos de miles de sus comunidades hacia estados de vulnerabilidad radical en las rutas migratorias. Con sus imágenes y detalladas observaciones personales, Zúñiga nos sumerge en las narrativas de la frontera sur de México—realidades y experiencias prácticamente ignoradas por los medios estadounidenses. Los migrantes en estas zonas son asediados por asaltantes, pandillas criminales, oficiales corruptos, empresarios sin principios y la indiferencia de la opinión pública. Cada fotografía a la vez suspende y condensa el terror y la indefensión que marcan el movimiento migrante—a pie, en bus, en balsa, en tren—a través de una sucesión de escenarios predeterminados, cada uno con sus riesgos y predadores específicos. La efímera seguridad de llegar a cada destino en la ruta solo anuncia los peligros del tramo siguiente. Cada partida reinicia y repite este ciclo de amenazas—el robo, la extorsión, la mutilación, la tortura, la violación, la esclavitud sexual y la desaparición. Algunos son capturados temprano y deportados a sus países de origen por la autoridades migratorias, solo para reintentar el viaje nuevamente. Algunos se caen de la bestia, el famoso tren migratorio, o son secuestrados por bandas criminales, sin dejar rastro. Las mujeres y niñas son especialmente vulnerables, y muchas son condenadas a la esclavitud sexual en las cantinas de ciudades fronterizas como Tapachula. Muchos otros migrantes abandonan el viaje y se quedan en México, bajo un castigante régimen de ilegalidad. En las fotografías de Moysés Zúñiga, encontramos a los perdidos en esta máquina de sufrimiento y muerte, vivos y en plena posesión de su humanidad.
Spanning over 5 years of Moysés Zúniga’s work, Lost and Found chronicles the perilous sojourn of Central American migrants across Mexico’s southern border and northward, through Mexico, towards the United States. In Zúñiga’s photographs, we find the countless faces and lives made invisible by the criminal and structural violence that expels hundreds of thousands from their communities, and thrusts them into states of radical vulnerability as they travel along migratory routes. With his photographs and detailed firsthand accounts, Zúñiga immerses the viewer in rare and specific glimpses of narratives from Mexico’s southern border—stories that are virtually ignored by mainstream media in the United States. Migrants are besieged by petty thieves, criminal gangs, corrupt public officials, unscrupulous businessmen, and an indifferent public opinion. Each photograph at once suspends and condenses the terror and defenselessness that mark the movement of migrants—on foot, by bus, on rafts, by train—through a succession of predetermined landscapes, each harboring its own risks and predators. The fleeting reassurance of having reached each destination along the route only implies the dangers that lay ahead. Each leg of the journey marks another repetition of the endless cycle that migrants face—robbery, extortion, mutilation, torture, rape, sexual servitude, amputation, and disappearance. Some are apprehended early on by Mexican immigration authorities and deported back to their countries of origin, only to attempt the crossing again. Some fall off of La bestia (“The Beast”), the infamous migrant train, or are kidnapped by criminal gangs and never heard from again. Women and girls are particularly vulnerable, with many coerced into sexual slavery in the cantinas and dance halls that line the streets of border cities like Tapachula. Countless others abandon the journey altogether and settle in Mexico under a punishing regime of illegality. In Moysés Zúñiga’s photographs, those lost in this machine of suffering and death are found, alive and in full possession of their humanity.
—12 marzo de 2015 / 12 March 2015
Marcial Godoy-Anativia & Laura Blüer
About Moysés Zúñiga:
A native of San Cristóbal de las Casas, Moysés Zuñiga Santiago began his study of science and technology at the University of Xalapa in Veracruz in 1998 where he worked in television, photography and radio. In 2003, he began work in Xalapa at Diario AZ as a photojournalist and was subsequently hired by Milenio de Veracruz as the photography editor. Beginning in January of 2006 he served as the correspondent for Mexican photography agency Cuartoscuro during Subcomandante Marcos’ ‘Other Campaign’ and traveled the entirety of Mexico with Marcos. During this time, Zúñiga also worked with the Associated Press (AP), EFE (Spain) and Agence France Press (AFP). Since 2007, Zúñiga has worked with La Jornada in San Cristóbal de las Casas and covers the Chiapas region for the Associated Press and EFE. In 2009 he received a Rory Peck Training Fund grant for freelance journalists in high-risk areas from the Rory Peck Trust. Moysés participated in two roundtable discussions on Chiapanecan photography held during the 2010 and 2011 Encuentros in Centro Hemisférico. Since 2014 Zúñiga has been a part of the Red de Periodistas de a Pie, a site where journalists dedicated to covering migration through Mexico can meet and share their work.
The Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics is a collaborative, multilingual and interdisciplinary network of institutions, artists, scholars, and activists throughout the Americas. Working at the intersection of scholarship, artistic expression and politics, the organization explores embodied practice—performance—as a vehicle for the creation of new meaning and the transmission of cultural values, memory and identity. Anchored in its geographical focus on the Americas (thus “hemispheric”) and in three working languages (English, Spanish and Portuguese), the Institute’s goal is to promote vibrant interactions and collaborations at the level of scholarship, art practice and pedagogy among practitioners interested in the relationship between performance and politics in the hemisphere.