Losing Sonia Sotomayor: On the Political Limits of Representative Latinidad

Spring 2015 LALS Distinguished Speaker, Lázaro Lima, E. Claiborne Robins Distinguished Chair in the Liberal Arts at the University of Richmond, explores the limits of Latino representative personhood and what we stand to lose when we confuse symbolic inclusion with political enfranchisement and political power. This free, public lecture takes place Wednesday, May 13, 2015, at 5:00pm in the Charles E. Merrill Lounge.

March 15, 2015

By , Chair, Latin American & Latino Studies 

Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination and eventual confirmation to the Supreme Court proved to be momentous for the country and of profound cultural and historical significance to Latinos.  This is because Latinos—peoples of Latin American origin or ancestry living in the United States—have the distinction of being both the nation’s largest minority at over 54 million strong, as well as the most disenfranchised from American institutions and circuits of political power.  Not surprisingly, Sotomayor’s story of accomplishment and her rise to the pinnacle of American public life seemed to herald an important transformation that augured well for the legitimation and incorporation of Latinos into the fiber of American civic institutions.  Yet given the profound changes occasioned by the demographic reality of a new Latino “majority minority” to the nation’s founding traditions, cultural history, common language, institutions, and national character, can Sotomayor’s story inspire hope for Latinos, and other disenfranchised communities, as well as quell the fears of a majority culture ill-equipped to understand its largest minority group?  This talk explores the limits of Latino representative personhood at an historical juncture that exalts “possibility models” over legally mandated inclusion, “positive affirmation” over  “affirmative action,” and what we stand to lose when we confuse symbolic inclusion with political enfranchisement and political power.

Lázaro Lima headshotLázaro Lima (PhD Maryland) is the E. Claiborne Robins Distinguished Chair in the Liberal Arts at the University of Richmond, where he holds a joint appointment in the Department of Latin American, Latino and Iberian Studies and the Program in American Studies.  He is a specialist in U.S. Latino cultural and intellectual history, Latino politics, and gender and sexuality studies.  His books include The Latino Body: Crisis Identities in American Literary and Cultural Memory (NYU Press, 2007); Ambientes: New Queer Latino Writing, co-edited with Felice Picano (University of Wisconsin Press, 2011); Trevor Young: The Aesthetics of Displacement (Museum Arts, 2012); and Losing Sonia Sotomayor: An American Life After Multiculturalism (forthcoming from Arte Público Press in 2015).  His work has also appeared in American Literary History, Journal of Transnational American Studies, Revista Iberoamericana, The Wallace Stevens Journal, A Contracorriente, Hispanic Review, and many other journals and edited collections.  His documentary film, Las mujeres, The Women: Latina Lives, American Dreams (co-written with Carrie Brown), on the Latina educational inequity crisis, is currently in production.




The Chicano Latino Research Center is proud to cosponsor this free, public lecture with the Department of Latin American and Latino Studies.