115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Antiracist Lens of Latinx Speculative Fiction: Imagining Resistance to Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric and Policy in Sabrina Vourvoulias' Ink

Roberta Wolfson, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

How might Latinx writers use the literary genre of speculative fiction to participate in antiracism? Taking up Sabrina Vourvoulias’ 2012 dystopian novel Ink as a case study, this paper argues that speculative fiction provides a critical lens for Latinx writers to critique and potentially mobilize resistance against racial violence in the United States’ contemporary climate of anti-immigrant rhetoric and policy.

Proposal: 

How might Latinx writers use the literary genre of speculative fiction to participate in antiracism? This paper attempts to answer this question by considering Sabrina Vourvoulias’ 2012 dystopian novel Ink. In my analysis, I will argue that speculative fiction provides a critical lens for Latinx writers to critique and potentially mobilize resistance against racial violence in the United States’ contemporary climate of anti-immigrant rhetoric and policy.

Ink imagines a near future world in which the U.S. government has mandated that all temporary workers, permanent residents, and citizens with recent immigration history be branded with a biometric tattoo designating their appropriate immigration status. These tattoos render visible the precarious subject position of Latinx immigrants in the United States, who are seen as second-class citizens and thereby subjected to significant forms of racial violence in a national culture that attaches privilege and power to the fiction of whiteness. Collectively known as “inks,” these tattooed immigrants must learn to survive in an increasingly xenophobic and racist U.S. society that allows rhetoric about racialized immigrants to escalate into a violent institutionalized population control system.

Vourvoulias’ dystopian vision is disturbing because it strikes awfully close to home. In just his first few months of office, Donald Trump has already issued several executive orders that mark an unsettling return to the historical U.S. practice of allowing xenophobic and racist sentiments to define foreign and domestic immigration policies. These orders include Executive Order 13769, the so-called “Muslim ban” that has suspended entry to the United States for citizens of Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen for 90 days, Executive Order 13768, which has significantly increased the number of immigrants considered a priority for deportation, and Executive Order 13767, which has dictated the construction of a physical wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Within a contemporary political climate in which racist ideology fuels national security measures, Vourvoulias’ novel Ink comes across as strikingly prescient.

In my analysis of this work, I will chart the capacity for Latinx speculative fiction to participate in antiracist dissent by imagining the future legacy of present-day structures of racial oppression. Ultimately, I will make a case for the affective and cognitive power of Latinx speculative fiction to resist anti-immigrant rhetoric and policy by generating cognitive estrangement that allows for the critical distancing needed to critique and challenge social injustices that have come to be understood as status quo.