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

The Right to Fight, to Look and to Lack: Gender in Gerardo Porcayo’s Archetypal Mexican Cyberpunk

Stephen Tobin, UCLA

This paper compares gender representations within Gerardo Porcayo’s novel The First Street of Solitude and short story “Spheres of Vision,” both of which occur in the same fictional universe, in order to establish a critical baseline regarding Mexican cyberpunk attitudes toward the question of gender as articulated by male writers. 

Proposal: 

Gerardo Porcayo’s novel La primera calle de la soledad (1993) officially inaugurated Mexican cyberpunk and has thus far been the most studied work of the genre. Analyses of the novel have focused upon i) how under neoliberalism the role of freely-circulating technologies has been depicted as enslaving to individuals and ensuring social control (Manuel Garcia); ii) how the novel captures the post-apocalyptic setting that was D.F. in early 1990s (Córdoba Cornejo); or iii) explaining the complex narrative strategies of self-reflexivity at work in the text and arguing for its classification as a critical dystopia (Muñoz Zapata). Considering that Mexican cyberpunk —and its correlative academic reflections— have been almost exclusively written by male authors and critics, scant attention has been paid to its representations of gender. In my article, I contend that not only is this pertinent for the novel in itself, but that it becomes even more important when we consider La primera calle de la soledad in conjunction with a companion story, “Esferas de vision,” (1997) a short narrative set within the same fictional universe. Both tales significantly have main characters which, despite being cyborgs—a figure that according to Donna Haraway transcends gender binaries—follow the lines of differentiated roles and identities traditionally assigned by the patriarchal gender system. I claim that this peculiar phenomenon of the “gendered cyborg” is one of the key markers of the Mexican cyberpunk movement.   

In this paper, I compare the gender representations in both Porcayo’s novel and short story in order to establish a critical baseline regarding Mexican cyberpunk attitudes toward the question of gender. Integral to my analysis lies both narratives’ treatment of vision as a site for struggle and agency for each protagonist. The main character of the novel loses his left eye and acquires an ocular prosthesis whose mediated vision enables him to see the real fallen social order around him while also visually apprehending and maneuvering through the dangerous and deceptive cybernetic virtual world; at the same time, however, he also embodies a scopophilic male gaze toward the other female characters. Throughout, the novel’s male hero incarnates the role of warrior, one of the oldest and most persistent hegemonic ideals of masculinity, which resorts to violence to settle narrative antagonisms and utilizes the surrounding female characters as mere pawns in his mythic journey. Comparatively, the short story’s female cyborg also loses an eye and spends the duration of the story in search of her lost eyeball. However, instead of acquiring a prosthesis to re-enable her vision, her inability to find her eye or even a suitable technological replacement leaves her as a character that exemplifies Lack, thus opening the way for a Lacanian reading of female subject constitution. Ultimately, both Porcayo’s stories, taken together, suggest that Mexican cyborgs as conceived by male Mexican authors do not transcend their biological sexes or technologically-enhanced gendered identities but rather are bound by them.