Thursday, December 12, 2013

Rafael Pérez-Torres, from "Refiguring Aztlán"

The refusal to be delimited, while simultaneously claiming numerous heritages and influences, allows for a rearticulation of the relationship between self and society, self and history, self and land. Aztlán as a realm of historical convergence and discontinuity becomes another source of significance embraced and employed in the borderlands that is Chicana/o culture. The tendency in these figurations and refigurations of Aztlán recast it variously as an ontological reality or an epistemological construction. Aztlán thus is repositioned and refigured as a shifting, and thus ambiguous signifier. Ambiguity suggests—problematically—a sense of equivalence. Rather than think of Aztlán as an ambiguous signifier, we might consider it “empty,” a signifier that points, as Ernesto Laclau argues, “from within the process of signification, to the discursive presence of its own limits.”


As an empty signifier, Aztlán names not that which is or has been, but that which is ever absent: nation, unity, liberation.


The discourses surrounding Aztlán present themselves as the incarnation of the term: the articulation of unity, of nation, of resistance to oppressive power. Each articulation offers its particular understanding of Aztlán as its fulfillment. This is precisely the reason that Aztlán never adds up. As a sign of liberation, it is ever emptied of meaning just as its meaning is asserted, its borders blurred by those constituencies engaged in liberating struggles named by Aztlán.

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