The Never-Ending Journey: Cultural Representations of Central American Migration in the 21st Century

By: O Istmo team (This post is in English only).

This book is a project included in the plan of the Working-Group CLACSO “El istmo centroamericano: repensando los centros”, and seeks to document and provide innovative analyses of the multiple and creative ways in which Central American migration (outside and inside the region) has been narrated and portrayed during the twenty-first century —a period characterized by the expansion and consolidation of neoliberalism and responses to it. We view migration and displacement as both a consequence and a mirror of the permanent crisis in the isthmus, meaning they cannot be explained without keeping in mind their connections with recent social, political, economic, environmental, and cultural developments and with the dynamics of the last century. For this volume, we welcome articles that focus on migration and displacement in the region, but that also dialogue with historical developments (wars, revolutions, agricultural and environmental crises, drug trafficking, previous migration routes and diasporic communities, etc.) to which they are intimately connected.

This project will bring together humanities and social sciences scholars/practitioners who engage with the various ways in which the stories and the realities of migrants are told and represented. Here we define text, narrative, and representation in a broad sense, as understood in the field of cultural studies. Consequently, chapters in this book will explore a wide range of texts/cultural products, which put together will paint a more comprehensive and interdisciplinary picture of the migration experience inside and outside the region. They include (but are not limited to) fiction, poetry, chronicles, journalistic accounts, film (and other audiovisual representations), photography, social media, digital storytelling platforms, graphic narrative, video games, performance, music, testimonies and art by migrants, material culture related to migration and migrants, judicial and other case studies, as well as all other relevant textual/visual/material expressions (graffiti, architecture, protest signs, marches, tattoos, clothing, maps, roadside altars, etc.).

We have chosen to concentrate on migration during the 21st century for three main reasons:

  • Migration outside of Central American countries and as well as into Central America (as final destination or as a stopover on the way to the United States) has increased at an unprecedented rate during this century. According to the United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the number of Central American migrants grew from 2.6 million in 2000 to 4.2 million in 2015. Of this number, 3.3 million have migrated to the United States, 576,000 to other isthmus nations (mostly to Costa Rica), and the rest to other countries around the world. In total, 12 percent of Central Americans now live outside of their countries of birth, which is four times the global migration rate.[1] Migration from the Caribbean, Africa, and other regions to Central America has also become an important phenomenon in the past few years, as the isthmus serves as the main land migration route toward the United States.
  • This immigration phenomenon has resulted in the consolidation of a substantial Central American diaspora in the United States (not to mention the sizable Nicaraguan population in Costa Rica). According to the U.S. Census, today there are more than 5 million Hispanics of Central American origin in the United States. Almost half of them (2.2 million) are Salvadorans, who are poised to overtake Cubans as the third largest Hispanic group in the United States after Mexicans and Puerto Ricans. This has led to an increase in cultural production output from so-called “Central American-Americans,” including first-generation immigrants and their U.S.-born children.
  • With Mexican migration to the United States decreasing in recent years, Central Americans have taken center stage in the conversation about immigration in this country. The scenes of “migrant caravans” (and their discursive construction in U.S. media) leaving the Northern Triangle countries in route to the Mexico-U.S. border; the Trump Administration’s policies of family separation, migrant detention camps, and efforts to deny political asylum or refugee status to these mostly Central American migrants; and the violence and instability caused by renewed political, economic, and environmental crises in the isthmus make Central American migration one of the most urgent topics of debate in the Americans.

With these considerations in mind, we seek articles on any of the following themes and topics:

  1. Migration and climate change/environmental crises (water, contamination, deforestation, natural disasters, agriculture).
  2. Migration and gender/sexuality.
  3. Human trafficking, sex trade, and migration.
  4. Violence as trigger of migration (maras, drug trafficking, political repression, etc.).
  5. Political crises and migration.
  6. Economic issues and migration.
  7. Representations of the migrant caravans.
  8. Migrant children (unaccompanied and otherwise).
  9. Migration, legislation, and criminalization (“safe countries,” detention centers, family separation, border walls, enforcement, DREAM Act, DACA, etc.).
  10. Representations of migration in literature, cinema, graphic narrative, visual arts, performance,
  11. Material culture (clothing, altars, forensic evidence).
  12. Testimonies, life histories, and cultural productions by migrants themselves.
  13. Ways of resistance (activism, agencies, allies, networks, protest and mobilization).
  14. The fate of deportees and returnees.
  15. Mexico as a transit country and country of final destination.
  16. Xenophobia, nativism, and racist reactions in receiving countries.
  17. Configuration of new identities (negotiation, socialization, acculturation, bilingualism, etc.)
  18. Migration of Indigenous people.
  19. Migration and work (occupations of immigrants/refugees, impact on communities in both sending and receiving countries).
  20. Migration and urbanism (impact of migration on the architecture, look, ethnic makeup, and dynamics of communities in sending and receiving countries).
  21. Remittances and economic impact of migration.
  22. Migration within the isthmus (Central Americans and people from other sending regions such as Africa, the Caribbean, South America, etc.).
  23. Migration to other destinations (Europe, Oceania, Asia, ).

 

We believe this volume will help advance Central American migration and cultural production studies, while also making important contributions to both Latin American and U.S. migration and diaspora studies. It will fill a gap in the critical examination of contemporary Central American narratives and other representations of migration, bringing together experts from a variety of disciplines and expanding beyond the usual emphasis on literary texts to include a wide range of texts and cultural practices by migrants and non-migrants alike.

Finally, this book seeks to dialogue with and complement pioneering studies and anthologies on this topic, including Carlos Sandoval García’s Otros amenazantes: Los nicaragüenses y la formación de identidades nacionales en Costa Rica (Editorial UCR, 2002), Arturo Arias’ Taking their Word: Literature and the Signs of Central America (University of Minnesota Press, 2007), Ana Patricia Rodríguez’s Dividing the Isthmus: Central American Transnational Histories, Literatures, and Cultures (University of Texas Press, 2009), the trans-isthmian bilingual anthologies Teatro bajo mi piel: Poesía salvadoreña contemporánea (Kalina, 2014) and Puntos de fuga. Prosa salvadoreña contemporánea (Kalina, 2017), Karina Alvarado, Alicia Estrada, and Ester Hernández’s U.S. Central Americans: Reconstructing Memories, Struggles, and Communities of Resistance (University of Arizona Press, 2017), the anthology The Wandering Song: Central American Writing in the United States (Tía Chucha Press, 2017), Maritza E. Cárdenas’ Constituting Central American-Americans: Transnational Identities and the Politics of Dislocation (Rutgers University Press, 2018), and the collection of testimonies Solito, Solita: Crossing Borders with Youth Refugees from Central America (Haymarket Books, 2019).

Proposal Guidelines:

To be considered for this volume, prospective authors must submit 1) an abstract of no more than 500 words that clearly identifies the topic, primary sources or materials to be analyzed, and theoretical/methodological approach (following the abstract, authors must include a basic, preliminary bibliography with relevant sources); and 2) a brief bio-bibliography (200 words maximum) including the most relevant publications related to the book’s topic, as well as institutional affiliation and contact information. Proposals may be submitted in English or Spanish, but all selected articles must be submitted in English. Please follow the latest MLA citation style. Deadline for submitting proposals is March 31, 2020.

Proposal must be sent by email to all three editors:

Mauricio Espinoza: espinojm@uc.edu

Miroslava Rosales: miroslava.rosales_vasquez@uni-wuppertal.de

Ignacio Sarmiento: sarmient@fredonia.edu 

 

Accepted Chapter Guidelines:

 Accepted chapters must represent original research, and must be written in English or translated into English. Chapters will be 6,000-8,000 words long, including notes and bibliography.

 

Important Dates and Timeline:                            

Call for proposal: January 15, 2020

Deadline for proposals: April 15, 2020

Notification of accepted proposals: April 30, 2020

Deadline for chapters submission: October 15, 2020

[1] Sandoval García, Carlos. No más muros: Exclusión y migración forzada en Centroamérica. Editorial UCR, 2015, p. xvi.

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