Unlawful Violence
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Violence has only increased in Mexico since 2000: 23,000 murders were recorded in 2016, and 29,168 in 2017.

The abundance of laws and constitutional amendments that have cropped up in response are mirrored in Mexico's fragmented cultural production of the same period. Contemporary Mexican literature grapples with this splintered reality through non-linear stories from multiple perspectives, often told through shifts in time. The novels, such as Jorge Volpi's Una novela criminal [A Novel Crime] (2018) and Julián Herbert's La casa del dolor ajeno [The House of the Pain of Others] (2015) take multiple perspectives and follow non-linear plotlines; other examples, such as the very short stories in ¡Basta! 100 mujeres contra la violencia de género [Enough! 100 Women against Gender-Based Violence] (2013), present perspectives from multiple authors.

Few scholars compare cultural production and legal texts in situations like Mexico, where extreme violence coexists with a high number of human rights laws. Unlawful Violence measures fictional accounts of human rights against new laws that include constitutional amendments to reform legal proceedings, laws that protect children, laws that condemn violence against women, and laws that protect migrants and Indigenous peoples. It also explores debates about these laws in the Mexican house of representatives and senate, as well as interactions between the law and the Mexican public.
Chapter One: Justice Breaks Down in Una novela criminal
Chapter Two: Women Dream in ¡Basta! and in Anti-Violence Laws
Chapter Three: Children’s Rights and Dreams in Historias de Niñas Extraordinarias
Chapter Four: From Tapachula to Juárez: Migration and Violence



Publié par
Date de parution 15 mai 2022
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9780826504463
Langue English

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Unlawful Violence
Series editor: Ignacio M. Sánchez Prado
Critical Mexican Studies is the first English-language, humanities-based, theoretically focused academic series devoted to the study of Mexico. The series is a space for innovative works in the humanities that focus on theoretical analysis, transdisciplinary interventions, and original conceptual framing.
Other titles in the series:
The Restless Dead: Necrowriting and Disappropriation , by Cristina Rivera Garza
History and Modern Media: A Personal Journey , by John Mraz
Toxic Loves, Impossible Futures: Feminist Living as Resistance , by Irmgard Emmelhainz
Drug Cartels Do Not Exist: Narcotrafficking in US and Mexican Culture , by Oswaldo Zavala
Unlawful Violence
Mexican Law and Cultural Production
Rebecca Janzen
Vanderbilt University Press
Nashville, Tennessee
Copyright 2022 Vanderbilt University Press
All rights reserved
First printing 2022
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Janzen, Rebecca, 1985– author.
Title: Unlawful violence : Mexican Law and cultural production / Rebecca Janzen.
Description: Nashville : Vanderbilt University Press, [2022] | Series: Critical Mexican studies ; [volume 4] | Includes bibliographical references and index.
Identifiers: LCCN 2021049369 (print) | LCCN 2021049370 (ebook) | ISBN 9780826504449 (paperback) | ISBN 9780826504456 (hardcover) | ISBN 9780826504463 (epub) | ISBN 9780826504470 (pdf)
Subjects: LCSH: Violence—Mexico—History—21st century. | Criminal justice, Administration of—Mexico—History—21st century. | Mexico—Politics and government—21st century.
Classification: LCC HN120.Z9.V5 J36 2020 (print) | LCC HN120.Z9.V5 (ebook) | DDC 303.60973/0905—dc23/eng/20211027
LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2021049369
LC ebook record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2021049370
1. Justice Breaks Down in Una novela criminal
2. Women Dream in ¡Basta! and in Antiviolence Laws
3. Children’s Rights and Dreams in Historias de niñas extraordinarias
4. From Tapachula to Juárez: Migration and Violence
Thanks to my friends and family for supporting this research endeavor: my parents, Marlene Toews Janzen and Bill Janzen, and my brother and sister-in-law, Phil Janzen and Rachel Powers (and our pandemic Christmas). I would also like to thank extended family and friends, including Ghenette Houston and Brian Ladd, Steve and Gloria Houston, Jane Willms, Ben Willms, Paul Siebert and Moira Toomey, Dave Siebert and Dana Murray, Ally Siebert and Tyler Good, and relatives who have taken a special interest in this project: Clara Toews, Ed and Bev Toews, and Sol Janzen. Many thanks to my coven, Becky, Christy, Emily, Erin, Lindsay, Jenny, Carly, Laura, Liz, Mary, Allie, Rachel, Kristin, and Lauren.
My lady locusts, Amanda L. Petersen, Cheyla Samuelson, Ilana Luna, Sara Potter, and Rebecca Ingram, and my writing group, John Waldron, Emily Hind, Carolyn Fornoff, Carmen Serrano, Sophie Esch, and Rebeca Hey-Colón. My on-campus Zoom writing group, facilitated by Kunio Hara, and others, especially Alex Carrico and Danny Jenkins.
Thanks also to Ashley Byock for organizing an American Comparative Literature Association seminar with me about related issues in the spring of 2018, a conversation with Stephanie Kirk during the Mid-America Conference on Hispanic Literatures in 2017 about secular and religious law in colonial Mexico, a conversation with Laura Podalsky about the organization of this project at the Latin American Studies Association in 2018, and to other colleagues for engaging with me about issues of Mexican literature, legal studies, and form, at the Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present, Modern Language Association, and Latin American Studies Association conferences. Thanks to Carlos Amador, O. Darwin Tsen, and D. Lee Jackson for organizing a seminar at the Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present in New Orleans in the fall of 2018, with collaboration from Robin Blyn, James Arnett, Brantley Nicholson, Victoria Lupascu, and others. Thanks also to Robin Blyn and Maria Bose for organizing a rich discussion in an American Comparative Literature Association seminar (with Darwin Tsen and Victoria Lupascu) in the spring of 2021, when I returned to these issues.
I wrote and revised most of this book during the summer of 2020 and during a junior teaching leave in the fall semester of 2020. During that time, I went on walks and hikes in many parks in South Carolina with Sarah and Jon Carroll (and their dogs), Grace Yan and Nick Watanabe (and their dog), and other friends. Alanna Breen, TJ Kimel, and Casey Carroll introduced me to fine whiskey, and I now appreciate some of it.
The University of South Carolina was also particularly important for this research. I mentioned the subject of law and literature to my colleague Andy Rajca a few weeks after I started working at U of SC and he immediately introduced me to a colleague in English, Anne Gulick, who gave me an excellent introductory bibliography on the subject and helpful tips for life in South Carolina. Eve Ross in the School of Law explained how law journals work and how lawyers and legal scholars conduct research. Eve also gave me a bibliography that forms the foundation of how I understand civil law in Mexico. Steve Austermiller at the Rule of Law Collaborative helped me understand US Agency for International Development projects that encourage civil law countries to adopt common law practices.
Thanks also to my friends in the Richland County Public Defender’s Office whose anecdotes from the courts and jail in Columbia, South Carolina, were crucial to developing an abolitionist perspective. Special thanks to Kieley Sutton, who invited me to watch her in City Court, and to Nathan Rouse, for explaining how lawyers understand US laws and the US Constitution, and for giving me comparable examples to some particularities of Mexican law (such as the right to amparo ).
The Midwest Modern Language Association provided me with a scholarship to conduct research at the Newberry Library in Chicago, which provided a historical understanding of the development of the law in Mexico. The College of Arts and Sciences supported this research with two faculty research grants. The first one allowed me to travel to Mexico and visit archives and museums in Torreón, Veracruz, Xalapa, and Mexico City. Yadira Hidalgo González, Elissa Rashkin, and Rob Kruger in Xalapa provided crucial insights for Chapters 2 and 3 of this book. The second research grant was meant to fund further travel to Mexico, and since that was not possible, it allowed for purchasing relevant books and for Sean Grattan’s excellent developmental editing prior to submitting the manuscript. Very special thanks to Julie Ann Ward for sending a prepublication translation of Nadia Villafuerte’s Barcos en Houston ( Ships in Houston ) for translations in Chapter 4 .
Thanks to Vanderbilt University Press—to editor Zachary Gresham for offering feedback on draft materials and to series editor Ignacio M. Sánchez Prado. Thanks also to Zack for finding such excellent peer reviewers who turned in their reviews so quickly during a pandemic.
This book— Unlawful Violence— tells a story about life in Mexico in the twenty-first century that has been reorganized by a particular nexus of economic development and violence (2000–2020). Although it is cognizant of the broader context of widespread murder, it focuses on the experiences of Mexican people whose lived experiences include many examples of systemic violence and are closely tied to the twenty-first-century expansion of capitalism in Mexico. This book portrays those personal experiences of people in Mexico in congressional debates, materials that explain concepts of human rights, and ordinary people’s letters to Mexican presidents. The violence in people’s lives in Mexico, then, is “unlawful” because the very laws that have been passed in this same time period state that violence is a crime and, as such, should not be happening. As Unlawful Violence is a work of cultural and literary studies, not of philosophical ethics, it focuses on those laws as cultural products from the first two decades of the twenty-first century in Mexico.
Unlawful Violence approaches the first two decades of the twenty-first century (2000–2020) by comparing legal and literary texts, including the Mexican Constitution, human rights laws, novels, and short stories. 1 That is, the monograph compares the laws that outline lawful and unlawful violence with the literary texts that help us imagine the consequences of the epidemic of violence and that interrogate whether there is lawful violence in situations so dire that there is no other response possible. The politicians who author the laws and constitutional amendments, and the authors of novels and short stories describe violence experienced by alleged criminals in Mexico’s criminal justice system, by women, by children, and by migrants. 2 These same legal and literary texts articulate hopes for a better future—the legal texts, for example, outline ways a society should be and the ways that the government and population should interact. Letters Mexican people have written to the president about violence in women’s and children’s lives (and now housed in archives) complement the legal texts that portray those experiences of violence. The literary texts, for their part, imagine relationships between characters in fictionalized Mexicos and fantastical universes—and in most cases, alternative paths for people in the Mexico of the twenty-first century.
Jorge Volpi’s 2018 Una novela criminal ( A Novel Crime )—which I examine in the first chapter—is one such novel. Volpi fictionalizes the experiences of Israel Vallarta, a middle-aged Mexican man who was accused of

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