Margin/Center: Emergent Discourses in Latin American and Latino Literature and Culture

In March 1996, CLAGS and the Americas Society will sponsor a conference, “Margin/Center: Emergent Discourses in Latin American and Latino Literature and Cu lture.” The conference will include the following panels: Afro-Caribbean Literature, Women’s Writing, and Gay and Lesbian Li terature and Culture. A roundtable discussion, including some of the panelists and other members of the communities in attendance is also being planned. The roundtable may consider the quest ion: “What is Latina/a?” in an informal discussion that wi ll include the points of view of the conference participants as wel l as those of the audience. The tension suggested by the metaphor “Margin/Center” is hard ly new to Latin Americans. Emerging nat ional discourses often defined themselves in their relat ion to metropol itan centers, f irst Madrid, subsequently Paris, eventually New York City. Jose Marti redefined the very notion of a Latin American identity while living in New York City from 1880 to 1885. For Marti, the imperial city was more than a circumstantial place of passage. Living and working not on its margins, but as he said, ” inside the monster.” Marti was keenly aware of the impact of the city on his body, his politics, and his writi ng. More recently, the metaphor of “Margin/Center” has gained currency in discussions of cultural pluralism and the role of emergent discourses in Latin American and Latino cultures. The terms certa inly come up in discussions about cultural productions by Latin Americans and Latinos in the United States, particularly those which explore issues of sexuality, f igurations of gender, race and ethnic identity, and the notion of incorporation/ oppression in relation to the so-called mainstream. The symposium on Latin American and Latino emergent discourses will be a meeting place, an occasion for often independent avenues of inquiry, study, and lived experiences to come together in dialogue. Rather than a convention of discrete identities, the symposium hopes to encourage the crossing of boundaries in order to contest the very notion of “identit y.” Rather than take the cultural metaphor of Margin/Center at face value, the participants in the symposium will question its very premise. Elena Martinez and Oscar Montero, members of CLAGS’s Program Committee, have been meeting with Dan Shapiro, Head of Literature at the Americas Society, to plan the conference, which will take place at the Americas Society, 680 Park Avenue, in New York City in March 1996.