A savage song

Racist violence and armed resistance in the early twentieth-century U.S.–Mexico borderlands

A savage song examines the multiple narratives of race, manhood, and nation to emanate from practices of anti-black and anti-Mexican terror in the early twentieth century, tracing within them the broader reverberations of slavery, settler colonialism, and U.S. imperialism. It considers instances of violence enacted by white citizens and agents of the state, as well as instances in which Mexican and black men respectively took up armed resistance to massacre. Drawing upon mainstream and radical print media from the United States and Mexico, cultural texts, government documents, and archival materials, the book asks how these moments of killing and dying were understood by a range of actors, under what historical conditions they unfolded, and how they came to be infused with raced, gendered, and historical meaning. Notions of masculine power were central to explanations that sought to rationalize or celebrate racial violence and the order it enforced, as well as those which sought to imagine new worlds. In U.S. cultural and political discourses, the racial degeneracy of black and Mexican men was delineated not only in the acts of savagery they supposedly committed or threatened to commit, but also in the profuse, public, and abject manner in which they died. Mexicans and African Americans challenging U.S. violence deployed their own discourses of death and resistance that both subverted and rearticulated dominant gendered logic.

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