Abstract

Death marks the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. This paper considers accounts of migrant death in contemporary poetry, examining the presence of migrants, necropower, and landscape in four works: Sara Uribe’s Antígona González (Oaxaca: Sur+editions, 2012), Eduardo C. Corral’s Slow Lightning (New Haven: Yale, 2012), Balam Rodrigo’s Libro Centroamericano de los Muertos (México: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2018), and Forrest Gander’s Be With (New York: New Directions, 2018), drawing on recent theorizations of Achille Mbembé’s idea of necropolitics/necropower from both United States and Mexican scholars. I argue that examining the poetic and the theoretical texts in light of one another offers new conclusions for both. The affective similarities across the poetic texts help connect the theorizations of necropolitics, showing that while it appears that the agents of necropower—cartel members and Border Patrol agents—are very different, they can be understood as similar actors, dressed differently. Meanwhile, examining the poems in light of necropolitical theory reveals the extent to which distinct literary traditions of representing violence and nature influence the way in which border deaths are understood.

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