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Bodies in the Borderlands- Gloria Anzaldúa's and David Wojnarowicz's Mobility Machines

Bodies in the Borderlands- Gloria Anzaldúa's and David Wojnarowicz's Mobility Machines

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Published by Caitlin
Bodies in the Borderlands- Gloria Anzaldúa's and David Wojnarowicz's Mobility Machines
Bodies in the Borderlands- Gloria Anzaldúa's and David Wojnarowicz's Mobility Machines

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Published by: Caitlin on Sep 22, 2013
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Bodies in the Borderlands: GloriaAnzaldua's and David Wojnarowicz'sMobility Machines
Todd R. Ramlow
George Washington UniversityIn "Chicana
lesbian-feminist poet and fiction writer"Gloria Anzaldua's classic work of border(lands) theory,
Borderlands/La Frontera,
she remarks that "[t]he work of the
consciousness is to break down the subject-object dualitythat keeps her a prisoner and to show in the flesh and through theimages in her work how duality is transcended" (80).' LikeAnzaldua's
consciousness, disability studies and queertheory have been motivated by this critique of the binarydiscourses and social policies that condition subjectivity andstructure society. But all these fields go further than mere critique.To use Anzaldua's words, one of the radical possibilities of
consciousness, disability studies, and queer theory, is thatall show "how duality is transcended," how we might creatediscourses that dismantle the disciplinary entanglements of racism,heteronormativity, and compulsory able-bodiedness.^I take this critique of dualism as a starting point for a retum toAnzaldua's figure and politics of the "borderlands"; morespecifically, I consider how these liminal spaces/states mightproduce a new consciousness that undermines the normativestructure and coherence of both sides of the binary. 1 complicateAnzaldua's border theory by examining the work of artist andAIDS activist David Wojnarowicz, whose own borderlands extendAnzaldua's to encompass the liminal spaces between dominant
Number 3 (Fall 2006)
f 70 TODD R. RAMLOW(white, class-privileged, heferonormafive) culfure and mainstream(white, class-privileged, lesbian, and gay) sexual minority cultures,among others.I bring Wojnarowicz and Anzaldtia fogether fhrough bordertheory, queer fheory, and disability studies for several reasons.First, they share an alliance in terms of sexuality and disability.Throughout Anzaldua's
Borderlands/La Frontera
Close to the Knives: A Memoir of Disintegration,
both authors detail their lives on the sexual periphery and, as weshall see, both authors' experiences of sexual difference are tied folarger notions of bodily difference that connect to the work ofdisability sfudies and activism. Second, their connection todisability is not merely one of metaphor or political coalition.When Anzaldua died of "diabetes related complications" on May
2004, she was certainly intimate with long-term illness, chronicpain, and disability, jusf as Wojnarowicz was before he died ofAIDS related illnesses on July 22, 1992.^ Wojnarowicz, inparticular, dealt expficitfy with disability in regards to HIV/AIDSthroughout his visual arts and writings. In
Close to the Knives
Wojnarowicz details the disabilities brought on by AIDS in hisdescriptions of the death of his mentor and former lover PeterHujar; this anticipates Wojnarowicz's own illness and disability,and the text ends with an increasingly disabled David haunted byHujar's death. Third, despite, or perhaps because of, their vastdifferences of fife, identity, and embodiment, bringing Anzafduaand Wojnarowicz together through the conjunction of bordertheory, queer theory, and disability studies will enact anddemonstrate the possibility of precisely the kinds of allianceacross, through, and within the borderlands that Anzaldua calls forin
Borderlands/La Frontera.
A seemingly unlikely, certainly non-Latina/o, ally,Wojnarowicz's life in an abstracted borderlands fulfills Anzaldua'sassertion that "[w]e have come to realize that we are not alone inour struggles nor separate nor autonomous but that we—whiteblack straight queer female male—are connected andinterdependent" ("Forward"
The fife and work ofWojnarowicz amply demonstrates the sort of alliance building, or"bridging," called for in Anzaldua's text, as well as the two radical
ANZALDUA AND WOJNAROWICZ 171anthologies that bookend it.^ Through the use of border theory,queer theory, and disability studies 1 show how bothartists/activists engage in an ongoing and mobile revisioning ofsubjectivity, consciousness, and embodiment through theirexperiences of the borderlands. Finally, I connect Anzaldua andWojnarowicz to radical philosophers Gilles Deleuze and FelixGuattari's figuration ofthe "war machine" and disability scholarsDavid T. Mitchell and Sharon L. Snyder's work on prosthesis andsubjectivity. The confluence of Anzaldua's border theory,Wojnarowicz's queer mobility, and the critical lens of disabilitystudies rearticulates what I will call "prosthetic subjectivity."Prosthetic subjectivity is always multiple, always assembled,constituted intersubjectively, and always on the move; it is alwaysalready in and as the borderlands.
In 1987, upon the initial publication of
the physical borderlands and the United States moregenerally were a very different place than they are today.^ At thetime, more than seven years of Reaganite rule and the "war ondrugs"(which mostly meant the war on poor, brown people withinand outside US borders) certainly were foreclosing theborderlands. That geographic space was, however, still porous andthe movement within the US, despite multiple institutionalsurveillance and disciplining, helped produce the
consciousness elaborated by Anzaldua.Today, however, after nearly twenty years of US immigrationpolicies, neoliberal economic transactions, and never-endingrevisiting of politics based on the perception of drug trafficking(narco-politics), we can see how those borderlands have been thesubject of state and citizen anxieties.^ The defining condition ofborder politics today is the maintenance of a violent distinctionbetween "North" and "South," between "Us/US" and "Them."Since the 1990s, the US government's Operation Gatekeeper(1994), Operation Hold the Line (1995), Operation Rio Grande(1998), and Operation Safeguard (1999), have steadily increased

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