Social violence, social healing : the merging of the political and the spiritual in Chicano/a literary production
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This dissertation argues that spiritual and religious worldviews (i.e. Mexican Catholicism, indigenous spiritualities, and popular religion) have historically intersected with social and political realities in the development of Mexican origin communities of the United States. More specifically, as creative writers from these communities have endeavored to express and represent Mexican American experience, they have consistently engaged these intersections of the spiritual and the material. While Chicano/a criticism has often overlooked, and in some ways dismissed, the significant role which spiritual and religious discourses have played in the political development of Mexican American communities, I examine how the works of creative writers pose important questions about the role of religious faith and spirituality in healing the wounds of social violence. By placing literary texts in conversation with scholarship from multiple disciplines, this project links literary narratives to their historical, social, and political frameworks, and ultimately endeavors to situate literary production as an expressive cultural product. Historical and regional in approach, the dissertation examines diverse literary narratives penned by writers of Mexican descent between the 1930s and the current decade. Selected textual pairings recall pivotal moments and relations in the history of Mexico, America, and their shared geographical borderlands. Through the lens of religion and spirituality, a broad array of social discourses emerges, including: gender and sexuality, landscape and memory, nation-formation, race and ethnicity, popular traditions, and material culture.