The coloniality of embodiment: Coco Fusco's postcolonial genealogies and semiotic agonistics

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The work of Coco Fusco eerily epitomizes the situation of postethnic racial subjects in a post-civil rights, post-cold war, and what Fusco herself has termed the "pan-American postnationalism" era (1995, 21-24). Loathe as we may be to admit it, there are times when it becomes inevitable to think of an artist's works as being representative of a historical juncture. Coco Fusco's oeuvre, which includes performances, writings, criticism, reviews, photographs, videos, installations, journals, and letters, has over the last two decades registered the shifts exacerbated and catalyzed by the end of the cold war. Fusco's work, however, cannot be simply consigned to the dramas and comedies of fin-de-siecle imperial America. Each historical moment contains within it the marks of earlier historical moments. Her work, therefore, cannot but also register the imperial history of the United States of America. This is what makes her work particularly significant and illustrative. If it is chronotopologically indexicalized, marking the now and here of geopolitical time, it is also a temporal map that guides us through the contradictions, forces, and above all, dispositifs, on which the present imperial pax Americana is predicated and that conditions the coming future. Coco Fusco, a racially mixed postcolonial subject, is also a child of the sixties civil rights movements of racialized subjects in the United States. She is doubly racialized and doubly ethnicized. On the island, she is a mulata, descendent of slaves who bought their freedom. On the mainland, she is a Cuban Latina, who is visually racially mixed. There, she is marked by the privilege of dollars and an American passport. Here, she is a Latina/Hispanic, Cuban American citizen. As the child of Cuban immigrants, she has matured on the troubled waters between the mainland and the island. In the case of Coco Fusco, a quasiexilic experience gave rise to an outlook that positions itself beyond both the nostalgia of the return to a mythic homeland, and the untroubled acceptance of any identity whatsoever. For this reason, she is also postsocialist and post-Latin American, if by the former we mean the way in which Cuba stood for the promise of a socialism with a Latin American face, and by the latter, we understand the way in which Latin America was invented in the nineteenth century to invidiously juxtapose Anglo-Saxon crass materialism against communitarian, humanistic Latinity. Her work is blunt, lucid, sobering, albeit infused by a profound sense of humanity and care, but without being moralistic, nostalgic, or derogating.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationUnmaking Race, Remaking Soul
Subtitle of host publicationTransformative Aesthetics and the Practice of Freedom
PublisherState University of New York Press
Number of pages18
ISBN (Print)9780791471616
StatePublished - Dec 1 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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