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Puerto Rico’s Dangerous Moment: Between Détente y P’alante

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Organizer: Ronald Mendoza-Jesús

Co-Organizer: Christina León

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The popular revolt that forced Ricardo Rosselló to abandon Puerto Rico’s governorship marked a watershed in the island’s political and social history, prompting many to declare that things “will never be the same.” In contrast to this affirmation, we could also say that the current moment displays the characteristics of what Walter Benjamin called a “moment of danger”—i.e., a historical modality marked by the undecidable oscillation between revolutionary potential and restorative inertia—and thus by the possibility that things might, in fact, stay the same. Even as the Puerto Rican “free associated state” continues to crumble under the lingering weight of the ecological catastrophe, unbridled coloniality and the debt crisis, the island increasingly becomes a privileged site for the articulation of demands for justice that cannot be administered by the state and for the experimentation with ways of thinking/living that eschew the phallogocentric imaginary of political idealism and classic, theologico-political conceptions of sovereignty.   
It is against the backdrop of this recent (and still open) history of Puerto Rico’s present that we are soliciting work by scholars in the critical humanities and theoretical social sciences engaging with Puerto Rico’s archives, either primarily or as part of broader Caribbean inquiries. We are interested in papers that draw on the resources of critical theory to

1. Explore the politics of culture in Puerto Rico against the backdrop of the simultaneous waning of the nation-state’s relevance and the resurgence of nativist nationalisms across the globe.

2. Resituate Puerto Rican forms-of-life within a Caribbean context (broadly construed), contributing to the increasing archipelagization of Puerto Rican studies.

3. Place the Caribbean and, more specifically, Puerto Rico’s archive, as a crucial site for theoretical inquiry and political action beyond the narrow purview of the regional studies umbrella. 

4. Consider Puerto Rico’s literary and aesthetic production as a contestatory site for thinking questions of ethics and resistance in forms not fully accounted for within readily perceptible and delineated political economies.

5. Propose analyses of blackness and anti-blackness, especially in relation to other racialized formations on and off Puerto Rico’s island and diaspora. We especially invite papers that entangle questions of race, desire, and gender.

6. Articulate ecological and climate crises faced and addressed by Puerto Ricans as a site to think through larger forms of environmental racism, materialities of uneven modernity and infrastructure, and the particular strictures of the Jones Act in relation to broader border studies discussions.

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