Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination and eventual confirmation to the Supreme Court proved to be momentous for the country and of profound cultural and historical significance to Latinos. This is because Latinos — peoples of Latin American origin or ancestry living in the United States — have the distinction of being both the nation’s largest minority at over 54 million strong as well as the most disenfranchised from American institutions and circuits of political power. Not surprisingly, Sotomayor’s story of accomplishment and her rise to the pinnacle of American public life seemed to herald an important transformation that augured well for the legitimation and incorporation of Latinos into the fiber of American civic institutions. Yet given the profound changes occasioned by the demographic reality of a new Latino “majority minority” to the nation’s founding traditions, cultural history, common language, institutions, and national character, Can Sotomayor’s story inspire hope for Latinos, and other disenfranchised communities, as well as quell the fears of a majority culture ill-equipped to understand its largest minority group?
Lázaro Lima (PhD Maryland) is the E. Clairbone Robins Distinguished Chair in the Liberal Arts at the University of Richmond where he holds a joint appointment in the Department of Latin American, Latino and Iberian Studies and the Program in American Studies. Lima is a specialist in U.S. Latino cultural and intellectual history, Latino Politics, and gender and sexuality studies.His books include The Latino Body: Crisis Identities in American Literary and Cultural Memory (NYU Press, 2007); Ambientes: New Queer Latino Writing, co-edited with Felice Picano (University of Wisconsin Press, 2011); Trevor Young: The Aesthetics of Displacement (Museum Arts, 2012); and Losing Sonia Sotomayor; An American Life After Multiculturalism (forthcoming from Arte Público Press). His work has also appeared in American Literary History, Journal of Transnational American Studies, Revista Iberoamericana, The Wallace Stevens Journal, A Contracorriente, Hispanic Review, and many other journals and edited collections. His documentary Las Mujeres, The Women: Latina Lives, American Dreams (co-written with Carrie Brown) on the Latina educational inequity crisis is currently in production (https://vimeo.com/106240924). His website can be found at lazarolima.com.
Talk sponsored by the Latin American and Latino Studies Department.