Zones of Discomfort in US Latino Politics: When Sharing a Sea Does Not Suffice. What is a US Latino and what does US Latino politics look like?


Virginia R. Dominguez
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA

What is a U.S. Latino and what does U.S. Latino politics look like? Moreover, what does space, location, and travel over sea, land, and air have to do with U.S. Latino life and politics? Over the years many people have come to anticipate certain things as characteristic of the Latino presence in the U.S. (either from media coverage or political analysis). Many concentrate on the large population of at least partial Mexican family origin. But what happens when different questions are asked and different locations are privileged? In this paper, I look at the southeast coast of the U.S. and not the central, western, or southwestern parts of the country, and I examine expectations of who lives in Florida, what their relation to ‘the U.S’. is, and what their sense of diaspora and nation-ness are. Typical and long-standing associations placing Cubans in southern Florida and Puerto Ricans in the New York metropolitan area are shown here to be more problematic than expected. This paper will show (a) that a noteworthy difference still exists between Puerto Rican and Cuban-American engagement with the U.S. but that it is full of paradoxes, (b) that much of the difference concerns racialization, and (c) that it may be most productive now and in the future to concentrate on the surprises, what I have elsewhere (Dominguez, American Anthropologist, September 2012) recently called the ‘zones of discomfort’, rather than our ‘comfort zones’ as students, scholars, and academics. Among the most provocative points made reframing the issue will be the idea that the Cuban diaspora has made more Cubans into Americans than the 1917 Act made Puerto Ricans Americans.


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Published : 2014-11-15

DominguezV. (2014). Zones of Discomfort in US Latino Politics: When Sharing a Sea Does Not Suffice. What is a US Latino and what does US Latino politics look like?. Review of International American Studies, 7(2). Retrieved from

Virginia R. Dominguez
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA  United States

Virginia R. Dominguez (Ph.D. 1979 Yale) is the Edward William and Jane Marr Gutgsell Professor of Anthropology at the U. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the immediate Past President of the American Anthropological Association, the Co-Founder & Consulting Director of the International Forum for U.S. Studies (established in 1995) and the Co-Editor of its book series, ‘Global Studies of the United States’. A political and legal anthropologist, she is a recent past Editor of American Ethnologist as well as author, co-author, editor, and co-editor of multiple books, including White by Definition: Social Classification in Creole Louisiana and People as Subject, People as Object: Selfhood and Peoplehood in Contemporary Israel. Prior to UIUC she also taught at Duke University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the University of California at Santa Cruz, the University of Iowa, and Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest. She has also been Directrice d’Etudes at the EHESS in Paris, a Simon Professor at the University of Manchester, a Research Fellow at the East-West Center in Honolulu, and a Junior Fellow at Harvard University.

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