Nemesis: Rendering (In)Justice in Latin America and the Caribbean

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Baptista, Karina, Spanish - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Pellon, Gustavo, AS-Spanish Italian Portuguese, University of Virginia

“Nemesis: Rendering (In)Justice in Latin America and the Caribbean” is a study of the variegated ways in which writers and filmmakers in Latin America and the Caribbean engage with retributive justice, and more broadly, with the idea of Nemesis. The texts analyzed are the short story “Monstro” by Dominican American writer Junot Díaz; Una sombra donde sueña Camila O’Gorman, the only work of prose by the Argentinian poet Enrique Molina; a selection of short stories from the Mexican writer Juan Rulfo’s collection El llano en llamas; the novel Temporada de huracanes by Mexican writer Fernanda Melchor; and the film Paulina by the Argentine Santiago Mitre. The analysis shows that Nemesis is a binding motif that on the one hand captures the potential outworkings of justice, and on the other, constitutes a cautionary, compensatory, and questioning mechanism against injustice.

This dissertation, moreover, evinces the concern of the selected texts with what Mariano Azuela has identified as los de abajo, a term synonymous with the subaltern and the wretched of the earth. The retributive logic that undergirds them is not posited as a means to provide the satisfaction of a wrongdoer getting his ‘just deserts,’ nor to maintain a given status quo, nor to reinforce social mores as many poetic justice texts of yore did, but as an attempt to apprehend what it means to demand justice for los de abajo, to consider what that justice might look like and what it might imply.

A major argument is that for these narratives justice involves a departure from colonial power relations, the pursuit of a poetic humanism, the abandonment of perverse traditions, and the adoption of restorative measures to address wrongdoing. That scapegoating, to a greater or lesser extent, traverses all these nemetic narratives, bolsters that argument. Hence, this dissertation sheds light on the range of grievances, sensibilities, and possibilities captured by the idea of Nemesis. Ultimately, it argues that while Nemesis’s raison d’être may vary from text to text, it serves as a hermeneutical principle that responds to social injustice. By drawing attention to the nemetic visions to which these texts give shape, this dissertation highlights the Latin American phenomena that beckon Nemesis and offers a more nuanced understanding of said visions and phenomena as regards the subject of justice.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Nemesis, Scapegoating, Latin America, Caribbean
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