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Home arrow Language & Literature arrow Occupying Space in American Literature and Culture: Static Heroes, Social Movements and Empowerment


Every Cartesian system and its attending “order-building-labors” (Bauman 2004, 31) produce its own Others, the contingents that cannot fit into the new logic or world order. These “redundant humans,” to use Bauman’s term, are usually characterized as “the collateral casualties of progress” and frequently have no place under the new law or nomos. Redundancy, Bauman claims, “shares its semantic space with ‘rejects,’ ‘wastrels,’ ‘garbage,’ ‘refuse’—with waste. . . . The destination of waste is the waste-yard, the rubbish heap” (ibid., 12). The continuity and contiguity of wasted humans and waste, already key to Ironweed, is at the heart of Rosaura Sanchez and Beatrice Pita’s science fiction novella, Lunar Braceros 2125-2148. The novella illustrates that the logical destinations for both “redundant humans” and waste matter go hand in hand. The writers recast the separation of these contingents in a “future history” that enables them to situate possible futures “somewhere along a projected historical time line” (Rivera 2012, 418) that goes back to the colonization of North America and the establishment of reservations and missions. Through different communications between characters, mainly between Lydia, a science-activist, and her son, Pedro, Lunar Braceros reconstructs the fragmentary chronicle of a new world order that once again administers well-known protocols of national prophylactics. In doing so, Lydia also illustrates the need to his- toricize in the midst of the unofficial erasure of the past. Heeding Fredric Jameson’s “Always historicize,” Pedro is able to establish the similarities between colonial and neocolonial practices and assess recurrent models of coercion. The processes the novel describes ring with uncanny familiarity, and the contemporary reader can also read the history of the early 2000s in the chronicle of 2125-2148.

By the end of the twenty-first century, Lydia explains to her son, the moon had become an off-world landfill of sorts to store the Earth’s surplus toxic waste in specialized tanks for each type of waste (carcinogens, radioactives, and nonrecyclables). In their detachment from the “domestic” spaces of the nation, the lunar excavation sites “were turning out to be a recapitulation of Earth history” (59),27 Lydia comments. They are even described as being modeled after “the ones they had carved out in the Arizona and Sonora desert” (6). The initial idea was to depend on robotic units. When these kept breaking down, the engineers and planners realized that what were needed were hands-on workers who could adapt to changing lunar situations and were capable of solving unforeseen problems.28 That is how the idea of lunar braceros takes shape. The term “lunar bra- cero” collapses new versions of exploitation (lunar space travel) and the real histories of migrant and disposable labor under capitalism, specifically the Bracero Program (Rivera 2012, 429). The colonization and exploitation of the moon had begun after what was called at the time “the Great Political Restructuring” that started with the creation of the new nation-state of Cali-Texas in 2070. Nation-states as we know them gave way to transnational corporate power, what Lydia calls the “New Imperial Order” (NIO), a “new form of global dominance that operates solely through multinational corporate and economic hegemony” (428). The NIO is made up of ten dominant multinational consortia and controls technology transfer and informatics, as well as any kind of power generation, biofuel, nuclear, or otherwise. In fact, the NIO embodies the role of the new Cartesian order; it is a police state that rounds up and relocates to reservations whoever does not fit the model of efficiency and progress: anyone that does not have a job or who lives on the street, or anyone that does not make enough money, or anyone that does not fit the professional profile for certain industries (19). The novel illustrates that outer colonialism on the moon parallels internal colonialism on Earth. Both end up creating similar sites for the containment of the undesired or the excrescence of society.

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