Impossible Indians: Race, Performance And The Cultural Politics Of Conquest

Other Titles


Impossible Indians is a study of 20th-century U.S. Latina/o and Latin American theatre and performance artists whose works of art are inspired by the 15thand 16th-century Conquest of the Americas. The "decolonial turn" in Latin American and U.S. Latina/o Studies urges scholars to theorize post/colonialism from the birth of modernity/coloniality in the Americas during the early colonial period. Few studies, however, have theorized the place of performance in the consolidation of modernity/coloniality. While the formal colonization of non-indigenous people in the Americas has a beginning (the Conquest) and a presumed end (colonial independence), colonialism is also a process that haunts their postcolonial imaginary in what José Rabasa has called "a ghost-like continuity" that staged and restaged for centuries. My dissertation theorizes this tragic framework by studying the ways in which dramatic artists consistently turn to indigenous colonial and pre-Columbian pasts as a manner of imagining their own racial present bound to the history of colonialism in the New World. I argue that playwrights like Rodolfo Usigli, Cherríe Moraga, Sergio Magaña, William Shakespeare, Aimé Césaire, and Migdalia Cruz, and performance artists like Coco Fusco, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Antonin Artaud, and Nao Bustamante, stage a vision of the their modern world that questions the linear temporality attributed to historical formations of race. In creating their racial presents vis-à-vis ideologies of indigeneity that are always-already originating outside of modern time, the subjects of my dissertation stage colonialism as an unfinished process by strategically returning to scenarios of conquest. My argument is two fold: I trace the employment of performative and archival knowledge as ethnographic tools to invent the indigenous racial subject of the Americas from a colonial and colonizing standpoint; and I analyze theatre and performance art that have crated decolonial ideals of indigeneity and indigenous people in order to reproduce and discard racial ideologies transferred from the colony to the postcolonial. I insist that this mode of cultural production creates a cultural politics of conquest that poses a radical challenge to linear conceptions of both race and time.

Journal / Series

Volume & Issue



Date Issued




race; theatre; performance; u.s.; Mexico; decolonial imaginary; coloniality; temporality


Effective Date

Expiration Date




Union Local


Number of Workers

Committee Chair

Castillo, Debra Ann

Committee Co-Chair

Committee Member

Brady, Mary P.
Paz-Soldan, Jose Edmundo
Aching, Gerard Laurence

Degree Discipline

Romance Studies

Degree Name

Ph. D., Romance Studies

Degree Level

Doctor of Philosophy

Related Version

Related DOI

Related To

Related Part

Based on Related Item

Has Other Format(s)

Part of Related Item

Related To

Related Publication(s)

Link(s) to Related Publication(s)


Link(s) to Reference(s)

Previously Published As

Government Document




Other Identifiers


Rights URI


dissertation or thesis

Accessibility Feature

Accessibility Hazard

Accessibility Summary

Link(s) to Catalog Record