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Open Access Publications from the University of California

President Bachelet's body in the Chilean press: Anxieties of gender, fantasies of race, desires for Modernity


The paper I am presenting today deals with discourses and representations of national identity in Chile, exploring how race and gender function as markers for bodies within processes of nation building. Particularly, I am interested in the way women's bodies are represented as metaphorical boundaries of the nation, and how they are deemed proper or improper according to hegemonic discourses. In this way, taking as a starting point some Chilean press responses to the election of Michelle Bachelet as President, I discuss how gendered and racialised notions of nation and modernity are mobilized in the current context. I understand discourses as sites where power is articulated, reproduced and also contested; and race and gender as dimensions that are historically, socially and culturally signified; and therefore are fluid and dynamic, rather than “natural” attributes that each person has. I draw from anti-racist and postcolonial feminists analyses of nation-building that define them as constant processes of narration that are at the same time gendered and racialised, to suggest that the anxieties and hopes around Bachelet's body's race and sexuality, are metaphors of broader preoccupations and concerns about the nation's whiteness, modernity and the properness of national bodies in the new world order. I describe the three elements that characterize these discourses found on the press as anxieties of gender, fantasies of race, and desires for Modernity. I chose these psychoanalytical language of anxieties, fantasies and desires to denote processes that are not fully rational or originated/located in the individual; but rather in the transindividual realms of Language and history.

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