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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Critical Race Poetics and the Ghostly Matter of U.S. v. Narciso and Perez

  • Author(s): Perez, Jason Magabo
  • Advisor(s): Davis, Zeinabu
  • Anderson, Patrick
  • et al.

Situated within the interrelated fields of critical race theory and ethnic studies and the emergent field of creative writing studies, this dissertation interrogates the ways in which racist state violence is researched, historicized, and reimagined. Specifically, I focus on U.S. v. Narciso and Perez (1977), a court case in which two Filipina migrant nurses, Filipina Narciso and my mother, Leonora Perez, were criminalized and framed by the FBI for poisoning and murdering patients at the Ann Arbor VA Hospital in Michigan. Focusing on this case, I pursue two critical impulses: I blend narrative interventions in critical race theory with contemporary practices in documentary poetics in order to conceptualize, propose, and perform what I call critical race poetics; and, in turn, I perform critical race poetics as an alternative mode for understanding U.S. v. Narciso and Perez in particular and theorizing racist state violence in general. Guided by my mother's insight that "there is no American justice," I begin with an analysis of historical productions about U.S. v. Narciso and Perez, my own previous body of work included. Then, I perform critical race poetics—in the form of a poem cycle—as a way of rearticulating the cultural and historical significances of U.S. v. Narciso and Perez. I argue that critical race poetics is a generative methodology through which archives of racist state violence are critically reassembled, reprocessed, and reanimated. And ultimately, through critical race poetics, I carry out my mother's theoretical insight that for her, for Filipina Narciso, and for other targets of racist state violence, American justice remains elusive, if not impossible.

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