Each month, we offer the spotlight to one of our funded researchers to exhibit their research projects in more detail.
The Featured Researcher for March 2023 is Aline Hernández, with her PhD Project titled Exposing Atrocity. Representation and Counter-representation of (Trans)Feminicide Violence in Mexico, 1994-2022.
HEI: University of St. Andrews.
Supervisors: Dr Catherine Spencer, Dr Jeffrey Murer, and Dr Liliana Chávez Díaz.
On February 9th of 2020, Ingrid Escamilla was brutally murdered by Erik Francisco in Mexico City. The following day, distressing photographs of her skinned, dismembered body— as captured on the crime scene—were brought into circulation on the front covers of tabloid-like newspapers under the headings of “It was Cupido´s Fault” and “Skinned.” Shortly after, feminist activists mobilized to have the photographs removed from circulation, arguing that this form of representation victimized and vilified her and trivialized the feminicide. Furthermore, using the conduit of her face, they enacted new frames of visibility to double down on the spectacle of her death.
This occurrence is not unprecedented. At least since the early 1990s, when the phenomenon of feminicide flared up in Ciudad Juárez, a Mexican city located in the north of the country that borders El Paso, Texas, in the United States, murders have been accompanied by practices of spectacularization. From the ritualized sequence of abduction, brutalization, and dumping of feminicidal subjects in public settings to the circulation of media depictions of their violated, killed, or overkilled bodies, indeed, as many scholars have noted, the terrifying force that feminicide has assumed is derived not only from the seemingly licensed act of killing but from the violent practices of its display—practices to which (trans)feminist activists and artists have responded by devising strategies critical to the necrophilic scopic regimes of gendered violence in Mexico.
What my research does
Through investigating several records and archival sources thematically linked to (trans)feminicide violence, as well as well as documented anti-feminicide artistic work, this PhD project seeks to explore the politics of representation of (trans)feminicide violence in contemporary Mexico. What claims are being transmitted in and through the brutalization and public staging of the dead body? What role does the photographic representation of the death scenes play in exacerbating the vulnerability of cis, trans, and nonbinary women in Mexico “to premature death”? And where do (trans)feminist interventions stand in relation to the practices mentioned above? Can they be said to be pursuing a form of knowledge counter to hegemonic articulations of feminicidal violence?
There are questions that lie at the center of this project. Its time frame centers on the period from 1994—when young womxn’s bodies began to feature in the mainstream press—until 2022, which marks the year in which the Ingrid Law was approved in Mexico City. This law consists “of punishing with jail time anyone who disseminates photos or videos of victims at the crime scene.” The historical demarcation will nonetheless be treated as porous, as the historical contextualisation of (trans)feminicide imagery will require examining visual and written materials from prior periods. Central to my argument is the contention that the physical acts of violence and their photographic reiteration re-actualize the modern/colonial discourses of social difference that govern how feminized bodies matter in contemporary Mexico. Moreover, my project examines what is the place of violence in (trans)feminist activist/artist interventions and how their modes of visual protest participate in the pursuit of anti-colonial aims.
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