Gaze on/from the caged latino bodies: Imaginary of tropics and postcolonial savage of the couple in the cage

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"Tropicalization," first conceived in Levis Strauss' "Tristes Tropiques," has been employed by scholars of Latino studies to indicate the cultural contact, travel, translation, and transformation across the United States and its border of the South. Drawing on Coco Fusco and Guillermo Gm̂ez-Pefia's performance in The Couple in the Cage, this essay investigates how the two artists recycle tropes and images of Tropics in what they termed "reverse ethnography," tracing the disavowed difference of the other and the residual meaning of colonial representation. Their project includes a two-year performance tour around the metropolises in three continents from 1992 to 1993; a video documentary, The Couple in the Cage (1993); and an article, "The Other History of Intercultural Performance," (1995) which documents audience responses as well as Fusco's reflections and self-critiques. Employing Judith Butler's theory of performativity and Homi K. Bhabha's theorization on the Third Space representation, this essay also attempts to inquire: why and how does the artists' hybridization of pre-Hispanic savage, subaltern in style and postcolonial chic, create the uncanny encounter for the spectators in modern metropolises? How do they employ inside/out border art to turn their bodies into the cultural and social arena where ideas, myths, fictions, ideologies, and social models are produced, negotiated, and contested? The performativity of postcolonial savage initiates an ambivalent process which disrupts the unitary gaze and the monolithic narrative of European modernity and colonialism; it brings to panorama the diverse enunciation loci and the complex transnational communities among which the ethnic subalterns end eavor to speak.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-104
Number of pages28
JournalTamkang Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2009


  • Border art
  • Cosmopolitan
  • Cosmopolitism
  • Ethnicity
  • Ethnography
  • Latino theater
  • Performativity
  • Postcolonial
  • Subaltern
  • The Third Space
  • Theatricality
  • Tropical

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