Racing Time: Ethnoracial Chronotopes in Contemporary U.S. Demographic Discourse

Michael Rodríguez-Muñiz, Northwestern University

Over the past several decades, public discourse and debate about Latinx population growth and the so-called “Browning of America” have intensified. Drawing on Mikhail Bakhtin’s notion of chronotopes, recent theorizing on racial time/temporality (Mills 2014; Fleming 2017; Rosa 2016), and the sociology of quantification, this paper examines how Latinx demographics were imagined and represented in the wake of the 2010 census. In particular, I focus on three different agents of demographic discourse: 1) mainstream journalists; 2) nativist and rightwing authors; and 3) national Latino civil rights spokespersons. Often interpreting the same statistics and projections, these agents represented ethnoracial population trends and, specifically Latinx demographics, in distinct, even antagonistic ways. Although media coverage, by and large, adopted a quasi-colorblind frame, it ubiquitously juxtaposed Latino “growth” with white “decline.” This practice cast, intentionally or not, ethnoracial demographic change as a zero-sum game. Cultivating what scholars have called demographobia, white nativist authors employed explicitly racial, and typically racist, imagery. In contrast, Latino civil rights spokespersons generally depicted Latino population growth as a national good. Whereas rightwing accounts espoused racial(ist) dystopias, Latino civil rights groups advanced de-racialized, ethnic-based utopias. With a close analysis of the interplay between narratives and numbers, this paper offers insight into the chronotopic constitution of ethnoracial imagined futures and their capacity to provoke racialized and racializing affects in the present.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 71. Theorizing Race, Time, and Temporality