The Politics of Looking: Images of Normal and Deviant Youth in Post-revolutionary Mexico City, 1938–58

Friday, January 6, 2012: 10:10 AM
River North Room (Chicago Marriott Downtown)
Shari Orisich, University of Maryland at College Park
In the first decades after the Mexican Revolution, the public and private lives of young people came under the scrutiny of a host of government agencies, social scientists, and legal professionals concerned about vagrancy, begging, theft, and “antisocial” conduct of minors living and working in Mexico City. Film and photography played a constitutive role in representing the dualism of modernity found in the streets of the capital, where youths marched in parades, slept in alleyways, worked selling newspapers, filed into movie houses, or snuck into cabarets.

This analysis of visual culture—from popular press and film to the utilization of visual technologies in forensics and criminal photography—projects images of modern Mexico that criminalized marginalized youths and upheld notions of proper behavior for adolescents while also bringing social commentaries to bear upon the realities of inequality in Mexican society near the mid-century. An intertextual reading of images such as fingerprinting, film, mugshots, and photojournalism expands our view of the processes and technologies that served to shape ideas about normal and deviant youths as the future citizens of the Mexican nation post-revolution. This analysis of visual sources hopes to contribute to a larger project that examines how notions about respectability and morality were tethered to ideas about class in Mexico City, and how youths were placed at the center of those programs of social control.