How do you document the undocumented? UNDOCUMENTS both poses and attempts to answer this complex question by remixing the forms and styles of the first encyclopedia of the New World, the Florentine Codex, in order to tell a modern story of Greater Mexico. Employing a broad range of writing genres and scholarly approaches, UNDOCUMENTS catalogs, recovers, and erases documents and images by and about peoples of Greater Mexico from roughly the first colonial moment. This brave and bracing volume organizes and documents ancient New World Mexican peoples from the Florentine Codex (1592) to our current technology-heavy age, wherein modern lawmakers and powerful global figures desire to classify, deport, and erase immigrants and their experiences.While grappling with anxiety and the physical and mental health consequences of the way the United States treats immigrant bodies, John-Michael Rivera documents and scrutinizes what it means to seek opportunities in America. With a focus on the poetics of Latinx documentality itself, this book is concerned with the complicated and at times contradictory ways peoples of Greater Mexico have been documented and undocumented within systems of colonial knowledges, and how these peoples have been rendered as specters of the bureaucratic state. Rivera takes us through the painful, anxiety-ridden, and complex nature of what it means to be documented or undocumented, and the cruelty married to each of these states of being.
“UNDOCUMENTS is an intrepid, unsettling, and complex account of documentary practices that regulate the appearance and disappearance of Indigenous, Mexican-descendant, and contemporary Latinx life-worlds available to the historical record. In this profound work, John-Michael Rivera integrates critical commitment and personal memory with a plural poetics attuned to such survivals as the Florentine Codex in latter-day U.S. policy that turned the Sonoran Desert into a massive graveyard for migrants. Rivera is an experimentalist haunted by the obliteration of lives in the mirror-encyclopedia of the past; by the ghost ontology erasures begot in the present; by the spectral encounter of Bataille, Derrida, Emma Tenayuca, Rubén Salazar, and Anzaldúa; and by the quest for justice that a research imagination enables.”—Roberto Tejada, University of Houston
“This genre-bending joyride asks readers to consider how undocumentation shapes Latinx lives and what we know about them. With wit and theoretical acumen, Rivera offers an interactive experience that will foster conversation for years to come.”—Lee Bebout, author of Mythohistorical Interventions: The Chicano Movement and Its Legacies
“Haunting and haunted, John-Michael Rivera’s UNDOCUMENTS delves into the bordered unconscious—a militarized and surveilled zone between nations and languages heretofore only visited by mystic seers, some Latinx, some not, and divinely touched authors—Myriam Gurba, Salvador Plascencia, and James Joyce come to mind. Is this a memoir? A reliquary? Both? As the pages turn and readers and viewers (word and image vie for attention in this testimonial book for the ages) consume Rivera’s masterpiece, they will become mestizajefied, not metastasized, as this clever opus crawls its way into their psyche.”—William Anthony Nericcio, author of Homer from Salinas: John Steinbeck’s Enduring Voice for California