Gregory L. Cuéllar
Gregory L. Cuéllar is Associate Professor of Old Testament at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Currently, he is a Visiting Academic at the Centre for Criminology at the University of Oxford. As an international biblical scholar, Dr. Cuéllar is interested in counterintuitive ways of reading biblical texts, in particular those that are rooted in a decolonizing discourse of liberation. He has written on topics related to the U.S. Mexico Borderlands, Latinx immigration, race, Bible museums, and empire.
His current research focuses on the carceral geographies of immigration detention facilities at the intersections of religion, migratory aesthetics, borderlands and postcolonial trauma. His two most recent books are, Resacralizing the Other at the US-Mexico Border for Routledge (2020) and, Empire, the British Museum, and the Making of the Biblical Scholar in the Nineteenth Century Archival Criticism (Palgrave, 2019). In terms of advocacy work, he is the co-founder of a refugee artwork project called, Arte de Lágrimas (Art of Tears): Refugee Artwork Project. This project is a traveling art exhibit and archive that aims to create greater public awareness of the lived migratory journeys of asylum-seeking children, youth, and adults.
“Lamentations as a Healing Response to Necropolitical Power at the Texas-Mexico Border”
The book of Lamentations offers a haunting and yet subversive example of how to lament in the traumas of imperial violence and colonization. This paper aims to harness the poetic response of Lamentations to postcolonial trauma as a way to lament in death zones like the Texas-Mexico border. Resourcing this task is a different reading of Lamentations that takes cues from Achille Mbembe’s mapping of “necropolitical power” as well as his notion of the sacred “as power of therapy and hope”. From this counter vantage point, Lamentations emerges less as melancholic literature than activist poetry that bears witness to the murderous depths of imperial power against those deemed its enemy. I then turn to the necropower afforded to the border security and cartel to render the Texas-Mexico border a death zone for migrants. Among the question I seek to address include the following: How might the artistic mapping of imperial violence in Lamentations serve as a radical lamenting strategy for marginalized people coping with the deadly effects of necropolitical power? How might this proposed reading of Lamentations point racialized readers to modes of lament that reconstitute their lives as worthy of human existence while also expose the multiple ways in which deadly forms of racist power operate?