Kathryn A. Sloan
Death in the City
Suicide and the Social Imaginary in Modern Mexico
University of California Press 2017
In her recent book Death in the City: Suicide and the Social Imaginary in Modern Mexico (University of California Press, 2017), Kathryn A. Sloan explores ideas and discourses surrounding the suicide of men and women in Mexico City. Against the backdrop of modernity and transnational intellectual exchanges at the turn of the twentieth century, Sloan situates a vast array of Mexican social actors as world citizens who approached death with the same complexity as people in other parts of the world. Throughout a variety of fascinating sources and cases, Sloan explores a myriad of cultural understandings of people who took their own lives, and portrays the meticulous care taken by those who planned suicide over their bodies, as well as the cold forensic rooms and their detailed reports. She writes of how ideas about death, moral panic, and science intertwined in different written and visual arenas. The press, official statistics, and medical reports explored suicide as a social illness that was undermining one of the most valuable resources of the nation: the Mexican youth. In Sloan’s narrative, the city plays a central role: parks, the Metropolitan Cathedral, and cantinas took new significance as scenarios for suicide. Death in the City challenges widespread conceptions about the meanings historically attached to Mexicans regarding death and violence, while showing the nuances that gender and class added to the discourses about suicide between the Porfirian and the revolutionary era.
Pamela Fuentes is Assistant Professor in the Women’s and Gender Studies Department, Pace University, NYC campus.