Rebecca Janzen


Languages, Literatures, and Cultures

Geographical Expertise:

Western Hemisphere

Dr. Rebecca Janzen is a scholar of gender, disability and religious studies in Mexican literature and culture whose research focuses on excluded populations in Mexico. In Fall 2017, she joined the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at USC, after teaching at Bluffton University (Ohio) from 2013 to 2017.

Dr. Janzen’s current work examines the intersection of legal and literary discourse as it pertains to minority communities in Mexico, in a project titled Excess Law and Surplus Order: Law and the Mexican Literary Imagination. This builds on her previous work, which includes Liminal Sovereignty: Mennonites and Mormons in Mexican Culture (SUNY, 2018), a monograph that focuses on questions of migration, sovereignty and the body as they relate to religious minorities. It considers representations of Mennonite and Mormon minority bodies, particularly of women and queer people, in Mexican and Mexico-U.S. borderlands culture. It argues that the Mexican state made formal and informal legal accommodations for the Mennonites and Mormons, and that the religious minorities, in turn, adapted to the Mexican context. This project relates to an article that studies the representation of Low German Mennonites in Mexican photography and film in the Arizona Journal of Hispanic Cultural Studies, an article about German-language Mennonite Press in the Americas in the Mennonite Quarterly Review, a book chapter part of a collection titled Gazing on Southern Gods (under review, University of Notre Dame Press) and an article about the representation of the so-called ghost rapes among Low German Mennonites in Bolivia in A Contracorriente.

This work on religious minorities and legal exception began with her first book, The National Body in Mexican Literature: Collective Challenges to Biopolitical Control (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2015). There she examined ideas of state sovereignty in relation to images of disability and illness in 20th century Mexican novels and short stories. The National Body demonstrated that the representation of the body in narrative fiction reflects both the oppression by the State and the Church and how, when the allusions to a collective are considered, the body can become a site of resistance to that oppression. Dr. Janzen argued that these representations of resistance show a tradition of representing the body from which it is possible to derive alternative collective identities.

Dr. Janzen received her Ph. D. from the University of Toronto (2013) and is part of a research group that focuses on Mexico called the UC-Mexicanistas, based in the University of California system.