Figures of the Future:
Latino Civil Rights and the Politics of Demographic Change
For decades, numbers and narratives about ethnoracial demographic change have flooded U.S. public life. Yet, to date, scholarly attention has been more concerned with the sources and consequences of projected trends than with the political struggles and meaning-making processes through we have come to envision and sense demographic change in the first place. Drawing on my book, Figures of the Futures: Latino Civil Rights and Politics of Demographic Change (Princeton University Press, 2021), this talk explores the racialized population politics of national Latino civil rights organizations. Focused on the period following the 2010 census, I show how this political project used forecasting to render the “Latino demographic” and its growth politically potent and socially palatable. Extending work on the sociology of temporality, quantification, and emotion, this analysis demonstrates how forecasts—as relational, projective cultural objects—are variously crafted, communicated, and contested. Along with insights into the contemporary state of Latino civil rights, the talk offers conceptual tools that challenge essentialist and deterministic treatments of population dynamics.
Michael Rodríguez-Muñiz is currently assistant professor of sociology and Latina/o studies at Northwestern University. His research and teaching centers on the intersections of race, politics, and knowledge, with an emphasis on Latinx communities and movements. He is the author of Figures of the Future: Latino Civil Rights and the Politics of Demographic Change (Princeton University Press, 2021), which is based on his dissertation, winner of the 2016 ASA Dissertation Award. Michael's work has appeared in the American Journal of Sociology, the American Journal of Cultural Sociology, the American Behavioral Scientist, among other outlets and edited volumes. His next major project explores the afterlives of political repression in the Puerto Rican diaspora.