The rollout of the 2020 US Census results has been accompanied by perennial conversations about the nation’s rising Latino population and speculations about the societal implications of demographic shifts. Rather than taking these numbers for granted and asking when US Latinos will finally access increased political power, Northwestern University sociologist and longtime Puerto Rican Cultural Center collaborator Dr. Michael Rodríguez-Muñiz urges a critical reexamination of assumptions about demographics and democracy in his newly published book, Figures of the Future: Latino Civil Rights and the Politics of Demographic Change (2021, Princeton University Press).
Drawing on more than eight years of research focused on Latino civil rights organizations throughout the nation, consisting of interviews with these organizations’ leaders, observations of their events, and analyses of their campaign materials, Rodríguez-Muñiz deftly shows how the relationship between demographic assessments and access to resources and political representation is anything but straightforward. Instead, Rodríguez-Muñiz brilliantly demonstrates that these dynamics must be understood in relation to what he terms population politics, which involves strategic modes of counting and communicating about demographics to achieve particular political goals.
While debates surrounding US Latino demographics, including questions about category labels (e.g., Latin American, Hispanic, Latina/o/x), racial and ethnic identities, and citizenship and (im)migration statuses are often framed as problems unique to this population, Rodríguez-Muñiz incisively reframes these issues as fundamental to demography and democracy. As a result, Figures of the Future emerges as a pathbreaking work that stands to make significant contributions to the fields of Sociology, Political Science, Latino Studies, and Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies.
Dr. Michael Rodríguez-Muñiz is Assistant Professor of Sociology and Latina/Latino Studies at Northwestern University. The Puerto Rican Cultural Center will host a book conversation and celebration for Professor Rodríguez-Muñiz on Friday, August 20 from 5:00pm-7:30pm at the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture, 3015 W. Division St. The event will be moderated by Dr. Jonathan Rosa of Stanford University, with a discussion followed by a book signing and hors d’oeuvres from Nellie’s Puerto Rican Restaurant.