"Reading the Body Politic" proposes a Latin American feminist criticism that is both regionally specific and in current dialogue with North American and European feminist practices. Amy Kaminsky brings together Latin American materialist criticism, which sees itself as part of an oppositional, anti-colonialist politics, and feminist criticism, which locates the female body at the centre of its analysis and acknowledges its ties to a political movement dedicated to the eradication of gender oppression. In "Reading the Body Politic", Kaminsky unravels a particular problem of North American feminist analyses. "Identity" and "self", she argues, have become stumbling blocks for feminist critics caught between the will to deconstruct "woman" and the need for identity as the basis for political action. From the rhetoric of Latin American oppositional politics, Kaminsky borrows the term "presence," which asserts a self and an identity constructed within the context of political action, in concert with a community and against a subject determined to deny the existence of community.
"Reading the Body Politic" engages specific topics and texts with reference to the larger problem of theorizing and enacting a Latin American feminist criticism: exile in the poetry and narrative of Gabriela Mistral, Cristina Peri Rossi, Luisa Valenzuela, and Marta Traba; political/testimonial writing in Alicia Partnoy; the construction of the writing subject in Elena Poniatowska and Brimmer's "Gaby Brimmer"; the limits of European feminist theory with reference to Elena Garro's "Recollections of things to come"; and writing and lesbian sexuality in texts by Sylvia Molloy and Cristina Peri Rossi.