Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name



Classical and Modern Languages, Literatures, and Cultures

First Advisor

Víctor Figueroa


This dissertation examines the dissemination of power represented in the works of Panamanian writers Roberto Díaz Herrera, Rose Marie Tapia and Mauro Zúñiga Araúz. My work focuses on two important periods in Panama's history: the repressive dictatorial era of Manuel Noriega and the post-dictatorial era during which subjugation and power operate in subtle ways, through institutions, mechanisms of civil society, and globalization. The primary sources are Díaz Herrera's testimony, and the novels of Tapia and Zúñiga Araúz. In my analysis, I draw upon the notions of power, subjugation and normalization developed by the French philosoher Michel Foucault. I also draw upon the thoughts of Mikhail Bahktin, Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud and Beatriz Sarlo. Chapter one presents the historical overview of Panamanian history and its literature. It shows how power, subjugation and normalization have operated in Panama at different points of its history. Chapter Two analyses the political terror of Noriega through Díaz Herrera's "Estrellas clandestinas" and Zúñiga Araúz's "El chacal del general." Both narratives are challenges against Noriega, using scenes of actual persecutions, disappearances and tortures. Chapter Three explains how Tapia uses "Roberto por el buen camino" to denounce a wide range of inequalities existing in the post-dictatorial society. She focuses specifically on the culture of violence perpetrated by the underclass. Chapter four analyses how Zúñiga Araúz's "Espejo de miserias" takes the reader to a deep journey through a diverse range of social problems affecting women in Latin America, focusing on the subjugation and control of women's bodies through prostitution. This chapter uses Foucault's notion of biopower to illustrate how subjugation operates through globalization and the sex trade market. Chapter five uses Tapia's "Mujeres en fuga" to show globalization and the global market--through casinos and shopping malls--manipulating society, and contributing to Panama's socio-economic fragmentation. In addition to bringing attention to the literature of a country that is often ignored in contemporary Latin American Studies, my analysis demonstrates how these writers examine problems and questions concerning the use and dissemination of power that remain vitally important not only in Panama, but also throughout Latin America.