De-colonial Perfoma(n)tics

We read a few pieces of original testimonios from de-colonial feminists.

  • How do you think they relate to this class? What about the current moment in the U.S.? How do they enact de-colonial performance?

Here are a key facts that can help you in understanding the world they were traveling from: literally and metaphorically:

Rigoberta Menchú

  • First, a longer explanation of who Rigoberta Menchú was, as she recognized by the Nobel Prize community.
  • A timeline from PBS Newshour explaining the horrendous violence she was fleeing: starting with a U.S.-backed coup.
  • Besides the activism she engaged in, it is worth noting how her book, and the excerpt in You Can’t Drown the Fire: Latin American Women Writing in Exile was the result of an oral history.

Mercedes Sosa

  • Mercedes Sosa’s life was also entangled in a complex political situation in her home country of Argentina.
  • Known for her songs professing liberation, she was especially pressured by the right-wing dictatorship replacing Isabel Martinez de Perón in 1976.
  • She lived in exile but returned to Argentina in 1982.
  • Refer to her obituary, and an opinion piece from the New York Times for more information on her life and the political situation in the world she was fleeing.

Because today we are focusing on the performance of de-colonial efforts, here is a song Mercedes Sosa produced while in exile. What do you think is her overall message?

Refer to this website for lyrics in English and Spanish.

More De-colonial Performances for Extra Credit:


a photo related to the event

As you know, it is Black history month, and this includes people from Caribbean diaspora. I’m especially affectionate of Bomba Boricua but would be happy to read about other genres that you listen to, if you decide to write about music.

One of the authors mentioned by Chela Sandoval et al, was Juan Flores, a Puerto Rican scholar who has written extensively on bomba, most notably in his From Bomba to Hip Hop. There were other performance traditions mentioned in the reading, among them theater of the oppressed. Let’s practice one technique from this kind of theater tradition: mirroring.

What would you say is the overall goal of de-colonial performa(n)tics?

For Tuesday (2.27):

Read Jillian Báez, and Jillian Hernandez. Search for secondary sources.

Methodologies, “World-Traveling,” and “Discursive Spaces”

María Lugones

From her Binghamton University Profile:

Associate Professor of Comparative Literature and of Women’s Studies: Ethics, political philosophy, philosophy of race and gender
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  • Most recently recognized for her work on Decolonial Feminist Methodologies
  • Has participated in roundtable discussions at Syracuse University (On intersectionality, and This Bridge Called My Back”

Juana María Rodriguez

  • Professor of Comparative Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley
  • Focuses on queer Latinidad as discussed in the reading.
  • Very receptive to folks reading her work: @RadioRodriguez
  • First read her Sexual Futures, Queer Gestures, and Other Latina Longings (NYU Press 2014)
  • Our selection comes from her Queer Latinidad: Identity Practices, Discursive Spaces (NYU Press, 2003)




A simple dictionary definition, this time from

  1. a set or system of methods, principles, and rules for regulating given discipline, as in the arts or sciences.
  2. Philosophy- the underlying principles and rules of organization of philosophical system or inquiry procedure 
  3. the study of the principles underlying the organization of the various sciences and the conduct of scientific inquiry.
  4. Education- a branch of pedagogics dealing with analysis and evaluation of subjects to be taught and of the methods of teaching them.

Applying it to academia, we may think of the methodologies used to write a social science paper. Check out this library guide description from University of South California:

The methods section describes actions to be taken to investigate a research problem and the rationale for the application of specific procedures or techniques used to identify, select, process, and analyze information applied to understanding the problem, thereby, allowing the reader to critically evaluate a study’s overall validity and reliability. The methodology section of a research paper answers two main questions: How was the data collected or generated? And, how was it analyzed? The writing should be direct and precise and always written in the past tense.

What were the methodologies that Lugones and Rodriguez utilized, or theorized? Why?

What did you learn from reading these pieces? What would you say is their thesis?

What can you say about their citation practices?


For Thursday (2.22), read Chela Sandoval et al, and Mercedes Sosa. Write a short reflection (~250 words) on the theory that you will apply to your object of study for the midterm.

Mestiza Consciousness

Merriam-Webster’s Definition of Theory

plural theories

1plausible or scientifically acceptable general principle or body of principles offered to explain phenomena 

  • the wave theory of light
2a a belief, policy, or procedure proposed or followed as the basis of action 

  • her method is based on the theory that all children want to learn
b an ideal or hypothetical set of facts, principles, or circumstances often used in the phrase in theory 

  • in theory, we have always advocated freedom for all
3a a hypothesis assumed for the sake of argument or investigation
b an unproved assumption conjecture
c a body of theorems presenting a concise systematic view of a subject 

  • theory of equations
4the general or abstract principles of a body of fact, a science, or an art 

  • music theory
5abstract thought speculation
6the analysis of a set of facts in their relation to one another

A Meta-Understanding of Theory

Accepting that theory is used differently depending on the purpose of the author, we can focus on how theory is made. Not just what, but how.

  • What does Anzaldúa say about culture? Homophobia? Mestizas?
  • In what ways does Gloria Anzaldúa develop her borderlands theory? What can you say about her style? What do you think the serpent represents?

Write a short reflection on the process of reading Gloria Anzaldúa’s work. 

Applying Borderland/Mestiza Consciousness Theories

We should remember that this course has taken an interdisciplinary approach to the study of Latina Feminist Theories. What academic disciplines have we covered?

A sociologist, Katie Acosta develops an empirical account of Latina “Lesbianas in the Borderlands” and how their race, class, and sexuality identities shift in the process of migration and the (imagined) communities they inhabit. To introduce her topic, she refers to “structural barriers” that have been addressed in previous research about migrant women (641). Ultimately, she presents the stories of 15 Latina lesbians, and how they imagine themselves in the borderlands, enacting a kind of mestiza consciousness.

“Borderlands are physically present wherever two or more cultures edge each other, where people of different races occupy the same territory, where under, lower, middle and upper classes touch, where the space between two individuals shrinks with intimacy” (Anzaldúa 19, quoted in Acosta 651).

Important points Acosta covers:

  • Latinx families’ “heteronormative lens” and “silence” (649)
  • “multiple and shifting nature of racial and sexual identities in the borderlands” (650)
  • “imagined communities” as spaces needed because of the “Shadow Beast”
  • borderlands as “home to the marginalized” though “not entirely egalitarian spaces” (652).
  • “tensions involving divergent nationalities” (653) but “less ‘othered’ in these spaces” (654).

For Thursday– Read from This Bridge: 
✓ Gloria Anzaldúa- “Speaking in Tongues”

✓Mirtha Quintanales- “I Came with No Illusions” & “I Paid Very Hard for My Immigrant

Write a synthesis of Anzaldúa and Quintanales and how they refer to the concept of a Third World Woman and/or Woman of Color feminist. Include a claim at the beginning that you support with your synthesis.

  • Bring your list of three potential areas of study for your midterm.

Mestiza and Borderlands Theory

First, here is an event that Melanie shared, which is extremely relevant for this class:


If you have any other events you would like to share with the class, please do so before we meet. Remember that writing a short reflection about these counts as extra credit.

Mestiza and Borderlands Theory

Today we will focus on your readings of Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa. A brief description of Cherríe Moraga comes from a Latino USA episode:

Cherríe Moraga is a Chicana writer, playwright, poet, feminist activist and an artist-in-residence at Stanford University. She is the co-editor of the feminist anthology This Bridge Called My Back.

  • What are some of the other features of Cherríe that we gathered from her writing?

In the aforementioned episode, the producers note how important the work of Gloria Anzaldúa was in relation to Moraga. From her book,

Rooted in Gloria Anzaldúa’s experience as a Chicana, a lesbian, an activist, and a writer, the essays and poems in this volume profoundly challenged, and continue to challenge, how we think about identity. Borderlands/La Frontera remaps our understanding of what a ‘border’ is, presenting it not as simple divide between here and there, us and them, but as a psychic, social, and cultural terrain that we inhabit, and that inhabits all of us.

It is important to note that she pursued a masters in English at the University of Texas, Austin, “which she completed in 1972” (4). She also pursued a doctorate there, and grew frustrated because she wasn’t allowed to study Chicanx literature, so she moved to California in 1977. We should consider this historical timeline, in order to locate her activism as informed by and pushing against a Chicano movement that was burgeoning in Austin, and in other places of the United States. Refer to this video from PBS on the Chicano movement in Austin.

There are numerous ways in which Anzaldúa uses her academic training in her own writing, which should help us understand how Latina feminist theories developed. \

  • Which features did you identify in your reflection?


Theories of Chicana/Women of Color Feminisms

Based on your answers from last week, an illustration of your understanding of theory in connection to previous readings looks like this:



Theory, thus, is particularly tethered to our experiences of privilege and oppression. But, how do Lisa Flores and Norma Alarcón use theory?

“Reclaiming the ‘Other'”

We could use the concept of orientation to understand the difference between Black Feminism, and Chicana Feminism. According to Flores, feminist theory has developed “critical and analytic perspectives that include women” (688). She specifically focuses on Chicana Feminist theories within academia, across disciplines, lacking “a unifying discourse that identifies central assumptions and outlines possible applications” (689). Flores then proposes Chicana Feminist narratives as demonstrating “two central principles, decolonization and intersectionality, which inform Chicanisma” (690). Also, she proposes voice, personal experience, and naming as characteristic of Chicana Feminist theory that addresses decolonization and intersectionality.

  • Before we move on, you should know that Ana Castillo has also used the concept of Chicanisma, but to depart from the Chicano movements sexism, she used and X (Xicanisma). If you are interested in listening to a recent podcast I produced about her, you can follow this link.

Flores’ description of Chicana Feminist Theory brings up many of the concepts your already attuned to. A few of the ideas we could discuss further are: marginalization (from the margin to the center), intersectionality, self and subjectivity.

Challenging an essential notion of self as unified and whole, Chicana feminism offers models of subjectivity that highlight the interconnections of gender, race, class, nationality, and sexual orientation. Advancing notions of hybridity which challenge the distinction between self and comminity, between Mexican and American, a Chicana feminist perspective disrupts dualisms by indentifying the co-existence of seemingly contradictory ideas. (695)

We will return to Flores next time, but for now I should point out that the previous quote is informed by the work of Chela Sandoval. Besides Chicana feminism, Sandoval is known for her theorization of U. S. Third World feminism, one that Norma Alarcon also mentioned.

“Chicana’s Feminist Literature”

Norma Alarcón uses the method of “re-vision” to focus on the myth of Malintzin/La Malinche and to theorize the ways in which Chicana feminist literature uses this figure to understand/counter a “patriarchal myth” that many Chicanas are subjected to. She engages some of the principles and examples that Flores also attended to in her essay.

  • What are some of the ways in which the “male myth of Malintzin” (182) affects women? What are some of the topos/themes she brings up?

Ultimately, she concludes,

Even as we concern ourselves with Third World women’s economic exploitation, we have to concern ourselves with psychosexual exploitation and pawnability at the hands of one’s brother, father, employer, master, political systems and sometimes, sadly so, powerless mothers. (188)

  • How do Cherríe Moraga & Gloria Anzaldúa bring up the figure of their mothers? What is the difference between Flores and Alarcón’s writing with that of Moraga and Anzaldúa?

For next class: Write a short reflection on how Gloria Anzaldúa develops a theory of mestiza consciousness/borderland theory.

Coming Together in Testimonio

Before going over our discussion of today’s reading, I wanted to share a video a friend posted that could bridge this week’s conversations:

Can you think of other popular culture references/events that would link with our class?

More Bridges

There are also a few concepts that Cynthia Saavedra and Michelle Salazar Pérez bring up that were addressed in last week’s readings:

  1. subaltern (435)— from postcolonial theorists, “whether or not the subaltern can truly speak or have a voice; or Bhabba’s notion of ‘a Third space of enunciation’ where marginalized minorities articulate their cultural differences, transform the meanings of their colonial legacies, and construct new liberating identities rooted in cultural straddling and hybridity” (Acosta Belén 79).
  2. self (441)— Aparicio defines identity “by the dialogic struggles between notions of the self and the constructions imposed from the outside” (40).
  3. assimilation (437)- white/Anglo conformity ‘melting pot’ assimilation model that tends to undervalue other cultural and linguistic differences” (Acosta Belén 78).

In order to deal with fragmentation, Saavedra and Salazar Pérez are clearly inspired by Anzaldúa’s writing. In “Putting Coyoalxauhqui Together: A Creative Process” Gloria Anzaldúa writes:

To help you organize the interaction of images and words into an 8,000-word essay and keep you from going completely crazy, you turn to a colored pen sketch you did of la Coyoalxauhqui and invoke her. In Aztec mythology Coyolxauhqui is the moon goddess, a warrior woman. Making her the first human sacrifice, her brother Huitzilopochtli, the war god, decapitated her, dismembered her body, and scattered her limbs. Organizing the parts into a unified whole and drafting a full version el cuento is the act of putting Coyoalxauhqui back together again.

This passage helps explain the logic behind Salazar Pérez and Saavedra following an approach of putting together fragments. I’ve provided you with copies of the piece, as it could serve as a model for your Multimodal/Creative Project’s Rhetorical Reflection.

  • I should note that most of Alzaldúa’s references are from secondary sources. Keep this in mind for the Latina Feminist Application assignment.

The rest of class will be spent filling out a spreadsheet where you will interview each other about your work, theory and testimonio.

Intersectionality: Feminisms, Social Justice, and Academia


After going over some of your answers from the last class, today we will go into the multiple layers addressed by Kimberle Crenshaw and Patricia Hill Collins.

To do so, we will follow a prezi presentation:

For Thursday, write a short reflection about how Crenshaw’s writing informs your reading of Saavedra and Salazar Perez. Put them into a conversation.

Some of the sources used:

Anita Hill on Sexual Harassment: ‘Today, More People Would Believe My Story’



Latina/o/x and Gender

Before going into today’s discussion, here are a few events you might be interested in:

As a review:

What are some of the overarching conceptualizations we discussed last time?

*A few terms we will revisit later: mestizaje, melting pot, homogeneity/assimilation*

Implications of language and social practice

  • If Aparicio used personal stories, and Edna Acosta Belén focused on different cultural productions, what did Salinas and Lozano rely on to make their argument?

Cristobal Salinas Jr. and Adele Lozano discuss the significance of the term Latinx. In writing “Mapping and Recontextualizing the evolution of the term Latinx: An Environmental Scanning in Higher Education” they aim to collect instances in which the term is used to refer to Latin American ancestry. They claim it is important to consider its use, as it aims to “disrupt traditional notions of inclusivity and shape institutional understandings of intersectionality” (Salinas and Lozano 1). Specifically, they note the challenges it makes to “ideologies of language, culture, and gender” (2). Juxtaposing the nuances behind the use of Latinx with Kristen Schilt and Laurel Westbrook’s article should illustrate how language use shapes social practice, and how shifting nomenclature could potentially impact the acceptance of fluid gender categories. As they note, there is a relationship between how “the use of the term Latinx might impact the ways in which higher education environmnets acknowledge intersecting identities” (2). But first, a few notes on the emergence of Latinx and our previous discussion.

  1. Similar to Aparicio and Acosta Belén, Salinas and Lozano allude to the U.S. Census Bureau. Looking through the latest iteration of the Bureau’s explanation for the categories, it is particularly relevant that they refer to adhering to “standards issued by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB),” especially as it may provide an insight into the motivations behind keeping track of population identification.
  2. “A key similarity between these pan-ethnic terms [Hispanic and Latino] is that they both refer to a cultural and ethnic group, not a race” (2).
  3. Folks who argue against the use of Latins suggest that it is a “blatant form of linguistic imperialism, that it is being used in the United States only, and that its use cannot be considered as ‘speaking Spanish'” (5).

Countering a focus on “authenticity” that hispanophiles may hold, psychologists in Puerto Rico started using the x to change articles such as “los” & “las” to lxs. Because “Spanish is a gendered language… the term Latinx has evolved as a new form of liberation for people of Latin American descent who hold nonconforming gender identities” (6). In addition to holding on to elitist claims to language purity, there is a layer of “transphobic and homophobic inner feeling towards individuals who do not identify within the male or female gender binary” (9).

  • What are some of your thoughts on the usage of Latinx? How/when/where would you use it?

There are a few feminist concepts that must be defined to understand the nuanced use of Latinx. In groups of three, use the Schilt and Westbrook reading to craft a definition for:

  1. heteronormativity–
  2. gender identity–
  3. gender presentation–
  4. gender assignment–
  5. cisgender–
  6. transgender–
  7. heterosocial gender rituals–
  8. gender socialization–
  9. sex/gender/sexuality system–

Schilt and Westbrook’s study on the social maintenance of heterosexuality focuses on professional and sexual social practices wherein cisgender/heterosexual people react to gender non-conformance. They point to the power relations involved in these encounters, and to the importance of balancing attention to how people police the (un)doing of gender in relation to hetero(homo)sexuality. There are a series of normative assumptions and expectations that are held even as there is an interaction with transgender people. In  many cases, a hierarchical gender system is upheld in violent ways. As you read for next week, make note on how gender inequality is addressed by Kimberle Crenshaw and Patricia Hill Collins: what other layers do they bring up?

The Journey Begins

Today we begin with an exploration of the overarching conceptualizations around Latina/o/x categories. We read a few scholars from A Companion to Latina/o Studies, whose conceptions included definitions and examples. Writing in 2017 (and maybe even before that), the work of Frances Aparicio and Edna Acosta Belén could be thought of as outdated. However, it is important to note that Latina/o/x histories and definitions are constantly evolving. Let’s go over some of the approaches that each scholar engaged in, before we attempt to update their thinking.

Frances Aparicio

Currently, Aparicio is a Professor of Spanish and Portuguese and the Director of the Latina and Latino Studies Program at Northwestern University.

  • What else can be said about Aparicio that she provides in the reading?

Similar to the approach taken in this course, Aparicio describes Latina/o(s) as: heterogeneous, full of complexities, based on experiences and power dynamics, informed by distinct categories, including nationality.

  • What are the geographic areas she mentions? Where does she locate her analysis?

She proposes there are a variety of hybrid identities and intersections within which Latina/o identities need to be understood: “between notions of self and the constructions imposed from the outside” (Aparicio 40).

  • Can you recall a few of the examples she provides? Who are the subjects she uses as evidence? Which are the differences she points to between them?

Aparicio also notes how there are elements of socioeconomic status and class informing conceptions of Latina/o communities.

As she indicates, “[t]he term ‘Latino’ carries with it internal semantic tensions that reflect the multiple sites from which it has emerged” (42). She notes the tendency of lumping various nationalities, and the distinction between Latina/o and Latin American.

Her main argument, and one of the subjects she is most known for is the concept of an”interlatino subject,” similar to a “domestic transnationalism” based on relational identifications in specific contexts, “rather than in the linear ways in which we tend to think about national awareness or cultural reaffirmation” (45). Of course, these are not without their conflict, such as interlatino racializations, where groups are integrated or differentiated based on “factors such as the power and visibility of each group in relation to the others, or the mainstream acceptance of some identities over others” (46). Ultimately, these tensions are informed by the connections, or lack thereof, with mainstream Anglo American, or dominant mainstream culture, which is why she prefers the location of Latina/o definition to be in unification/hybridity.

Edna Acosta Belén

Once again, there is an attention to the difference between self-identification and imposition of labels from outside, in this case the US government. Acosta Belén refers to the lumping of nationalities under Latina/o as promoting homogeneity. The issue of the “melting pot” is now taking a different view than that proposed in Aparicio.

  • What is the difference between the two?

The tension in this text is mostly focused on that of the Anglo American mainstream culture, and that of other “disenfranchised minorities” or “ethnoracial minorities” (Acosta Belén 78).  Acosta Belén argues that it is through social consciousness about a subaltern condition and “their creative imagination, [that] Latina/o writers and artists assert their differences and reveal an awareness of their role as collective voices of a particular community, and as the bearers of survival and resistance struggles against the forces of racism and cultural obliteration” (79). Thus, she historicises a panethnic latinidad, especially in regards to cultural expression.

  1. She starts with the 1800s push-back against Spanish domination as the birth of Latin America, and refers to Antillean separatist movements/émigrés taking place in the United States. One of the major figures in this history is José Martí, and his conception of “nuestra America” and the cultural production she surveys here are newspapers.
  2. Early in the 1900s, she traces unified fronts in activism for workers and cultural organizations in the Northeast and Southwest of the US. Once again she traces newspapers, but she adds how the exile of Spaniards prompted the promotion of hispanismo through the Revista de Artes y Letras.
  3. The last historical period she surveys is the civil rights era, and she claims that the “specific struggles and accomplishments of different Latina/o groups in this movement” are yet to be documented (82). She provides the examples of Teatro Campesino and Nuyorican Poets Cafe.

In addition to newspapers, poetry, and theater, Acosta Belén notes the bildungsroman literary genre as a particular venue for Latina/o artists to assert their identities and experiences.

  • Any examples you identified in her list of authors?

Particularly relevant for this course, she mentioned the work of Latina feminists who proposed the framework of “women of color” feminism. Of course, we will be addressing these in more detail later.

To close, she noted other cultural expressions such as music and visual art, and also noted that the homogenizing lumping together of Latin(o) artists is a marketing strategy.

Overarching Conceptualizations

  • Can you point to similar themes between Frances Aparicio and Edna Acosta Belén’s definitions of Latina/o?