November 29, 2012

Un abstracto abstracto del joto, el subalterno y la subjetividad queer en Latinoamérica

Al discutir la homosexualidad en términos discursivos, la palabra “queer” no existe en español. Históricamente, la homosexualidad sigue siendo descrita y definida en términos de posicionalidad sexual—un producto del binario de “activos” y “pasivos.” Sostengo que este binario borra la identidad sexual y la autoafirmación de personas “queer.” Así, yo pregunto, ¿Cómo podemos hablar sobre el deseo entre personas del mismo sexo en la poscolonia? En este proyecto, empleo el término “jotería” no sólo como una categoría de identidad sexual, sino también como un marco teórico para hablar sobre el deseo homosexual en Latinoamérica. Teniendo en cuenta la ausencia de un término nativo para discutir los latinos queer, creo que “jotería” reclama una categoría de una identidad que se ha utilizado para borrar y hablar por el sujeto queer. Me interesa cómo los pensadores queer utilizan estructuras teóricas que ya existen en los discursos latinoamericanos para hablar de jotería como una categoría dentro de las conversaciones que ya están ocurriendo sobre el poder y la subjetividad en relación al cuerpo y la sexualidad. Por consiguiente, este ensayo considera los debates subalternos para situar el sujeto joto dentro de estos marcos para abordar y escenificar las conversaciones sobre quién es el subalterno, quién es el joto y si ambos pueden hablar o definir su propia encarnación en sus propios términos. A través de estas conversaciones, argumento que los estudios subalternos y los estudios jotería exponen los límites y las desventajas de cada uno, mientras trabajan para identificar una manera de hablar de los cuerpos en los márgenes.

November 25, 2012

Fragments of the Body, Queer Memory, and the Latin American Avant-Garde

CADA (Colectivo Acciones de Arte), "No +" (No más)

This semester I have been engaging some very exciting and thoughtful conversations about theoretical and cultural development in Latin America with my colleagues in a seminar. Our focus on subaltern studies, (post)dictatorship, and (post)hegemony have really provided a bit of a theoretical foundation for the queer readings I want to bring to a Latin American theological representation of jotería subjects. As a result I have a few projects in the works that will tease out the relationship between these themes and queer theological studies.

I have been particularly struck by the development of the Latin American avant-garde. I believe the avant-garde opened a space for the inversion of signs and a moment of resistance to the normative trajectories and political systems in place that created an innumerable amount of marginal subjects. These historias remain in fragments though, and thus questions of memory are at the forefront of these conversations. In my recent reading of The Insubordination of Signs by Nelly Richard, I was drawn to the fact that the memory lost as a result of the military regime in Chile remains suppressed, if only because it would threaten the very fabric of political reconciliation whose entire premise was to put the past in the past. For Richard, all that remains are residues, “fragments of experience…no longer speakable in the language that survived the catastrophe of meaning” (5). I am interested in this idea of fragmentation as the after-effects of erasure and trauma. Richard describes how the military regime banished dissident voices and identities and prevented their representation, leaving them nameless and inexpressible. Those banished identities and narratives remain excluded in the post-dictatorship.

I am really interested in locating this within queer studies, where conversations about erasure and recovery of fragments of experience are key to many queer narratives and theory. I’m thinking of An Archive of Feelings by Ann Cvetokovich in particular, where she discusses a queer approach to trauma that examines the recovery of those experiences already embedded in an archive—an “archive of feelings” that she defines as “an exploration of cultural texts as repositories of feelings and emotions, which are encoded not only in the content of the texts themselves but in the practices that surround their production and reception” (7). Needless to say, in Latin America during many of these moments of dictatorship and military regimes, queer bodies were equally erased and became part of an invisible institution of other dissident bodies and voices. I am thus interested in the process of recovery and how that relates to the body: Does the body remember?

Richard writes,
Memories associated with the subaltern registers of the domestic and the popular, the urban, the feminine, and the biographical-erotic, entered as contraband into the upper regions of cultural representation, to contest the hierarchies of race, class, and gender fixing the scale of distinctions and privileges consecrated by traditional art (13).
Recovery is a form of disruption then, which is queer in nature. But how is fragmentation made whole again? Is the subaltern experience always a fragmented one? Richard is obviously not talking about queer discourses, but I think her work informs my own in terms of me thinking about how I locate the queer subject in Latin America. In a context where homosexuality is an invisible institution and only based on sexual positionality, where then do we locate same-sex desire in the postcolony? I wonder if Richard provides me with a historical context in which recovery of the fragments is happening. I just wonder if this recovery and remembrance reproduces violence in the body. And even then, who gets to recover? Which dissident voices get to rearticulate their voices? Do we get to speak to those who are permanently disappeared?

I think about the ways in which we rescue and rewrite the signs to make them inverted and subversive against the hegemonic systems in place. The ACT UP movement, for example, transformed the face and image of AIDS activism in the United States. "Silence = Death" and the pink triangle moved the body and mind in a way that incited individuals to have a conversation about AIDS and the impact it was having on populations. The recent documentary, "How to Survive a Plague" really reminded of the efforts of CADA in Chile, in terms of the same resistance to normative trajectories and their creative moments of relentless direct action. The documentary uses the original footage from the personal camcorders of the activists themselves.

More recently, the Occupy movements have also reminded me of the avant-garde movement we saw by CADA, which was a collective movement by artists, activists, and even scholars. Everyone had a different reason and agenda for why they were occupying, but they gathered under the same umbrella and tent, if you will, of the occupation. My question is then, what would it look like for a queer avant-garde in Latin America that foregrounds jotería bodies that are resisting the normative trajectories in place that continue to perpetuate their erasure and invisibility. What would their recovery look like?

Revised from my original post in "Latin America in Theory"on October 9, 2012