Recent Dissertation Abstracts
Kristina Gutierrez (Summer 2012)
ECOLITERACY AND A PLACE-BASED PEDAGOGY: EXPANDING LATIN@ STUDENTS' CRITICAL UNDERSTANDING OF THE RECIPROCITY BETWEEN SOCIOCULTURAL SYSTEMS AND ECOSYSTEMS IN THE US-MEXICO BORDER REGION
This dissertation proposes a place-based theoretical and methodological framework, informed by concepts of ecology, multimodality, and activity systems. I apply this framework of ecoliteracy as it is defined within the interdisciplinary contexts of rhetoric and composition, linguistics, and Chicana/o studies. Ecoliteracy refers to individuals’ abilities to assess semiotic and discursive networks within their communities with the goal of cultivating sustainability. The purpose of this framework is to expand working-class to middle-class Latin@ students’ ecoliteracy in three ways. First, I analyze the semiotic and discursive relations among their social, cultural, and natural environments, particularly the reciprocity between sociocultural systems and ecosystems in the US-Mexico border region. I develop a multimodal approach to ecoliteracy that best encourages a sustainable agenda within students’ communities. Second, I illustrate the tenets of ecoliteracy employed in popular media, including murals, to spotlight the reciprocity between social communities and/or natural environments. Then I turn my attention to how students, in collaboration with community youth, employ modes to produce poems to foreground community sustainability. Third, I describe the ways in which the modes of image and word promote an active social justice agenda that cultivates reciprocity between social communities and natural environments.
Candace De Leon-Zepeda (Spring 2012)
DECOLONIZING THE CLASSROOM: MAPPING THE IMPACT OF EDUCATIONAL INEQUALITIES ON MEXICAN-AMERICANS THROUGH A THIRD SPACE CHICANA FEMINIST ANALYSIS OF LITERATURE AND FILM
Third Space Chicana Feminists invite an alternative reading of the historical, social, personal, and political experiences of marginalized identities, as a means to challenge colonizing and linear narratives, theories, and texts. Diverging from the homogeneity of the first and second wave Feminist movements, Third Space Chicana Feminism articulates what Chela Sandoval explains as a "theory of difference" that allows for the visibility of one's gender, race, culture, or class. Chicana Feminists draw attention to an in-between social category defined as a Third Space in order to reject prevailing hegemonic classifications of otherness and marginality. My dissertation project elaborates Chicana Feminists assertion of Third Space to include the experiences of Mexican-American students and the construction of a Third Space classroom. Theorizing my lived experiences as a South Texas Chicana English-Composition instructor, I propose that the origins of this Eurocentric and homogenous discipline must be reevaluated in order to dismantle existing and oppressive theories, practices, and pedagogies that silence the agency of Third Space subjects, or Mexican-Americans; a population I define as U.S. citizens of Mexican ancestry descent. I argue that the theories of Third Space Chicana Feminists provide new methodologies for decolonizing the classroom and developing pedagogies that address the population of Mexican-American students. To better support this position, I introduce alternative ways of theorizing students' spaces by means of analyzing Mexican-American literature and films that center on the educational experiences of Mexican-American bodies. Finally, I conclude with a conversation on Third Space Chicana Feminists' praxis and how those theories can strengthen the discipline of English-Composition as evident in an analysis of Laura I. Rendón's sentipensante pedagogy and my interpretation of a pedagogy of the barrio .
Margaret Cantu-Sanchez (Spring 2012)
"HEALING THE SPLIT": TEJIENDO MESTIZAJES OF EPISTEMOLOGIES IN LATINA EDUCATION AND LITERATURE
This dissertation explores what I call the education/educación conflict as it is experienced and examined by Latinas in history, literature, and education through testimonios. I define this conflict as a Latina's inability to balance multiple epistemologies and identities and offer a possible solution by adding to the theories of Chicana Third Space Feminism and Critical Race Theory.
I explain how this conflict can be resolved by adding to Gloria Anzaldúa's notion of mestizaje to develop my own theory, a mestizaje of epistemologies, a survival strategy employed by Latinas in US institutions of learning. I propose that what I am calling a mestizaje of epistemologies, a balance of multiple knowledges, is utilized by certain protagonists and authors of Latina literature and testimonios as a means of retaining ties to their cultures and succeeding in school. I demonstrate how this theory is also a pedagogy that can be employed in the classroom. A mestizaje of epistemologies emerges from the theoretical concepts of Chela Sandoval, Emma Pérez, Laura Rendón, Paulo Freire, and Michel Foucault. An analysis of Latina literature utilizing a mestizaje of epistemologies reveals that the education/educación conflict is often, though not always, experienced by Latinas once introduced to assimilationist strategies, including the binary thought process of the US education system. Latinas experience alienation and confusion of identity marked by the education/educación conflict due to such binary thinking. I propose that a mestizaje of epistemologies is necessary to help Latinas resist dualistic ways of thinking, weave multiple epistemologies, and heal.
Patricia Portales (Spring 2012)
WOMEN, BOMBS, AND WAR: REMAPPING MEXICAN AMERICAN WOMAN'S HOME FRONT AGENCY IN WORLD WAR II LITERATURE, THEATER, AND FILM
Through an examination of Mexican American cultural production about the World War II era, this project maps complex Mexican American women's negotiations of ideology and feminist agency at home, at work, on stage and on screen. In my readings of Severo and Judith Pérez's play Soldierboy, Luis Valdez's Zoot Suit , Lupe Vélez's World War II era Mexican Spitfire films, and the testimonio of my aunt, World War II bomb welder Juana Portales Esquivel, I remap shifting gender relations and cross-racial solidarity to historicize heretofore unacknowledged models and levels of agency by Latinas. Specifically, I analyze the roles by which Mexican American women used language, dress, and industrial skills to facilitate social and economic mobility. I am informed by Emma Pérez's model of "the dialectics of doubling," which she claims creates a contradiction for women acting within nationalism, to consider how these contradictions also invoke complex agency. By extending Pérez and also drawing upon the cultural theory of Gloria Anzaldúa and Chela Sandoval, as well as the labor theory of Patricia Zavella, I seek to transcend binary models of agency and identity to propose "liberatory layering," which enables the simultaneity of Mexican American women's multivalent roles as patriotic and subversive without dismissing their agency and autonomy due to ever present contradictions. I argue that Mexican American women of the World War II era, though marginalized and ostensibly contained within patriotic and patriarchal confines, engaged in subversive acts through their labor that allowed them to layer several roles--factory worker, wage earner, mother, patriot, wife, caregiver--instead of trading or shedding one role for another.
Larissa Mercado-Lopez (Summer 2011)
"I FEEL A REVOLUTION OCCUR IN MY WOMB": MAPPING COGNITIVE AND SOMATIC TRANSFORMATION THROUGH READINGS OF MESTIZA MATERNAL FACULTAD
Though recent works on mestiza mothers provide important critiques of patriarchal motherhood, as well as re-visionist retellings of maternal archetypes, the actual flesh of the mestiza maternal subject remains considerably under-theorized. To respond to this absence, I examine somatic, psychic, and discursive constructions of mestiza maternal embodiment, reading maternal bodies through the trope of "mess" in published and unpublished memoirs, critical writings, and poems by Gloria Anzaldua, Cherrie Moraga, and Laurie Ann Guerrero. I merge Chicana theories of the body with feminist phenomenology to indicate how the enmeshed social, historical, and bodily experiences of maternity and mestizaje forge a somatic and social consciousness. In my development of maternal facultad, a defense mechanism honed through the bodily and social experience of oppression and motherhood, I explore the embodied nature of pregnancy and lactation on maternal knowledge formation. Constructing a theoretical lens through the synthesis of works in Chicana body theory and feminist epistemology, I propose that the embodied experiences of mestiza maternity enable mestiza mothers to read their bodies in ways that challenge hegemonic constructions of motherhood, allowing for the creation of new traditions of empowered maternal identity. The mestiza maternal body, this work indicates, occupies a critical subjectivity that further illuminates the effects of power on gendered and racialized bodies.
My dissertation demonstrates important discursive and somatic connections between mestizaje, maternity, and sexuality, and interrogates feminist approaches to consciousness that do not adequately account for the experiences of mestiza maternal embodiment and subsequently render invisible the knowledges gleaned from those embodiments.
Nancy Wilson (Summer 2011)
THE WRITING CENTER AS BODEGA: MAKING A THIRD SPACE IN ACADEMIA FOR GLOBAL ENGLISHES AND ALTERNATIVE DISCOURSES
Because global communication demands greater rhetorical/linguistic flexibility than the monocultural and monolingual academic writing model ("Standard" Edited American English and "standard" discourses) supplies, and because the testimonios of authors such as Gloria Anzaldúa, Victor Villanueva, and Keith Gilyard reveal the scarring that occurs when an individual's home language is denigrated, this dissertation argues that university writing centers must take the lead in encouraging the academy to recognize and value global Englishes and alternative discourses as valid rhetorical alternatives. Notably, writing center theorists such as Nancy Grimm, Elizabeth Boquet, and Rebecca Jackson have begun re-imagining the writing center as a counter-hegemonic space via counter-narratives. However, in addition to modifying internal writing center operations (e.g. tutor training and tutorial protocols), writing centers must re-imagine external writing center relationships with faculty, replacing the academy's top-down, interpellation model with collaboration among the university's writing partners. The metaphor of the writing center as a bodega in the ecological landscape of the university provides a meaningful and local way of conceptualizing this new paradigm for writing centers (and ultimately the university as a whole) as a panethnic, heteroglossic, communal, and transgressive third space--both a part of a larger system but apart from it. By shifting academic focus from the production of one hegemonic (big-box) product to the acquisition of (meta)knowledge of "standard" and global Englishes, alternative rhetorics, and linguistic, visual, and oral literacies, not only will the U.S. academy be accommodating a global world but also rejecting its legacy of linguistic imperialism.
Stephanie Amsel (Spring 2011)
FORMATION OF MEDIEVAL FEMALE SUBJECT CONSCIOUSNESS: A STUDY OF ITALIAN AND ENGLISH MYSTICS, CHRISTINE DE PIZAN, BOCCACCIO, AND CHAUCER
The late Middle Ages witnessed a sudden fluorescence of autobiographical writings by female mystics. In addition, male-authored female characters were often given agency and authority, as shown in Giovanni Boccaccio's Decameron and L'Elegia di Madonna Fiammetta , and Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales . My dissertation explores the proliferation of female medieval mystical writers, including Angela of Foligno (1248-1309), Catherine of Siena (1347-1380), and Margery Kempe (1373-1438), and the secular writings of Christine de Pizan (1363-1434), and powerful female characters within canonical male texts of the late Middle Ages. I focus on the parallels between these two different types of literary production and demonstrate how feminist theories can be used to better understand women writers and literary characters within the medieval literary tradition.
By demanding authority through writing, medieval female writers expanded traditional male patriarchal boundaries and, I argue, developed an increased medieval female subject consciousness. The rise of what I am calling "subject consciousness" shows that increased self-awareness and sense of self relates to how the "authorship" of texts reconstructs traditional female roles within Italian and English medieval cultures. These writing women challenged prevailing norms as they forged literal and figurative spaces to self-actualize through the act of writing.
I apply contemporary feminist viewpoints, including postcolonial, materialist feminist, and Chicana third-space theories, to analyze medieval writings in order to conceptualize how medieval female subject consciousness is created through the work of writing. I apply theories of Michel de Certeau, Teresa de Lauretis, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Michel Foucault, Luce Irigaray and Hélène Cixious, among others, to medieval female writings to show how these early writers created agency, self-awareness, and a literal and figurative sense of "space" through the work of writing. Chicana feminist theories of Chela Sandoval and Gloria Anzaldúa expand an understanding of how medieval mystical autobiographical writings allowed women to create paradigmatic shifts in identity and authority, much like testimonios , and to challenge prevailing notions of what was expected for women during the rise of humanism in Italy and England.
Boccaccio and Chaucer are linked in this study because both authors are cognizant of the changing roles of women and the increase of medieval female subject consciousness in Italian and English medieval society. I argue that Boccaccio and Chaucer can be viewed as "witnesses" of the shifting patterns of behavior for medieval women since they subvert the seemingly anti-feminist text by the creation of their authoritative female characters, including Fiammetta, the Wife of Bath, and female writer in The Prologue of the Second Nun's Tale and the some of whom are actively involved in the process of creating identity through the act of writing.
Grisel Acosta (Fall 2010)
A SANCOCHO OF RACE AND PLACE: CRITICAL RACE ECOCRITICISMIN THE WORK OF U.S. CARIBBEAN LATINO/A WRITERS
My dissertation has the purpose of examining U.S. Caribbean Latino/a texts for negotiations of race and place. I use aspects of critical race theory, ecocriticism theory, womanist theory, and educational theory, and synthesize them into a lens which I call critical race ecocriticism. The literary study explores how characters in the texts move into and out of different environments, how they negotiate their identities in different environments, and the characteristics they exhibit when successfully negotiating racial identity and survival in the environments.
I explore the works of Julia Alvarez, Angie Cruz, Junot Díaz, Sandra Maria Esteves, Evelio Grillo, Tato Laviera, Achy Obejas, Judith Ortiz Cófer, Loida Maritza, Pérez, Pedro Pietri, Willie Perdomo, Esmeralda Santiago, and Piri Thomas. Grillo's work shows that U.S. Caribbean Latinos/as have had to identify as African American in order to survive, Thomas' work shows that friendships with African Americans has facilitated racial negotiation, and the later work of Loida Martiza Pérez, Julia Alvarez and Sandra Maria Esteves shows Latino/a acceptance of a varied racial heritage, despite community members who still deny African ancestry. All the works demonstrate that White Latinos/as find themselves in less environmentally hazardous places than their Black or mixed race Latino/a counterparts.
I use the information gathered to develop a lesson plan/unit that can be used in high school or college-level classrooms. The unit is designed to encourage mutual learning by teachers and students, as it is a student-centered approach to learning that allows students to pull from their own funds of knowledge.
Marco Cervantes (Summer 2010)
AFROMESTIZAJE: TOWARD A MAPPING OF CHICANA/O BLACKNESS IN TEJANA/O LITERATURE AND POPULAR MUSIC FROM, 1920-2010
Following Gloria Anzaldúa’s challenge that “each of us must know our Indian lineage, our afromestizaje roots, our history of resistance,” my dissertation pressures the persistently under theorized celebrations of mestizaje in Chicana/o culture, with particular attention to Tejana/o literature and music from the early 1900s to the present (108). I draw upon recent scholarship in Chicana/o studies, Black Studies, subaltern studies, post-colonial studies, and ethnomusicology to re-center Chicana/o Blackness in the field of Chicana/o studies. The status of Blackness as a topos, trope, and performance in Tejano culture, I argue, is undergirded by complex models of Tejana/o Blackness. This dissertation is divided into 3 parts, each divided into chapters.
In Part 1 “Chicana/o Literary Blackness,” I examine works by Chicano writers Américo Paredes, Ricardo Sánchez and Raúl Salinas. In my preliminary mapping of the range of discourse on and performance of Tejano Blackness, I outline, In Chapter I, Paredes’s critique of racialization in South Texas as well as the limited voice of his Black characters within his fiction. I also map Sánchez’s and Salinas’s performance of a Chicana/o nationalist literary Blackness in Chapter II.
In Part 2, “Afro-Tex-Mex Music,” I map afromestizaje contours of Tejano music by explicating Esteban Jordan’s adoption of various Afro-centric styles, forms and genres in Chapter III. In Chapter IV, I explore the complex interplay between Blackness, Tejano popular culture and proto-feminist performances in the music, dance, and fashion spectacles of Selena.
Part 3, “Chicana/o Hip Hop Culture in Texas” contains one Chapter and a conclusion. In Chapter V, I analyze Chingo Bling’s performance of a Chicana/o Blackness that displays the overlapping cultures between Blacks and Chicana/os in Houston, Texas, as well as reinforces problematic masculinities associated with afromestiza/o performances. I conclude by exploring the contemporary and future performances of transracial musical politics in the works of Bocafloja, Las Krudas Cubensi, and Siete Nueve. I highlight multiracial afromestiza/o local performances in which Blackness situates multiracial bands beyond appropriation. I end calling for a shift in Chicana/o studies towards a broader engagement with a global Afro-Latina/o dialogue.
Lapetra Bowman (Spring 2010)
TRANS-COLONIAL HISTORIOGRAPHIC PRAXIS: DIS/MEMBERMENT, MEMORY, AND THIRD-SPACE CHICANA, LATINA, AND CARIBBEAN FEMINIST EMBODIED RE/MEMBRANCE
This dissertation examines how the body is history, and, as such, how Third-space women use it to corporeally cartographically re-inscribe themselves into/onto history through a Trans-Colonial Historiographic Embodied Re/membrance. Focusing on Chicana, Latina, and Caribbean Third-space feminisms, I specifically employ Chicana Feminisms as the theoretical foundation through which I establish my own Trans-Colonial theory. I argue that Trans-Colonial Historiographic Embodied Re/membrance is predicated on revolution, movement, and transformation, as I situate myself within an existing Chicana theoretical framework and posit that Chicana theorists’ Anzaldúa, Pérez, and Sandoval provide a Third-space feminist historiographic methodology accessible for all women of color.
In Borderlands/La Frontera, Gloria Anzaldúa writes, “I am the dialogue between my Self and el espiritu del mundo. I change myself, I change the world” (Anzaldúa 92). Through their embodied textuality and re/membrance, Chicana, Latina, and Caribbean women of color assert that transformative revolutionary change begins with an embodied Self, a change which marks a shift from individual consciousness to collective consciousness and which is predicated on what I call Trans-Colonial Historiographic Embodied Re/membrance. This shift begins with the female body, the very site of and testament to colonial, political, socio-economic, geographic, and temporal oppression, repression, and unfathomable patriarchal violence. I argue that through Trans-Colonial Historiographic Embodied Re/membrance women can transform their bodies as sites of oppression and repression into active sites of revolution through re/membrance.
Through my examination of Edwidge Danticat’s Breath, Eyes, Memory, Julia Alvarez’ In the Name of Salomé, Loida Maritza Pérez’ Geographies of Home, and Sandra Cisneros’ Caramelo, as framed within the theoretical works of Emma Pérez’ Decolonial Imaginary, Chela Sandoval’s Methodology of the Oppressed, and Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera and “Now Let Us Shift… The Path of Conocimiento…Inner Work, Public Acts,” I argue that Third-Space women are engaging in a Trans-Colonial cartographic remapping of their subjectivity as they re-inscribe and reclaim their individual histories and lived experiences through embodied textuality and embodied re/membrance. In dialogue between themselves and the world, they reclaim their bodies in their own terms through a gendered and racialized corporeal re/membrance upon which their textuality and corporeality take root. Their acts of re-visioning1 and re-writing/re-righting call other women of color to action, to take inventory, to claim their myriad-mindedness, and to come to an embodied consciousness which then becomes an invitation, a testimony, for others to follow suit and do the same. I argue that women of color must re/member themselves, as they were and as they are, if they are to effect real, global, communal changes by re-imagining their individual Selves as Trans-Colonial subjects. Ultimately, my dissertation is about looking back in order to move forward, as I examine how, through Trans-Colonial Embodied Historiographic praxis, women of color have actively engaged in a methodology of corporeal re-visioning, using their bodies as bridges to healing and knowing, and as stepping-stones towards Othered cultural shifts in consciousness.
Elizabeth MacCrossan (Spring 2010)
DISCREPANT EXPERIENCES IN THE IRISH BORDERLANDS: GENDERED SPACES, CONTESTED LANUGAGE, AND SHIFTING IDENTITY IN FREE DERRY, NORTHERN IRELAND
This dissertation focuses on the literature and culture of the nationalist community of the Bogside, in Derry, Northern Ireland, which I theorize as a border community that is the epicenter of the modern Troubles. This site, also known as ―Free Derry,‖ is a community that negotiates its history in a variety of complex and often contradictory ways, from violent to artistic, antiimperialistic to patriarchal, openly to subversively. I draw on borderlands theories from Chicana/o and postcolonial intellectuals such as Emma Pérez, Mary Pat Brady, José David Saldívar, Edward Said, David Lloyd, Walter Mignolo, and Joe Cleary to reassess the cultural politics along the borders between Ireland and Northern Ireland as well as between Northern Ireland and Britain. I also use various theoretical pursuits in cultural studies to consider such multi-genre and multi-media cultural artifacts as texts developed by women‘s collective writing groups, textiles, memoir, testimonial literature, graffiti, murals, journalism, popular music, and poetry as performative borderlands discourses. Following U.S. Chicana/o theorists, I argue that the Irish borderlands discourses challenge hegemonic Irish cultural nationalist discourses on history, culture, and politics. I ultimately propose a new paradigm for looking at the north of Ireland based in part on U.S. border studies, and further complicated by women‘s studies and spatial studies.
I propose to destabilize hegemonic ideas of ―Ireland,‖ ―Northern Ireland‖ and/or ―the north of Ireland,‖ and ―the Troubles‖ pursuant to opening up possibilities of seeing Northern Irish literature and art as complicating the traditional picture of an Ireland that is becoming a much more industrial and ethnically diverse nation and thus more complex, perhaps, at times, more hegemonic. Colonialism around the globe involved drawing borders, and we can begin to work out the consequences of those borders by marking similarities and differences that those imagined and imaginary lines engender. On the island of Ireland, we can begin to center the marginal and marginalized to rethink the Irish canon and its historical project through the works I engage here, including those by Bernadette Devlin, Paddy Doherty, the Bogside Artists, Nell McCafferty, Mary Nelis, Gerry Adams, women‘s writing groups and oral histories, the Undertones, and Colette Bryce, as well as the Museum of Free Derry, Free Derry Corner, and the Derry City Walls.
Terry Pantuso (Fall 2009)
READING SILENCE ACTIVELY: RECOVERING THE MATERNAL NARRATIVE IN CONTEMPORARY WOMEN’S NOVELS
This project uses an interdisciplinary methodology derived from linguistic, rhetorical, critical race, feminist, and third-space feminist theories to examine how close discursive analysis reveals counter-hegemonic tendencies in maternal characters who use silence as a source of linguistic empowerment. In my analysis, I compare novels published post-1985 by both white and black American women to demonstrate an emerging cross-racial dialectic concerning American feminist mothering and the role of silence in literature. Throughout my dissertation, I explore how silence has been used by contemporary women authors publishing post-1985 to subvert various forms of oppression, as well as to recover via a palimpsestic methodology matrilineal heritages that have been left unwritten. Specifically, I focus on Sherley Anne Williams’s Dessa Rose (1986), Ellen Douglas’s Can’t Quit You, Baby (1988), Kaye Gibbons’s Ellen Foster (1987), Dori Sanders’s Clover (1990), Sapphire’s PUSH (1996), Kim Edwards’s The Memory Keeper’s Daughter (2005), Alice Randall’s The Wind Done Gone (2001), and Nancy Rawles’s My Jim (2005). Throughout this project, I demonstrate the progressive, transformational use of silence as a rhetorical strategy by contemporary American women writers as a discursive method of non-oppositional feminist dialogue.
Jeff Turpin (Fall 2009)
SOME ADAPTIVE FUNCTIONS OF NARRATIVES AND THEIR IMPLICATIONS FOR LITERARY CRITICISM
This dissertation defines and partially delimits literary Darwinism and adaptationist criticism, relatively new critical paradigms that combine science and art to explore the multiple ways that story creation and consumption help us adapt to modern social environments. In Chapter II studies from cognitive psychology are used to analyze various autobiographical narratives, poems, novels, stories, and essays by Latina/o authors Tomás Rivera, Cherríe Moraga, Américo Paredes, and Gloria Anzaldúa, to show how these narratives help establish existence, persona, agency and status for the author, and how these functions can be extended to members of the larger culture represented by that author. In Chapter III studies from anthropology and biology are used to analyze the cultural functions of journey and origin myths, to look at how these stories can either establish claims to property or act as surrogates for lost property for people in exile, expatriates, emigrants, immigrants, subjects of colonization, or otherwise de-territorialized people. The developed analytical hypotheses are subsequently applied to Leslie Marmon Silko’s novel Ceremony, to demonstrate specific critical implications of the new theoretical set. In Chapter IV studies from evolutionary psychology are applied to works by Edith Wharton and John Steinbeck, to show how elements of the new paradigm can open up established texts and reveal new facets of those works. The project ends with a summary and response to critiques of the new paradigm, and discussion of further implications.
Cordelia Barrera (Summer 2009)
BORDER PLACES, FRONTIER SPACES: DECONSTRUCTING IDEOLOGIES OF THE SOUTHWEST
In this paper, I bring together Border Theory and frontier ideologies in the Southwest to argue that the search for individual identity via the historiographic re-telling of stories is central to uncovering the metaphorical power of border places and frontier spaces. Cross-cultural retellings allow me to reconstruct these tropes syncretically to transcend individual difference with the aim of cohering the experiences of Anglo, Native American, Mexican-American, and Chicana/o cultures.
A close reading of works by Chicana/os, Mexican-Americans, American Indians, and Euro-Americans in the Southwest points to parallel ideas of the need for an inclusive, third space consciousness to usher social, political, and cultural change on the borderlands. The movement of the works I critically study through the lens of border theory involves a response, as well as a challenge to Euro-centered ways of seeing and presenting the world. Works by authors as diverse as Cormac McCarthy, Larry McMurtry, Leslie Marmon Silko, Arturo Islas, Américo Paredes, and Eve Raleigh and Jovita González, provide the base from which I examine ideas about storytelling, time, personal identity, and the bond between individuals and a Southwestern geography. Importantly, these works either demand alternative conceptions of understanding time, place, and space, or reveal how the linearity of Euro-centered conceptions of time, place, and space have resulted—ironically—in the false utopian visions of a conquering people.
Jody Briones (Summer 2009)
SOUTH TEXAS WORKING-CLASS MILLENNIAL MEXICAN AMERICANS: IDENTITY, SUBJECTIVITY, AND COMPOSITION STUDIES
My dissertation seeks to understand South Texas working-class Millennial Mexican American identity formation and subjectivity, and identify composition pedagogies that serve their needs. To discuss this subgroup, I first present a historical overview of Mexican (-) American identity and subjectivity, beginning from colonized Aztlán to nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first century South Texas. Then I discuss how South Texas working-class Millennial Mexican Americans (working-class U.S. citizens of Mexican ancestry born between 1982 and 2002) are creating a new Mexican American culture that consists of their lived experiences as part of the U.S. Millennial generation. Next I discuss my teacher role identity as a South Texas working-class Chicana compositionist and my application of affective pedagogy. I also critique critical and cultural studies composition pedagogies, and explore how South Texas Chicana/o literature can be incorporated into a literary-based composition course to develop racial/ethnic consciousness. Lastly, I discuss a race/ethnic-related digital divide based on internet access and use and a student-teacher digital divide based on digital literacy. I also explore how social networking sites are used as spaces where identity is constructed and enacted and are used as digital writing spaces.
Throughout my dissertation, I differentiate between a hyphened subject (Mexican-American) and an unhyphenated subject (Mexican American). For Mexican-Americans, the hyphen is used, or often assigned by others, to distinguish national or cultural loyalty. For unhyphenated Mexican Americans, though they are also “‘in-between’ identities,” they feel no need to distinguish between their Mexican and U.S. American culture because they view it as one culture. However, many South Texas working-class Millennial Mexican Americans prioritize their identity and subjectivity as U.S. Millennials because of their indoctrination by the dominant U.S. culture. South Texas working-class Millennial Mexican Americans, however, have not forsaken their race/ethnic-based subjectivity; rather, they have incorporated their lived experiences as U.S. Millennials into their race/ethnic formation as Mexican Americans, creating a new Mexican American culture. My project is grounded in exploring the subjectivity and identity formation of South Texas working-class Millennial Mexican Americans.
Lenora Perry-Samaniego (Summer 2009)
QUEER HISTORIES AND INTERSTITIAL TERRITORIES: TRANSGRESSIVE WOMEN FROM EARLY MODERN IBERIA TO POSTMODERN AZTLÁN
The project I attempt herein links the early modern, modern and postmodern eras using literature from Spain, Mexico and the United States in order to show the queer historical connections among literary subjects. Oftentimes, in my discussion of texts the connection extends to the authors as well. These connections underscore the movement of subaltern sexuality to a covert position within literature and social history. The research also shows that queer figures emerge cross-culturally in literature during times of paradigm shifts, or other widespread crisis or change. The reaction to cultural shifts often appears in the stories of the people, whether sanctioned by the nation-state, or in resistance to it. I theorize how queer history connects to early modern Spanish picaresque autobiography, alongside modern curanderismo, as well as postmodern Chicana literature and has proved most effective in making the connection to queer history. I progress much like Levi-Strauss’ bricoleur, piecing together the fragments of stories of women and transgressive subjects who, while their whole story may not be visible or accessible, refuse to be silenced, and refuse to disappear. The subjects, whose identities range from transgender warriors to curanderas, have a natural ability to elude the reader on some level. This elusiveness may result from an evolved capacity for self-preservation; however, removing the hegemonic barriers to their stories is imperative to an understanding of the connections that queer subjects create between cultures. As Chicana historian Emma Pérez reminds us, the colonial, white, heteronormative ways of seeing and knowing have accommodated the erasure of queers and people of color, and therefore needs to be challenged in order to confront and rearrange a mind-set that privileges certain relationships. It is only through (re)constructing histories that disconnecting from heteronormativity becomes real and tangible. I hope that this dissertation will provide links to a cohesive history for a community that has been denied a past and a future by the dominant heteronormative culture.
Only by reconstructing histories of queer Chicanas, which includes the influences of the queer warrior and the masculine female, may we call the continuing struggle for social justice inclusive. For the postmodern lesbian who lives her life outside the heteronormative code, in what seems like a daily battle for inclusion, the warrior myth carries much significance. As important as it is to give Chicana lesbians someone with whom they can identify, perhaps more important is the call to action for all queers that is motivated by knowing our history. Linking the past to the present will enable transgressive individuals to be the guides for moving between hetero/homosexual worlds, creating what Gloria Anzaldúa calls “nepantleras.” These are the historical and textual people who have the ability to negotiate the subtle (and not-so-subtle) places of the anti-normative that surfaces in resistance to dominant ideology. It is up to scholars to uncover textual evidence as part of this resistance. Until the world changes, queer texts will exist in a liminal space carved from alternate ways of being. As scholars and readers, however, we must give them space, excavate their memory, and recognize their worth by historicizing a more fluid and dynamic representation of women, both real and imagined.
Patricia Trujillo (Fall 2008)
GENTEFICATION: A SPATIAL RHETORICAL ANALYSIS OF DIFFERENTIAL LANDSCAPES IN NORTHERN NEW MEXICAN LITERTURE AND SOCIAL SPACE
Rhetoric enables us to understand the “space” of imagined literature and social space. But how does rhetorical positionality represent differentiated access to spatial commodities and how are those commodities consumed? My dissertation articulates the disparities of dominant rhetoric in New Mexico, while also recovering and interrogating historical and cultural rhetorics of Northern New Mexican communities by employing a theoretical framework informed by cultural geography, consumption studies, literary, and rhetorical theory. Using Gloria Anzaldúa’s concept of the “geography of selves,” Chela Sandoval’s “differential consciousness model,” and Emma Pérez’s “decolonial imaginary,” I articulate a need for a rhetorical intervention in the historic and contemporary configurations of space in New Mexico literature and culture. I introduce the neologism Gentefication as a theoretical position that signals a shift in the rhetorical agency of ethnic New Mexicans from victims trapped in space, to New Mexicans as consumers and producers of imagined and actual oppositional spaces. My dissertation chapters include a history of the rhetorical shift between late territorial and early statehood New Mexico through a discussion of the writer and attorney, Amado Chaves (1851-1930); nostalgia in the writings of Jim Sagel in the literary mappings of New Mexico; globalized Nuevomexicana identity and the politics of consumption in the new genre of “Chica Lit” through a comparative reading of Alisa Rodriguez-Valdes’ Dirty Girls Social Club and Demetria Martínez’s Mother Tongue; and the “Imagineering” of northern New Mexico historical space through corporate curriculums centered around the American Girl doll, Josefina Montoya (1824). Each chapter includes a pedagogical section entitled “Classroom and Community Connections,” which provide assessment tools to link the chapter content learning spaces. viiiix By viewing northern New Mexico through the multiple and simultaneous lenses of Chicana/o space that are continuous, discontinuous, and emerging, the perspective of differentiated access to space is a way to articulate the potentiality of resistance and empowerment as well as the myriad contradictions that come with multiple subjectivities. I conclude with an epilogue about the contestatory spatial rhetorics of a newly developing plaza in Española, NM, and a discussion of writing subjectivities in regards to Española as a space represented in the media as a “heroin industrial complex,” I submit that gentefication is a set of counterhegemonic spatial rhetorical practices that create new spaces for New Mexicans to re-imagine contemporary traditions and identities that tell differentiated stories.
Linda Winterbottom (Fall 2008)
TAKING IT WITH THEM: ELSEWHERE CONSCIOUSNESS IN THE FICTION OF EDWIDGE DANTICAT, PAULE MARSHALL AND JAMAICA KINCAID
This dissertation examines and develops the trope of “elsewhereness” in select fictional works by Edwidge Danticat, Paule Marshall, and Jamaica Kincaid. It presents an analysis that engages with and extends two earlier critical uses of the “elsewhereness” trope: those of Carole Boyce Davies and Michael Hanchard, both of whom theorize the term within discourses of Black Female Migratory Subjectivity and African Diasporas. Focusing mainly on female protagonists in the literature of Danticat, Marshall, and Kincaid, this analysis identifies a number of modes of “elsewhereness” that appear across these texts. The argument is that “elsewhereness” operates in these fictional narratives of post-colonial diasporic consciousness for female black Caribbean-American characters who strive for agency and an affirming sense of self while negotiating family and culture in the context of the painful histories of oppression wrought through the institutions of slavery and colonization. I further argue that by deploying constructs of “elsewhered” female Afro-Caribbean diasporic characters, Danticat, Marshall, and Kincaid produce a useful and collective study of the cultural and identiary problems and possibilities of Afro-Caribbean and Caribbean-American diasporic subjectivity. Thus this dissertation extends and develops the critical discourse on postcolonial narratives of Caribbean-American diasporic identity as a rich category within the broader spectrum of Comparative American Literatures.
Venetia June Pedraza (Summer 2008)
THIRD SPACE MESTIZAJE AS A CRITICAL APPROACH TO LITERATURE
This dissertation explores the history of Mestizaje and Mestizaje theory, and expands this theory to include the subjectivity of the hyphenated hyphened American, or who I call the third space mestiza/o. I explain how this theory is a theoretical approach to literature, as well as a living theory that creates political activism for social change.
This project allows for an expansion of Mestizaje theory by defining and positioning new subjects within the Mestizaje paradigm. Therefore, I take contemporary Mestizaje out of the “solely” Mexican American/ Chicano/a contexts, as well as out of the bi-cultural context, making it a theory for/of the multiracial and multiethnic U.S. American. Thus, this expansion of Mestizaje, or Third Space Mestizaje, is a synthesis of theoretical approaches to literature that stem from the works of Chela Sandoval, Gloria Anzaldúa, Emma Pérez, Edén Torres, Jaques Audinet, Juan De Castro and Rafael Pérez-Torres. This synthesis allows me to create a lens that can be used to analyze literature; it is a lens that is comprised of third space mestizo/a characteristics. Furthermore, I implement Third Space Mestizaje as a Critical Approach to Literature.
Ultimately, this dissertation explores and explains Third Space Mestizaje as a critical mixed-race theory that explores individual identity in relation to collective identities.
Lori Beth Rodriguez (Spring 2008)
MAPPING TEJANA EPISTEMOLOGIES: CONTEMPORARY (RE)CONSTRUCTIONS OF TEJANA IDENTITY IN LITERATURE, FILM AND POPULAR CULTURE
Gloria Anzaldúa situates Michel Foucault’s concept of subjugated knowledges along the U.S.-Mexico borderlands through a theory of mestizaje, which maps archaeologies of Tejana/o identity based on her experiences as a Chicana lesbian from South Texas. Divided into three parts of two chapters each, this dissertation extends Anzaldúa’s conceptual framework by exploring various discursive spaces articulating Tejana epistemological production and expression. Part One, “Strategic Negotiations in the Literary Construction of Symbolic Space,” deals with the strategic cultural production of vernacular and canonical literary forms. Chapter 1, “Tales from the Third Space: Differential Consciousness in the Production of Two Proto-Chicana Novels,” draws upon Chela Sandoval’s differential consciousness model, Emma Pérez’s concept of the decolonial imaginary, and Sonia Saldívar-Hull’s discussion of non-traditional literary theory production to explore how the works of writers Jovita González and Leonor Villegas de Magnón strategically negotiate hegemonic ideologies of race, gender, and place. Chapter 2, “San Anto Pocha Poetics: Hociconas y Callejeras Traversing Literal and Literary Cultural Geographies,” utilizes Anzaldúa’s lyricized theoretical method to examine how San Antonio poets Evangelina Vigíl, Angela de Hoyos and Amalia Ortiz construct a highly performative gendered and racialized feminist poetics of public space in resistance to the commodification of the city’s public space by white cultural tourism. Part Two, “The Embodied Performativity of Tejana Identity,” focuses on embodied performances and consumptions of Tejana identity through music and film. Chapter 3, “Cantando La Frontera: Transgressions of Traditional Tejana Gender Roles through Musical Performance,” draws upon the works of Rosa Linda Fregoso, Gloria Anzaldúa, and Linda McDowell who each view the female body is meaning-making space to explore how musicians Lydia Mendoza, Selena Quintanilla-Pérez and Lady Binx provide offer unique embodied performances of Tejana identity that challenge, validate and transgress traditional gender roles through music, lyric and dance. Chapter 4, “Tejanas on Film: Recovering Tejana Agency through Re-Framing the Border Film Narrative,” examines how the films Lone Star, Border Bandits, Pretty Vacant and Speeder Kills frame Tejana characters in their similar yet unique counter narratives to the traditional colonial border film narrative. Drawing upon Jane Gaines’ racialized and gendered approach to feminist film theory, bell hooks’ gendered work on racial representations, and Rosa Linda Fregoso’s concept of the “Mexicanist presence” of Tejana characters in traditional border films, I examine where each film succeeds and fails in challenging the patriarchal colonial hegemony of the South Texas borderlands. Part Three, “Public Places as Contested Spaces,” deals specifically with place and the political contestation of public space. Chapter 5, “The Art of Resistance: Mural Art, Cultural Geography and Political Inscription in the Public Sphere,” draws upon Richard Flores’s discussion of the Alamo as a master colonial symbol, Mary Pat Brady’s examination of the temporal and cultural production of Chicana space, and Raúl Villa’s discussion of Chicano resistance to geographic displacement. Here, I explore how the artwork of San Antonio muralists Terry Ybañez and Mary Agnes Rodriguez perform as counter narratives to the Alamo’s public rhetoric of colonialism. And finally, Chapter 6, “Voces de Esperanza: ‘Coming to Voice’ and the Praxis of U.S. Third World Feminism at the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center,” draws upon bell hooks’, Cherríe Moraga’s and Patricia Hill Collins’ conceptualization of women of color and U.S. third world feminist praxis to examine how the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center implements local-to-global political activism through Chicana feminist arts programming.