Abject Performances

Aesthetic Strategies in Latino Cultural Production

Abject Performances

Dissident Acts

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Book Pages: 232 Illustrations: 69 illustrations, including 10 in color Published: May 2018

Chicanx and Latinx Studies, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, Theater and Performance > Performance Art

In Abject Performances Leticia Alvarado draws out the irreverent, disruptive aesthetic strategies used by Latino artists and cultural producers who shun standards of respectability that are typically used to conjure concrete minority identities. In place of works imbued with pride, redemption, or celebration, artists such as Ana Mendieta, Nao Bustamante, and the Chicano art collective known as Asco employ negative affects—shame, disgust, and unbelonging—to capture experiences that lie at the edge of the mainstream, inspirational Latino-centered social justice struggles. Drawing from a diverse expressive archive that ranges from performance art to performative testimonies of personal faith-based subjection, Alvarado illuminates modes of community formation and social critique defined by a refusal of identitarian coherence that nonetheless coalesce into Latino affiliation and possibility.


“In this provocative text, Leticia Alvarado offers us abjection as an aesthetic strategy for thinking about embodied performances that bear the weight of the fraught communal failures of latinidad. Her eclectic archive of formal and informal performances of world-making practices draw her readers toward those improper subjects of Latino cultural production that expose the perverse pleasures of refusing both civic incorporation and identitarian regimes to linger in the difficult promise of racialized otherness.” — Juana María Rodríguez, author of Sexual Futures, Queer Gestures, and Other Latina Longings

Abject Performances counters inspirational, mainstream representations of Latinos that give them a constrained place in U.S. minoritarian politics. Leticia Alvarado understands abjection as resistance: a wily, uncooperative ethos within the heroic narrative of Latino inclusion and assimilation. She sets her critical eye not on aspirational models, but on artists and performances that insist on the confusion of boundaries. The result is a brilliant contribution to Latino Studies.” — José A. Quiroga, author of Tropics of Desire: Interventions from Queer Latino America


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Leticia Alvarado is Assistant Professor of American Studies at Brown University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix
Introduction. Sublime Abjection  1
1. Other Desires: Ana Mendieta's Abject Imaginings  25
2. Phantom Assholes: Asco's Affective Vortex  57
3. Of Betties Decorous and Abject: Ugly Betty's America la fea and Nao Bustamante's America la bella  89
4. Arriving at Apostasy: Performative Testimonies of Ambivalent Belonging  131
Conclusion. Abject Embodiment  161
Notes  167
Bibliography  193
Index  209
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Paper: 978-0-8223-7078-9 / Cloth: 978-0-8223-7063-5
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