Now that my tenure as Co-Chair of the LASA Sexualities section has come to close, here is our annual report that will be coming out in the next LASA Bulletin.
By Joseph M. Pierce and Guillermo de los Reyes, Co-Chairs
The Sexualities Section business meeting took place on Thursday, May 22, and was attended by 18 people. We held elections, confirming the new co-chairs of the section, Laura Arnés and Maja Horn, as well as the secretary/treasurer, Yolanda Martínez-San Miguel. During the meeting we announced the winners of the Carlos Monsiváis Award (social sciences) and Sylvia Molloy Award (humanities), discussed future topics for sponsored section panels, and revisited the possibility of holding a pre-conference for LASA 2015.
This year we sponsored two section panels, one of which explored new perspectives in the study of sexualities in Latin America, while the other was organized in collaboration with the Southern Cone section and focused specifically on narratives of love, sex, and gender in the region. Both were well attended and we are looking forward to exploring new possibilities for collaboration with other sections in the future.
The 2013-2014 Carlos Monsiváis Award for best peer-reviewed article in the social sciences was awarded to James Green for his article, “‘Who is the Macho Who Wants to Kill Me?’ Male Homosexuality, Revolutionary Masculinity, and the Brazilian Armed Struggle of the 1960s and 1970s”. Abel Sierra Madero was awarded honorable mention for his article, “Cuerpos en Venta: Pinguerismo y Masculinidad Negociada en la Cuba contemporánea”.
Likewise, the 2013-2014 Sylvia Molloy Award for best peer-reviewed article in the humanities was awarded to Carlos Riobó for his article, “Raiding the ‘Anales’ of the Empire: Sarduy’s Subversions of the Latin American Boom,” with honorable mention for Matthew J. Edwards, “How to Read Copi: A Historiography of the Margins”.
We would like to thank the Monsiváis committee members, Horacio Sívori and Jordi Díez as well as the Molloy committee members, Dara Goldman and Lawrence LaFountain-Stokes for their work this year reviewing articles for the quality of their research, analysis, and writing, as well as on their contribution to the field of sexualities in Latin American and Latino social, cultural, and intellectual contexts.
Here is a link to The Statesman spotlight about me and my involvement with La Poderosa Media Project, and a photo of the group in Port Jefferson, NY, after our workshop at Stony Brook University.
Stony Brook University
Friday, February 21, 2014
1:30 to 3:30 PM
Melville Library N-3060
This interactive workshop will discuss methods of artistic intervention and community engagement that have been employed by La Poderosa Media Project across Latin America and the United States over the past eight years. Workshop facilitators will emphasize the connection between arts programs and community-based pedagogies that can be applied to university curricula, nonprofit organizations, and social enterprises. Students, faculty, and staff are all welcome to attend.
La Poderosa Media Project is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to encourage youth empowerment, cultural empathy, and collaborative learning through community-based visual arts programs. It has facilitated the production of 20 short films and documentaries in the Dominican Republic, Panama, Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, and the United States.
Alejandra Zambrano, Founder and Executive Director, obtained a PhD in Latin American Literature at The University of Texas at Austin, where she also completed a portfolio in Nonprofit Studies from the LBJ School of Public Affairs.
Jorge García, Curriculum Director, is Assistant Professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at Ithaca College.
Joseph M. Pierce, Communications Director, is Assistant Professor in the Department of Hispanic Languages and Literature at Stony Brook University.
Sponsored by the Department of Hispanic Languages and Literature
This is not an obituary. Not a remembrance. Hopefully it is a reflection on the people we trust with our thoughts, on the ways in which we open ourselves to others, on the people who help us become what we want to be. On love. On friendship. It is not a reflection on being an academic. I want it to be much broader than that.
Stephen Paul Jacobs was my friend, my editor, my interlocutor, my cuate. We met in 2005, the year I started graduate school at The University of Texas at Austin. The year of Katrina. My cuate, Steve, passed away on the morning of January 5, 2014. I was on a bus traveling from Houston to New Orleans to visit him, perhaps for the last time. But he had already died by the time I got there.
The last time I saw him in person was this past June. I was moving from Texas to New York, from where we met to where he was born. It was also a trip from the beginning of my time as a graduate student to my first semester as an Assistant Professor. It was a trip I could not have shared with anyone else.
He had seen everything. I am tempted to write this in the second person. I still feel like you are here, Steve, cuate, I still feel like you should be calling me. The rhythm of my life has not yet adjusted to the fact that you and I will no longer talk on the phone. That you will not read my conference papers anymore; that we will no longer listen to Puccini; that you will no longer ask me if I did a bicycle kick in a soccer game. When did I ever?
You shared every moment, every joy, every hoop I had to jump through. You were there for me, whatever that means. You are the only person who read every page of every draft of my dissertation. Doesn’t that sound strange? Doesn’t that sound selfish? My dissertation director didn’t read as much as you read. I am sure of it. You were my sounding board, the person I felt I could ask anything, no matter how silly or un-self-aware, no matter how banal, no matter how trite, no matter how juvenile. I asked you all the things I felt scared to ask other people. And what did you ask me?
You asked me “Wass hapnin?” You would say, “Hey Peps, its Steve. Give me a call when you get a chance. Bye bye.” In fact, that was the last voice mail you ever left me. Six seconds. Your voice mails were always exactly six seconds long. I knew what they said, always. I didn’t even have to listen to them.
But I don’t want to talk about voicemails, even though voicemails are important. Echoes of a voice, that bass voice that I will never hear again, that voice that fades. I want to talk about needing you, about needing what you were to me. On how sad and how weak that makes me feel, but also on how grateful and how much responsibility I feel to share you with others. I mean, to share what you were to me with others.
I think that means that we need people. I think that means, truly, that we just need people. People who listen, people who laugh at us, people who make us realize how fragile we are, how self righteous, how serious we feel like we have to be. Steve, you were that for me. I would do well to remember it, as you know. But you were the person who helped me realize that I am a person, as strange as that sounds. That I am a person, not a statistic or a robot or a job candidate, but a fucking person.
That humanity, that profound sense of humility and grace is what you will always be to me. I forget it sometimes, I admit. But you were always, you will always be the one I needed to get through all of this. To get to where I am (one step of many I was hoping to share with you). A journey. A friend. A feeling.
But not sympathy. A feeling like I always knew that we needed each other; like there was always something to share, something to see, something to taste, something to do together. A feeling like love and admiration and vulnerability and childishness all at once. A feeling like mattering to someone even if you could never say exactly what that meant.
New article out:
Programas comunitarios de educación audiovisual como alternativa al aprendizaje-servicio en el extranjero
Abstract: En julio de 2011, La Poderosa Media Project (LPMP) terminó su décimo programa comunitario de artes visuales en América Latina. Dicho programa reúne a jóvenes latinoamericanos con estudiantes universitarios estadounidenses en un taller de producción cinematográfica cuyo objetivo final es la realización de documentales y cortometrajes de ficción. El presente artículo se enfoca en el impacto de esta edición del programa de LPMP en los estudiantes de español como segunda lengua. Además se analiza, a partir de la afectividad, el efecto tanto de la producción artística como de la traducción intercultural en las subjetividades de los participantes estadounidenses. Más allá de una valoración del programa en su estado actual, este artículo es una proyección de sus implicaciones futuras para profesores y administradores que deseen diseñar e implementar programas de estudio en el extranjero con un componente de compromiso social en el que prime el aprendizaje experiencial a través de la integración de los estudiantes en la comunidad.
Co-written with Jorge García (Ithaca College) and Alejandra Zambrano (Ithaca College).
Latin American Studies Association Annual Meeting, 2013
Round Table: Queer Generations: A Critical Dialogue (presented 5/31/2013)
The Future is Familiar: Queer Latinidad, Queer Familia
Understanding how normative practices and desires become sedimented, ingrained in a particular society has been one of the most pressing issues taken up by queer theorists over the past twenty years in both North and South America. To de-naturalize sexuality and gender by describing them as a historical progression or by showing their performativity is one of the principal gestures of queer theory meant to rest hegemony from ‘the normal’ in favor of nonnormative and intersectional queer identities, desires and practices.
Jorge Salessi’s 1995 book medicos maleantes y maricas is a pioneering work in this field, showing how Foucaldian historicism could be applied to a Latin American context. Using a heterogeneous archive including police records, hygienic essays, legal documents and autobiographical writing, he demonstrates how the modern Argentine nation was constituted through the disciplinary effects of legal and medical discourses that determined who was considered normal, healthy and desirable, on the one hand, and who was degenerate, pathological, and therefore undesirable, on the other. In short, his work shows how the normative criollo model of sexuality and gender performance was defined in contrast with the taxonomy of deviants at the turn of the century: invertidos, homosexuales, maricones, uranistas, among others, who for their aberrant sexualities were seen as harmful to the future of the modern Argentine nation.
Today I want to see if we can push Salessi’s work in a new direction by framing the question of the normative not in terms of gender and sexual performance, but in terms of the responsibilities, connections, and feelings that are indexed by the family. Since the colonial period and especially over the course of the nineteenth century, family has served as both a subject of fictional representation and an organizing principle of society in Latin America; regions and entire countries have been dominated by extended family networks, las oligarquías latinoamericanas. The fear of decadence in both economic and social terms of these families is what Salessi registers in his text, showing the discursive construction of a broad range of ‘others’ to be blamed for Argentina’s uneasy relationship with Liberal international development at the turn of the century. But rather than thinking about the ways in which these elites provide models for national citizenship against which we can glimpse queer practices and identities, I want to ask if the normative families themselves could also be considered queer.
The example I would like to share is the diary of Delfina Bunge. The sister of Carlos Octavio Bunge and the wife of Manuel Gálvez, Delfina was a consolidated participant in the social and intellectual scene of the Argentine oligarchy at the turn of the century. Her diary is probably the longest-kept piece of autobiographical writing in Latin America, begun when she was 15 in 1897 and amassing nearly 10,000 manuscript pages by the time she died in 1952. I was able to briefly consult the original manuscript in Buenos Aires in 2010, though an annotated selection was made by Delfina’s granddaughter, historian Lucía Gálvez, and published by Planeta in 2000.
The following is an excerpt from one entry dated June 4, 1904 that shows the problematic relationship between the idealized notion of family that was held by many members of the Argentine elite, and the reality of their individual aspirations.
4/6/1904. ¡Pobre Octavio! [She is referring to her brother, Carlos Octavio] ¿Quién iba a decir que iba a ser él quien más se preocupase por mí, y el que con más delicadeza supiese insinuarse en mi pensamiento? Puedo casi decir que es el que mejor me comprende. […] A veces me pinta lo que puede ser la vida de “una mujer sensata, inteligente y distinguida” sin necesidad de que se case. Y me la pinta… con atractivos colores. Me dice cómo, en tales condiciones, se pueden tener nobles goces, y hacer mucho bien. Una vez que salimos a caminar, en San Isidro, a la hora del crepúsculo, y me llevó hasta la famosa chacra de nuestra infancia, me hacía los ofrecimientos más delicados. De vivir con él por supuesto. Sin romanticismo; con cuentas y con todo. “Serás independiente, tendrás tu cuarto, tu piano…”
¡Me ofrecía, como último y más eficaz recurso, un lindo piano de cola! Lo que él no quiere es que…me vaya. Y como único medio de impedírmelo quiere demostrarme el papel de una mujer soltera como natural y bueno: “Una mujer inteligente puede quedarse soltera,” me repite. (144)
Delfina was 23 in 1904, and seemed rather fed up with what she saw as the ostentation and falsity of the upper class in Buenos Aires. The fact that her sister Julia was a renowned socialite may have had something to do with that. Delfina had written previously in her diary that she might be interested in becoming a nun, though her real passion was playing the piano.
There are three characteristics that I would like to underscore regarding this diary entry. The first is Delfina’s surprise that it was Carlos Octavio, rather than one of her other siblings—she had seven in total—, who recognized her dissatisfaction, who had the finesse to “insinuarse en mi pensamiento,” as she describes it. This understanding between family members is described in terms of intuition, the ability one has to sense what another is feeling. Communication between siblings is intimate, almost corporal. But not only does Carlos Octavio sense Delfina’s dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs, he proposes an alternative to her living arrangements, which brings me to the second important point.
Carlos Octavio invites Delfina to form a queer home with him. I mean by this that he proposes to break with the normative model that conceives of the home as the exclusive locus of family sociability and biological reproduction, indeed, the place within which the family is constituted as such. Instead, he proposes to turn his bachelor pad into a space of sibling collaboration and freedom, a place where his sister could write and practice the piano and where they might stimulate and encourage each other in their artistic endeavors. That is, he proposes a sibling-led home rather than a patrilineal one.
We could even think of this arrangement as an attempt to subvert the patria potestad, the father’s legal prerogative over his daughter until marriage, which remained part of Argentina’s civic code until 1926. The explicit mention of Delfina’s future independence, “serás independiente,” serves to highlight both the legal and cultural ramifications of being “una mujer soltera” in Argentina at the turn of the century. Carlos Octavio intends to entice his sister by offering her precisely what she lacks: freedom from the watchful eyes of her parents, but also the ability to use her own skills and talents for her own satisfaction. That is, he wants to allow her the freedom to feel better about her own desires. It is in this sense that not just any “soltera” can succeed. She has to be “inteligente,” she has to be able to fend for herself, “sin romanticismo; con cuentas y con todo”. It is not a free ride, but an opportunity for her to develop and enjoy herself while doing so. It should be noted that this accommodation is made possible by virtue of their class, one needs plenty of disposable income to be able to afford to live alone, but it is precisely this type of class privilege that I am interest in pointing out. Even members of the oligarchy wanted to find new ways of living and feeling.
Finally, there is a moment when Delfina admits her own skepticism about this plan, when her brother has to argue for “el papel de una mujer soltera como natural y bueno”. Here we are reminded of the cultural insistence on the link between womanhood and reproduction, with Delfina needing to be reassured that to be a spinster can also be “natural” and “good”. Not only does Carlos Octavio invite her to leave the legal jurisdiction of her parents home to join him, he directly contradicts much of his own public writing on the natural place of the woman in society as the Angel of the home.
In contrast, theirs is a queer home in which Carlos Octavio proposes to form a partnership with his sister Delfina. Her artistic predilections, her taste, complimented his own, she was a potential interlocutor, someone who could offer him more than just amenable conversation, but stimulation and comfort. In contrast with the criminology texts and literary works that have most often been used to understand gender and sexuality at the turn of the century, Delfina’s diary allows us to think of the upper class criollo family unit itself as having the potential to generate a queer habitus, a mode of relating and feeling toward others that does not involve biological reproduction. The sibling-led home has the potential to foster a radical equality, a sense of mutuality that patriarchal sexuality and gender performance reject. This queer home shows the potential for new types of love, care, and dependency that are not often registered by contemporary cultural criticism. That is, the diary shows what type of love can still be family love, what type of feelings count as familiar and what were the ways in which one could deviate from script. These are not sexual practices or identities, but attitudes and relations between individuals.
Unfortunately, Delfina would reject the offer—she doesn’t give an explanation—and continued to live with her parents until she married Manuel Gálvez in 1910. We are left, then, with the image of Carlos Octavio attempting to persuade his sister on a picturesque walk through San Isidro, the image of the family as contradictory space within which the desires of the individual may conflict with the demands of the class; a space of sameness in difference; of freedom and of mutual dependency; of a never completed project of complimentary kinship. The image of a queer home uninhabited.
By citing Delfina’s diary I do not mean that we have to find yet more ‘rare’ archives from which to mine queer resonances, but that one of the ways to move forward with queer studies in the Latin American context is to rethink the nexus where gender, sexuality and race converge; it is to rethink the affective and hereditary bonds of kinship that constitute the normative family. This case shows us one of the ways to complicate queer theory’s relationship with the normative by returning to the scene of the home in order to question the desires that shape the sense of self and other.
Gálvez, Lucía. Delfina Bunge: Diarios íntimos de una época brillante. Buenos Aires: Planeta, 2000.
Salessi, Jorge. Médicos maleantes y maricas: Higiene, criminologya y homosexualidad en la construcción de la nación Argentina. (Buenos Aires: 1871-1914). Rosario: Beatriz Viterbo, 1995.