Kinship as Critical Method

I’ll be speaking at Tufts University on Friday, October 11 as part of an amazing lineup of folks. The symposium is part of a Mellon Seminar organized by Sarah Pinto and Kendra Field. I’m really honored by the invitation and will be sharing part of my forthcoming book, Argentine Intimacies: Queer Kinship in an Age of Splendor, 1890-1910 (its coming out November 1!!!!!!). Several people have asked me to share this work, so here is the talk. Please don’t cite the talk as such. The book is coming out so so soon!

The talk: A Terrible Inheritance: Queer Kinship and Diary Writing in Argentina’s Age of Splendor 1890-1910

mellon sawyer seminar _defamiliarizing the family_(4).jpg

Op-Ed on Elizabeth Warren at Protean Mag

I live-tweeted the recent Native American Presidential Forum, and after receiving numerous press inquiries–including for this piece in the Times–I decided to put some of my thoughts together in a more cohesive and personal way. Here is an op-ed on Warren’s almost-apology that Protean Mag published.

The title that I wanted to go with, actually, was “Apology Not Accepted”. But I’m glad we went with something more descriptive. For more information on Warren’s race-shifting and false claims to Cherokee heritage, see the syllabus I worked on with Cherokee activist/writers Rebecca Nagle and Adrienne Keane, published by Critical Ethnic Studies.

From the op-ed:

Warren vaguely admitted wrongdoing. But she did not say what she did or why, quickly pivoting to her strong suit, public policy. This is a good strategy for courting people who wanted to hear her admit something. However, it doesn’t address the central issue at stake—Cherokee sovereignty.

And later:

Despite having put forward a broad structural plan for honoring trust and treaty obligations, she has yet to understand how she is situated within the structures of white supremacy from which she has benefited—and yet to demonstrate that she can be trusted. Trust comes with daring to put the ethical obligations of mutual respect before politics. This is what being in good relations means. As a Cherokee, that is what matters to me. I cannot help but ask if Elizabeth Warren is actually demonstrating that she is in good relations with us.



Interview on Hyperallergic

I had a great time over at Hyperallergic being interviewed about queerness, decolonial practices, art, and ongoing struggles for liberation. We discussed the history of Wall Street as a border wall, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, the Argentine Homosexual Liberation Front, and the GLQ special issue that I am editing with several amazing colleagues on the Cuir Américas. Check it out here:

Joseph Pierce on Why Academics Must Decolonize Queerness


Vengo a hablar de política (Revista Anfibia)

I have an essay out in Revista Anfibia (in Spanish) about Claudia Rodríguez, her visit to NYC and Stony Brook University, and the affective fields at play in travesti politics across contexts.

You can read it here.

Here’s the opening:

– ¿De qué tienen que hablar las travestis?

Claudia Rodríguez deja caer la frase con cierta ambivalencia. Sostiene un cuaderno en la mano sin mirarlo. Uñas anaranjadas, voz honda, coqueta, así se presenta ante un público integrado por alumnxs de literatura latinoamericana, estudios de género y sexualidad, profesorxs universitarios y activistas LGBT que se acercaron a escucharla. Hoy no está en Santiago de Chile, donde vive, sino Estados Unidos, en una universidad pública de Nueva York.


Claudia with “el poto” of the Wall Street Bull (photo: Joseph Pierce)

Roma is a Beautiful Film of Indigenous Erasure

I wrote a short review/reflection on Alfonso Cuarón’s recent film, Roma, which was published in Indian Country Today. You can click through here, or read below.

Roma is a Beautiful Film of Indigenous Erasure

Roma is a piece of cinematographic artistry that cements Alfonso Cuarón as one of the most accomplished visual storytellers of our time. Roma is sumptuous and tender. And yet, I hate this film. Vehemently.

I am a professor of Latin American studies, so I understand a bit of the history that Cuarón is portraying. I am also Cherokee. And as an Indigenous person, when I saw Roma my first reaction was rage—a feeling like helplessness and deception and longing all at the same time, a feeling that welled up inside and burned.

I hated seeing an Indigenous woman, Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), negotiate her circumstances with such grace. Or rather, I hated the circumstances themselves, the colonial history that endures in Cleo, and which she bears with silent dignity.

Maybe I felt rage because what I saw in Cleo the impossibility of Indigenous life. Maybe because I saw in Roma not sensitivity, but the continuation of an imaginary that can only see Indigenous women as the surrogate life force of a still-colonial society that is oblivious to its hubris, and its past, and its ongoing indifference toward the survival of Indigenous women. It may seem contradictory, but Roma is a film that both stars and Indigenous woman and harnesses indigeneity to do the work of white supremacy at the same time.

While Roma dwells on the quotidian—banal moments of silence and of implicit understanding of place, station, duty—those moments are infused with meaning because of the impossibility of Cleo’s life within such constraints. For all its aesthetic mastery, Roma is essentially an upper class mea culpa.

More to the point: Cuarón mines Indigenous life for its allegorical power to connect elite families, at the expense of Indigenous peoples. Roma invokes a Mexico of 1970 that is incapable of imagining that Cleo is anything other than a source of feeling for other people, for people other than herself—because, of course—she has no one but herself. Roma’s affective fabric depends on Cleo’s silent endurance.

The film reprises a line of thinking that was taken up with more nuance in La teta asustada “The Milk of Sorrow” (2009 Dir. Claudia Llosa), which dwells on the transmission of intergenerational trauma during and after Peru’s Armed Internal conflict (1980-2000). Fausta (Magaly Solier) is a Quecha-speaking domestic servant in the home of Aída, a white upper class pianist. But while La teta asustada portrays memory as the engine of indigenous agency, in Roma, memory is circumscribed to the domain of melancholic projection.

In Roma’s pivotal hospital scene, Cleo admits, crying that she did not want her child. How are we to take that line? (Querer in Spanish is both to want and to love). I did not want, but should have wanted. I did not want, but wanted to want. I did not love but had no way of loving this child that could never have been anything more than a burden. This is the role of indigeneity in the film: Cleo’s body is only ever a source of emotional debt, yet another resource from which to extract emotional value.

Perhaps this is where my sense of rage comes from. The rage of seeing myself in her, and in that stillborn child. The rage of seeing her child die while her master’s children live.

The film’s pathos is not aimed at people like me, I have realized, but for those who can transit the colonial imaginary as agents of history, rather than its collateral damage, or its residue.

This is the rage of being an Indian watching Roma. I see myself reflected in a future that can only ever be stillborn in this time, in this place, in this land of conquest. Despite its gesture toward empathy, this is a film that does not celebrate Indigenous presence, but mines our capacity to endure in spite of our constant erasure.

It is not so much that the film is insensitive to Indigenous peoples. Quite the contrary, Roma depends on the pain we embed in our bodies and in our memories, the pain of our colonial past that is both present and future. I hate Roma because it turns Indigenous pain into the condition of possibility of our existence as objects of a history that will never be ours.

Syllabus on Elizabeth Warren, Cherokee Citizenship, and DNA Testing

I had the great fortune to be able to work with two other Cherokee writer/activist/scholars (Adrienne Keene and Rebecca Nagle) on a syllabus that contextualizes Elizabeth Warren’s recent claims to Cherokee ancestry. The document is up on the Critical Ethnic Studies Journal blog. So check it out there, or, if you want, you can download the file as a .pdf here: Syllabus_ Elizabeth Warren, Cherokee Citizenship, and DNA Testing. I’m particularly proud of the last line of our collectively written introduction: “take a look at this syllabus and then we’ll talk”.