Author Archives: JMPierce

Book Review: The Body as Capital: Masculinities in Contemporary Latin American Fiction by Vinodh Venkatesh

I had the chance to review Vinodh Venkatesh‘s 2015 book The Body as Capital: Masculinities in Contemporary Latin American Fiction for Hispanófila. The review is now out, and I’d encourage anyone interested in how neoliberalism is affecting what counts as a ‘body’ in contemporary Latin American life to check out his book, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Here is the first paragraph of my review:

Recent shifts toward austerity and isolationism, the renegotiation of global hierarchies, and ongoing conflicts over territories, markets, and ideologies make the neoliberal era one of material and symbolic uncertainty. In The Body as Capital, Venkatesh interrogates neoliberalism’s pervasive (and often pernicious) influence on Latin American cultural production, focusing on literary works that reimagine the gendered dynamics of labor and desire since the 1990s. In particular, Venkatesh theorizes the male body as capitalize-able within a neoliberal episteme that encompasses not just market-based economic policies, but also regimes of sexuality, gender, and aesthetics. Eleven chapters divided into three parts provide a comprehensive overview of the ideological, discursive, and corporal reconfigurations that characterize the work of authors Venkatesh refers to as Generation Alfaguara. A far-reaching monograph, The Body as Capital serves as a prime example of how Latin American Studies is producing work that grapples with the cultural and political shifts of contemporary life and which pushes humanistic scholarship to respond to calcified methods of critical inquiry.

Download the rest here.

Or at: Hispanófila 181 (December 2017): 213-215.

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Queer Latinx Feminisms

At the end of the spring 2018 semester a student asked me why there were no courses at Stony Brook University specifically focused on Latinas. I thought for a second, but I didn’t have an answer. I knew that the university has declined on several occasions to fund a cluster hire in Latino/a Studies. I knew that we have one scholar, historian Lori Flores, who focuses specifically on Latina and Latino labor, migration, and the Farmworker Movement. I knew that she had taught the history of Latinos in the US. I also knew that other colleagues had taught on issues of immigration and incarceration, transnational feminisms, and Queer of Color critique. But to my knowledge there has never been a course at SBU specifically dedicated to studying the culture, artistic expression, and literature of Latinas and Latinxs in the US. So, I’m taking this as a challenge. I want to design a course that centers Latina and Latinx writers, artists, musicians, and activists, and I want it to also be responsive to the current moment in which pressing issues of intersectionality, immigration, DACA, incarceration, deportation, and ongoing racist structures of coloniality provide a framework for revising curricular offerings. It is an activist intervention, a corrective, but one that has come from student demand, rather than faculty. And that is the cool part, really. I’ll post the syllabus when I have it ready, but for now, here is a flyer I made to advertise the course. Fall 2018.

Pierce Flyer HUS271_Fall 2018

Adopted: Trace, Blood, and Native Authenticity

Pierce_Critical Ethnic Studies_Advert

Critical Ethnic Studies is a journal that I really love. They have a great team, publish new and established voices, are run by folks of color, have a slick social media presence (this is the first time I’ve been ‘quoted’ as in the image above), and encourage ethical citation practices (what more could you ask for). I was so happy to have had an essay published in their fall 2017 general issue, “Adopted: Trace, Blood, and Native Authenticity.” The article expands on some of my initial thoughts from summer 2015, “In Search of an Authentic Indian: Notes on the Self,” and stages a more nuanced theoretical discussion of “authenticity”. I’m looking forward to continuing this line of research, and book project #2 is likely to take this essay as its point of departure. More to come.

Thirst: Sex and Being

Fall 2017 Graduate Seminar

Thirst: Sex and Being

This course will investigate diverse ways of desiring, sexuality, and being. It is about the appetites that populate our lives—on which we depend for survival—, as well as those that have inspired historical moments of conflict. Thirst in this course is as much about lived experiences of desire as it is about historical structures of race, class, gender, and colonialism. Our inquiry into this thirst will focus on 19th and 20th century Latin American prose, and will also incorporate thirsty queer texts from both the US and Latin America. The thirst is real.

Download: Syllabus

Cool Aid and Ben Franklin.jpg

US Latino Literature and Culture

In a moment when the Latino population is under constant threat, threat of violence, deportation, xenophobia, racism, misrepresentation, etc., I am glad to be able to teach a course on US Latino Lit and Culture. The guiding theme is #Resistance. What I mean by that is resistance to the facile categorizations, the stereotypes, the dismissals, the violence, the fixity of identity that allows Latino to become an ‘other’ identity, an identity based on an ‘otherness’ that it never really was and which it currently resists. Below is a link to the syllabus. (Spring 2018)

Download: Syllabus

Julio Salgado_Screaming Joto

(Julio Salgado, “Screaming Joto”)

Our Queer Breath

I see myself reflected in the window, with those fluorescent letters in red. I am kissing my boyfriend. His skin, his scent, remind me of what I came for, of what I’m here for. That desire. And that desire is a revolutionary act. That search. That breath.

Our queer breath is a revolutionary act. To breathe as a fugitive, delinquent body, as a body that exists in spite of this violence.

I had woken up a bit late and I didn’t realize it until later. Until I opened Facebook. I didn’t think I would cry. And I didn’t, until I saw a video of a mother receiving text messages from her son, her son who had been kidnapped in the bathroom at Pulse. Her son who did not make it out alive.

I saw the news that 49 people had been killed in Orlando, Florida. In a gay bar. Latino Night.

Latino Night. Bodies entangled. Sweat. Brown bodies, Black bodies. Dance. Bodies dancing lost in the night.

I went to Stonewall because places have their history, their memory. I thought that that place would give me something of that fight, that defiance. I thought that those copper bricks, that darkness, that dirty floor, would give me something. Would make me feel something that I had lost.

Stonewall. That place which, after a police raid in 1969, inspired a series of violent, explosive protests. Travestis, Negras, drag queens, Puerto Ricans, fags, butch-dykes. The beginning of the gay liberation movement in the United States. A place where our dissident bodies started to feel free.

Latino night. When you exist as a brown body, when you love, survive, as a brown body, when your body is always subject to the various modes of violence that threaten your very existence. When you are a body that should never have existed. That was never meant to survive. To thrive. What does it matter if you can dance? If you have that space to dance? What value can that dance floor have on Latino Night?

Or, what happens when dancing is the only thing that makes you human? What happens when your body only becomes a body when it dances, when it articulates, when it shimmies, when it sweats, when it sways? Is that why a gay bar matters? Latino Night? When that space allows you to be, to move, to breathe, to become.

What do those Latinx bodies dancing at Pulse on its Latino Night say? What air, what space, what environment do they change with their black-brown bodies?

What changes when you move the air with those beautiful brown legs? What arabesques, what wake do you leave?

That Sunday at the Stonewall a spontaneous vigil after the massacre at Pulse. Around two hundred people gathered on Christopher Street. It was strange. Anti-terror police next to those brown bodies trickling in after the Puerto Rican Pride Parade. A historic irony. The police ‘protect us’ against the terrorism that they themselves created. A multitude. Anti-islamaphobia signs. Signs in favor of gun control. Outside the bar activists and comrades spoke about resistance. About love. We echoed their calls to not lose ourselves. To not fall into the facile categorization of the massacre as simple ‘terrorism’. Members of Black Lives Matter. The critique cannot be tautological.

We cannot stop dancing. We cannot stop sweating, swishing, desiring. We cannot stop insisting on the complexity of this issue, insisting on a critique of misogyny, racism, homophobia, islamophobia, toxic masculinity, in constant crisis.

Journalists who asked the typical: How do you feel? Do you feel safe? Why did you come to Stonewall?

Why go to Stonewall? To be with those bodies, bodies that we love, that we desire, that move us, that we caress, that we yearn for. Bodies given in to the night. Bodies that will not return. Bodies that come undone. Bodies that break. Bodies whose sweat, whose glimmer, we will never inhale again. Bodies that matter. Bodies whose matter, whose becoming, will save us from oblivion.

To breathe that desire, that breath, that intransigence that the queer body stages with its terrible incommensurability. To see, feel, touch, kiss, dance.

(This essay was originally published in Revista Anfibia as “Travestis, Negras, Boricuas, Maricas” and will be reprinted in English in QED).

Orlando, NYC

In the wake of the devastating attack in Orlando, the persistence of homophobia, Islamophobia, misogyny, transphobia, structural racism. It seems incomprehensible. It seems devastatingly impossible to think. To think through and propose alternatives to this hate.

I don’t know. But I tried to think through in this piece, in Spanish, published in Revista Anfibia today. But I also want to note a couple articles in which I was quoted:

  1. The New York Times detailed some of the feelings at stake.
  2. The AP on the complexity of the current debate.
  3. The Tampa Bay Times on not losing sight of context.

IN ENGLISH

Vincent Cervantes for Religion Dispatches, on the theological dimensions.

And Richard Kim for The Nation, on why we can’t stop the music.

John P. Sundholm on why praying is not and has never been enough.

Alexander Chee for The Nation, an excellent reflection on the Courage of Being Queer.

Yezmin Villarreal on why Existing is Resisting.

Alan Paez Lopez on why we are not all Orlando. (which I wholeheartedly agree with).

Charlie Vázquez on Puerto Rican resilience and memory.

Tony Varona for HuffPo, on not erasing the Latino histories and bodies.

Another collection of 10 articles on #Orlando #PulseOrlando from the American Friends Service Committee.

NPR on the Latino voices.

Salvador Vidal-Ortiz for Feminist Reflections, on rethinking Orlando as América.

Ramón Rivera-Servera for The Atlantic, on the space of the queer Latino dance club.

Juana María Rodríguez for NBC, on embracing queer latinidad.

J. Jack Halberstam for Bully Bloggers, on who are ‘we’ after Orlando.

Eng-Beng Lim for Bully Bloggers, on the #OrlandoSyllabus.

José Quiroga for Bully Bloggers, on the nostalgia, complexity, and colonialism of Orlando.

Christopher Soto on Literary Hub, a poem on self and the unanswerable.

IN SPANISH/EN CASTELLANO

A fierce ally and colleague, Juliana Martínez on why the shooter is not a monster.

Hugo Córdova Quero for Pulse, on intersections and violence.

Liliana Viola for Página/12, on hate and reactions.

Santiago Castellanos for El Comercio, an interview on difference.

Larry La Fountain-Stokes for 80 grados, on the weight of violence.