CHICANA CULTURAL PRODUCTION
Chicana collective Mas Rudas, "Walking altars," San Antonio, Texas, October 2015.
FORTHCOMING // NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY PRESS
Theatrical Imaginaries in Chicana Cultural Production is deeply interested in the recurrent and emphatic use of theatricality in the products of contemporary Chicana cultural production. As this study argues, Chicana cultural producers have turned to theatrically laced creative expressions as a strategy of articulation, education, contestation, and resistance. Their creative expressions not only seek to make Mexican American women and their concerns (thus by extension, their families and communities) visible, but also, Chicanas’ cultural production labors to instigate legible shifts to attain betterment in the social realities Mexican American women navigate.
Theatrical Imaginaries in Chicana Cultural Production offers discussions that consider this type of Chicana theatricality, as I argue, a conspicuous inclination, a distinct, ever growing aesthetic tendency that I have found recurs with repeated and innovative frequency as a distinguishing feature and modality of expression that has threaded its way throughout the corpus of recent Chicana cultural production. Pulling on the thread of this tendency to separate it from the weft of Chicanas’ creative production will necessarily lead back to examinations and considerations of Chicana subjectivity and the formation of Chicanas’ subjecthood. Considering the turn to this aesthetic tendency will also necessitate examining the ongoing prevalence of hegemonic socio-political forces in Chicanas’ life-worlds such as patriarchal, heterosexist, nationalistic, ethno-specific, and cultural mores, edicts, and values that subjugate and thus stymy Mexican American women’s enfranchisement. Chicanas’ use of theatricality manifests in unexpected places, across a wide array of cultural materials, indeed, as the story this book will tell, it pulses through Chicana expressive culture as a hallmark strategy of their aesthetics.
Each chapter of Theatrical Imaginaries in Chicana Cultural Production describes distinct features and aesthetic constructions within Chicanas’ expressive works – traveling across photography, literature, spoken word media, installation art, and drama – that I identify and theorize as theatricalism. As the close readings and case studies offered in my book’s chapters will argue, identifying and marking theatricalism in Chicana cultural production furnishes an aesthetic hermeneutic that frames out potent strategies that infuse various modalities of theatricality and performative actions in Chicana Cultural Production’s operations. In turn, theatricalism as aesthetic strategy better enables Chicana cultural workers to articulate the complexity of their subject positions as minoritarian women in the United States.
As investigation argues, reading Chicana expressive products as texts enables an unequivocal ingress to the complexity of Mexican American women’s subject formation, lived experiences, and social realities. Study of their cultural productions constitutes a vital activity because even into the second decade of the twenty-first century, even despite the recent stupefying population growth of Latin American descended peoples in the United States, and even given the (still arguably limited) rise of representations of Latina/os in various Latina/o and Anglo media outlets, the dominant attributes of Mexican-descended women in the U.S. have been and continue to be their invisibility and their silence within a distressing number of discourse communities in the United States.
In the constraints of silence, Chicana artists functioning as cultural workers become a select and important set of speaking subjects among the many Mexican-descended women in the United States who have no access to agency. In the discussions of Theatrical Imaginaries in Chicana Cultural Production I have chosen to engage works that aggressively employ a mode of theatricality in order to underscore the condition’s conspicuous presence in contemporary Chicana cultural production and therefore elucidate my theorizations about the relationship between a work’s form and content, representation and meaning. Moreover, this study's five chapters assemble discussioins about the work of key late twentieth and early twenty-first century Chicana cultural producers: photographer Kathy Vargas, visual artist Celia Herrera Rodríguez, writer/poets Michelle Serros and Ana Castillo, and dramatist Cherríe Moraga.