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VOLUME 7, NUMBER 1

“A Shared Queerness”: Colonialism, Transnationalism, and Sexuality
in Shani Mootoo’s Cereus Blooms at Night”

Grace Kyungwon Hong


Shani Mootoo’s 1996 novel, "Cereus Blooms at Night" evinces a curious fascination with flora, fauna, and the language of natural history. In particular, Cereus Blooms at Night focuses on natural history and its logic of categorization to define “queer” as that which is in excess of categorization, and therefore, in excess of modern scientific knowledge. In doing so, this text both disaggregates the notion of “queerness” from an essentialist or biologistic definition of sexuality, but also simultaneously centers sexuality as the most illuminating analytic for understanding the transition form colonialism to neo-colonialism. As I argue in this essay, the disciplinary mechanisms of propriety and morality reproduce the variety of masculinist nationalisms that particularly pathologize female and queer sexualities. Yet if these masculinist nationalisms ironically sustain the transnational economic restructuring of Caribbean nations, this novel is evidence of contradictions within such nationalisms. It registers the fact that such conditions also necessarily create deviant, disorderly figures who cannot fit a nationalist definition of morality, and thus must imagine new modes of affiliation than that of nationalism. Cereus Blooms at Night is, then a record of the alternative forms of affinity and affiliation—in distinction to that of nationalism—that must emerge out of these unruly histories.


“The Non-Performativity of Anti-Racism”
Sara Ahmed


In this paper, I reflect upon institutional speech acts: those that make claims “about” an institution, or “on behalf” of an institution. Such speech acts involve acts of naming: the institution is named, and in being “given” a name, the institution is also “given” attributes, qualities, and even a character. By speech acts I include not just spoken words, but writing, as well as visual images, all the materials that give an institution an interiority, as if it has a face, as well as feelings, thoughts or judgements. They might say: “the university regrets,” or just simply “we regret.” More specifically, in this paper, I examine documents that are authorised by institutions (such as race equality policies, which are often signed by say the VC on behalf of an institution), make claims about the institution (for instance, by describing the institution as having certain qualities, such as being diverse), or point towards future action (by committing an institution to a course of action, such as diversity or equality, which in turn might involve the commitment of resources). I will argue such speech acts do not do what they say: they do not, as it were, commit a person, organisation or state to an action. My argument is simple: they are non-performatives.

“Performing the ‘Generic Latina’: A Conversation with Teatro Luna””
Joanna L. Mitchell and Sobiera Latorre

In this June 2005 interview, the two interviewers speak with Tanya Saracho and Coya Paz, the co-founders of Teatro Luna, Chicago’s first and only all-Latina theater ensemble. They discuss the history of the company and the inspiration for founding it in 2000. Paz and Saracho comment on their frustration with the roles available to Latinas and the representations of Latino/as in the theater and media. Teatro Luna’s ensemble-built pieces arise from the actresses’ desire to represent their own experiences and the untold stories of other Latinas. Paz and Saracho mention the resistance and miscomprehension they encounter from the Latino/a theater community and from women’s cultural organizations. Their creative process builds community and incubates talent as well as plays. They also discuss the kinds of audiences Teatro Luna encounters and the different reactions of those audiences; the meaning of feminism and machismo; and the difficulties, economic and otherwise, of maintaining an independent theater company.


"Size Matters: Figuring Gender in the (Black) Jamaican Nation."
Winnifred Brown-Glaude
This essay examines public debates in Jamaica around the August 2003 unveiling of the Redemption Song monument at Emancipation Park, commemorating Jamaica’s emancipation form Slavery. The monument features an 11 ft nude male and 10 ft nude female standing in a pool of water—a representation of two individuals washing away the pain and suffering of slavery while looking up to a future of freedom and prosperity. Shortly after the unveiling of Redemption Song controversy gripped the nation over calls for the removal of the sculptures. The monument sparked impassioned public debates around the nudity of the sculptures with a particular focus on the male genitals, which are generously endowed. I examine these debates through local newspaper articles and letters to the editor and argue that they reveal not simply a disagreement about public nudity and sexuality, but the ways in which a sense of national belonging is forged and negotiated within a postcolonial state through visual media in public space. I discuss the attempt by a formally colonized group to represent itself as an independent black nation with a public monument. As I do so, I illuminate the ways in which gender is configured in this representation of the black Jamaican nation.

“ From Triguenita to Afro-Puerto Rican: Intersections of the Racialized, Gendered, and Sexualized Body in Puerto Rico and the Mainland
Maritza Quiñones Rivera

Drawing upon theoretical approaches from feminist social research, popular culture, transnational media studies, and critical cultural studies, this autobiographical essau examines the intersections of the racialized, gendered, and sexualized body that has defined my life in Puerto rico and the U.S. Mainland. Through personal accounts of y lived experience in both geographical spaces, I compare Puerto Rico’s racialization process of mestizaje—an ideology that purports a stat of harmonious race relations in which discrimination supposedly does not exist—with the racial polarization of the mainland, where the existence of racism in more openly acknowledged.


“On Gender, Sovereignty, and the Discourse of Rights in Native Women’s Activism (Canada circa 1980s).”
Joanne Barker

In order to understand the conflicted perspectives about gender and sovereignty within North American Indian communities, this paper examines Indian women’s work in Canada to address the long-term effects of sexism within the Indian communities through civil litigation and legal amendment. This work emphasizes the methodological difficulties of analyzing ‘dominant’ ideologies and practices not only as institutionalized within the law but as consecutive aspects of Indian social formations where Indians are anything but ‘marginal.’ By looking at how women and those who stood in solidarity with them used legal strategies to change the terms of the women’s disenfranchisement within their communities, I try to show that gender is not auxiliary to or an additive of Indian political perspectives and agendas for sovereignty but a key element of its constitution and effect. In doing so, I argue that a methodical perspective that refutes the dominant/marginal binary is demanded when trying to understand the complexities of Indian social formations.

“ Cruel Enough to Stop the Blood: Global Feminisms and the U.S. Body Politic, Or; “They Done Taken My Blues and Gone”
Karla FC Holloway

In the summer of 2005, the U.S. media’s obsession with the disappearance of white women and girls reached an intensity that provoked a backlash they finally acknowledged. Where were the ethnic others in these captivating late night, early morning, special, and breaking new news stories? This essay explores a paradox of white racial disappearing, as it is reported with vigor in the media and as it is absented from academic feminist study. It situates this paradox in an inquiry about the consequence of this absence at the same moment that U.S. Feminist Studies goes looking for transnational bodies while local body-politics are underinterrogated, and while science studies would focus us on intimate matters of being human that ultimately and deeply implicate race and gender. To illustrate the paradox, I discuss the adoption of Asian babies of U.S. white women and how the academic attention to the transnational spaces of these adoptions displaces attention to matters of local color.

Interview with Linda Chavez-Thompson from the Sophia Smith archives

Narrator

Linda Chavez-Thompson was born August 3, 1944, in Lubbock, Texas, one of eight children born to Felipe and Genoveva Chavez; her father worked as a cotton sharecropper. She joined her parents in the cotton fields at the age of ten, quit school at 16 and went to work. Married for the first time at age 20 to Jose Luz Ramirez, she continued working as a domestic and had two children. In 1967, at the age of 23, she went to work for the Laborers’ International Union and served as the secretary for the Lubbock local and, as the only Spanish-speaking union officer, represented all the Hispanic American workers within the local. Four years later she went to work for the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Union (AFSCME) in San Antonio and rose through the ranks to be international vice-president (1988–96). In 1995 Chavez-Thompson was elected executive vice-president (third-ranking officer) of the AFL-CIO, the first woman and the first person of color to hold such a high office within the AFL-CIO; she was re-elected in 1997 and in 2001. She also serves as a vice-chair of the Democratic National Committee and an executive committee member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. She married for a second time in 1985 to Robert Thompson, now deceased.

Interviewer

Kathleen Banks Nutter was for many years a reference archivist at the Sophia Smith Collection. She is currently adjunct faculty at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. She is the author of ‘The Necessity of Organization’: Mary Kenney O’Sullivan and Trade Unionism for Women, 1892–1912 (Garland, 1999).

Abstract

The oral history focuses on the various phases of Chavez-Thompson’s life but is especially strong on her union activities, both as an organizer and as a union leader.

Manuscripts without Abstracts

“The Tsunami’s Windfall: Women and Aid Distribution”
Elisabeth Brownell Armstrong

“Inquisitor and Insurgent”
Nikky Finney

Poetry:
“Caring for Another Woman”

Karen Lee