In Abject Performances Leticia Alvarado draws out the irreverent, disruptive aesthetic strategies used by Latino artists and cultural producers who shun standards of respectability that are typically used to conjure concrete minority identities. In place of works imbued with pride, redemption, or celebration, artists such as Ana Mendieta, Nao Bustamante, and the Chicano art collective known as Asco employ negative affects—shame, disgust, and unbelonging—to capture experiences that lie at the edge of the mainstream, inspirational Latino-centered social justice struggles. Drawing from a diverse expressive archive that ranges from performance art to performative testimonies of personal faith-based subjection, Alvarado illuminates modes of community formation and social critique defined by a refusal of identitarian coherence that nonetheless coalesce into Latino affiliation and possibility.
Introduction. Sublime Abjection 1
1. Other Desires: Ana Mendieta's Abject Imaginings 25
2. Phantom Assholes: Asco's Affective Vortex 57
3. Of Betties Decorous and Abject: Ugly Betty's America la fea and Nao Bustamante's America la bella 89
4. Arriving at Apostasy: Performative Testimonies of Ambivalent Belonging 131
Conclusion. Abject Embodiment 161
“In this provocative text, Leticia Alvarado offers us abjection as an aesthetic strategy for thinking about embodied performances that bear the weight of the fraught communal failures of latinidad. Her eclectic archive of formal and informal performances of world-making practices draw her readers toward those improper subjects of Latino cultural production that expose the perverse pleasures of refusing both civic incorporation and identitarian regimes to linger in the difficult promise of racialized otherness.”
Juana María Rodríguez, author of
Sexual Futures, Queer Gestures, and Other Latina Longings
“Abject Performances counters inspirational, mainstream representations of Latinos that give them a constrained place in U.S. minoritarian politics. Leticia Alvarado understands abjection as resistance: a wily, uncooperative ethos within the heroic narrative of Latino inclusion and assimilation. She sets her critical eye not on aspirational models, but on artists and performances that insist on the confusion of boundaries. The result is a brilliant contribution to Latino Studies.”
José A. Quiroga, author of
Tropics of Desire: Interventions from Queer Latino America
"In writing this, I am thinking of contemporary figures of abjection—the asylum seeker, the victim of domestic abuse and gang violence, the parent and child violently separated at the US border. Abject Performances does not make such figures more legible, but rather encourages readers towards being with illegibility so as to create a condition for thinking through alternatives to citizenship, to accept the unknown and unknowable as a viable, yet confounding aesthetic, and a necessary, though unsustainable politic."
Women and Performance
"Abject Performances presents a dynamic, fascinating, and novel approach to understanding the role of abjection in contestatory articulations of Latino identity. From the esoteric to the popular, the sacred to the profane, Leticia Alvarado weaves together a narrative that convincingly positions the abject as an entirely distinct way of producing latinidad through diverse cultural products."
Alexandra Gonzenbach Perkins
Journal of American Studies
"Alvarado’s book usefully brings aesthetics and affect theory to bear upon not only what Latinidad means, but also how its possibilities can shift. . . . Alvarado rigorously theorizes a strand of Latinx affective and aesthetic engagement that names a feeling we already have and a perspective we need to embrace."
"Abject Performances is an ambitious text. The breadth of theoretical frameworks is especially impressive given the depth of critical analysis that complements them. . . . Viewing the ways in which aesthetic theory meets performance and media studies, Latino studies, and queer theory as an emerging flux continues necessary conversations in these fields."
Lacie Rae B. Cunningham