Event Date
May 02, 2013
Prof. Pedro di Pietro, UC Berkeley
Elisa Diana Huerta, UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz


CRG Thursday Forum Series presents…

Embodied Epistemologies: Performing Spirituality, Queering Latinidad

Movement Methodologies: Embodied Conocimiento, Memory & Remembrance
Elisa Diana Huerta, UC Santa Cruz, UC Berkeley Multicultural Community Center

This paper explores the nuanced tensions and poetics of ethnographic research praxis. Drawing upon my dissertation research, I explore the ways in which I, as the ethnographer/researcher/inside-outsider, navigate disciplinary and methodological boundaries while in the “field.”  In particular, I am interested in laying bare the generative ways in which the categories of “researcher” and “informant” continue to be disrupted throughout my research and writing process and the ways in which my negotiation of my own embodiment and subjectivity as a queer Xicana feminist in “traditional” dance and ceremonial spaces contributed an additional layer of complexity to my research.

Ser Femenina. Latinidad, the Human/non-Human, and the Spiritual Approach to Sexual Difference
Prof. Pedro di Pietro, Ethnic Studies (Chicana/o-Latina/o Studies)

This presentation is conceived with a dialogical tone in mind. It examines the possibility of collective thinking and interdisciplinary praxis. My contribution to this dialog begins with the understanding and lived experience of embodiment among two different socialities: racialized transvestites from the Southern Andes—southern Bolivia and northwestern Argentina—and members of a Bay Area network of young Latinos and Latinas of mixed background. They are both committed to the radical transformation of their bodies, a material grounding of desire and recognition. Both socialities foreground ties to the indigenous history of mixing and mestizaje characteristic of the condition of Latinidad worldwide. The forms of embodiment theorized in my contribution do not offer a direct link to ancestral knowledge. Rather, they point to the decolonial potential of embodiment as it carries and recreates the fractured traces of indigenous cosmologies (Andean and Mesoamerican).

Within these two socialities, embodiment underlines the ways in which sexuality and desire inform materiality while they are simultaneously confronted with material limits. Scholarship on sexual difference tends to gravitate towards genealogist or objectivist accounts. New materialisms of the last twenty years have opened previously untapped avenues to study sexed embodiment. However, their intersectional framework—the interweaving of racial and sexed difference—seems to rely on the separability of what is being intersected, defining thereby parallels sets of theorizing across the humanities. Ser Femenina or the shaping of racialized eroticism within the domain of queer Latinidad invokes the materiality of the mutual constitution of race/sex/gender difference. To theorize this form of embodiment, it is significant to dispel the colonial legacy of the human/non-human distinction within the domain of racialized sexuality.

The major thread of this contribution engages queer race difference by suggesting the following departure questions: a) how does the human/non-human distinction figure in our understanding of sexual difference; b) do the embodiments of queer people of color absorb and/or deflect the pressure of the colonial legacy embedded in the human/non-human distinction? In order to illustrate the main obstacle in our epistemological journey, this presentation frames the conversation within two opposing approaches. The first one is best exemplified by the metaphor “Gaga Queerness” in reference to Lady Gaga’s anthem “Born This Way.” The second one takes “Gender Trouble” as suitable metaphor to underscore the anti-naturalist materialism found within the postmodern project of undoing gender.  Finally, by drawing from the socialities described above, this presentation hopes to displace the epistemology of culture/nature and its ties to the human/non-human distinction, carving a new path towards the numinous, spiritual, and almost fantastic ontology/reality of ser femenina.