- Negotiating Performance: Gender, Sexuality & Theatricality in Latina/o America, and: El Teatro Campesino: Theater in the Chicano Movement, and: ¡Teatro Hispano! Three Major New York Companies
This being a time ripe for politics, hybridity, and performativity (in theory and in practice), it comes as no surprise that Yolanda Broyles-Gonzalez, Diana Taylor and Juan Villegas, and Elisa de la Roche should find forums to offer their perspectives on a broad range of issues which alternately refer to Chicano, Latina/o, and Hispanic performative and theatrical activities. Much has been said about hybrid identities in contemporary cultural politics and theory, in so-called celebrations of the dynamics of inter- and intra-cultural politics that implicate the interstices of race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, and language. The flip side is that “multiculturalism” sweeps the marketplace and the academy, where it has become fashionable to color theories of (post)modernity with uninterrogated ethnographic fantasies of racial hybridity. But as activists and critical theorists have so relentlessly insisted, the politics of representation eclipses academic fancy.
Diana Taylor and Juan Villega’s collection of essays Negotiating Performance: Gender, Sexuality, and Theatricality in Latina/o America offers a bold forum to survey the range of political and cultural activities currently practiced by Latina/os, a broadly defined term which includes Chicanos, Mexican Americans, Puertoriqueses academic fancy.
e it has become fashionable to color theories of Argentinos. The volume emerges from a group residency of U.S.-based theatre scholars at U.C. Irvine, who respond to the recognition that “identity politics had failed, the politics of location was not working, coalition politics functioned in a few places, and the politics of invitation, at least at the outset, seemed unthinkable” (4). The Negotiating Performance collection weaves together the critical cultural work of “Latina/o America” which might otherwise remain in separate disciplinary camps. What the seventeen authors in this collection share is a rejection of the traditional norms of theatre and culture practices, and an investment in the performative as a method for interrogating both theory and practice. Taylor argues against the tendency to understand Latin America as a homogenous whole, but for considering a Latina/o horizon in which a shared “history of opposition to colonial powers” (9) and negotiations of performance, theatre, culture and politics reach beyond academic and national boundaries. The project does not claim to unite the many distinct positionalities except to thread together a critical consciousness of displacement, rooted in the historical connections between empire and language.
Cherríe Moraga’s “Art in América con Acento” links the Nicaraguan Revolution with Chicano activism and her writing activities; whereas Sue-Ellen Case’s “Seduced and Abandoned: Chicanas and Latinas in Representation” asks for intra-racial coalitions; María Teresa Marrero’s “Public Art, Performance Art, and the Politics of Site” discusses the brilliant performative work of visual artist Daniel J. Martínez; and Jorge Salesi and Patrick O’Connor’s “For Carnival, Clinic, and Camera: Argentina’s Turn-of-the-Century Drag Culture Performs ‘Woman’” theorizes historical ambiguities in gender performativities. Taylor and Villegas claim distinct projects, demonstrating contemporary [End Page 387] tensions between the discourses of performance and theatre as critical tools: while Taylor explains “performance has claimed its autonomy both from the dramatic text and its representations to constitute itself in anti-theatrical forms—among them performance art, public art, and what we might call public performance” (11); Villegas instead refers to theatricality, teatricalidad, for analyzing theatre conventions, as a specific system of representation.
Negotiating Performance expands the possibilities of a very necessary field: Latina/o Performance Studies. What I find lacking in this otherwise terrific volume is a more concerted effort to historicize and...