Tejana literature and the (un)making of queer worlds : Gloria Anzaldúa, Emma Pérez, and Alicia Gaspar de Alba



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"Tejana Literature and the (Un)Making of Queer Worlds" adapts José Esteban Muñoz’s theory of disidentifications by transposing the queer worldmaking concept into the Tejana literary sphere. Foregrounding lesbian Tejana experiences, I explore the ways in which queer writers and activists Gloria Anzaldúa, Emma Pérez, and Alicia Gaspar de Alba use literature and theory to question heteronormativity and white supremacy. Two general questions guide my research: 1) How does Anzaldúa’s, Pérez’s, and Gaspar de Alba’s fiction and scholarship capture, critique, and reconfigure the physical and psychological violence to which the gendered, racialized, non-normative body has been subjected under the realm of Euro-American, Tejano, and heterosexual dominant cultures? 2) What is Anzaldúa’s, Pérez’s, and Gaspar de Alba’s stance with regards to Aztlán, the imagined homeland for Chicanos/as and privileged site for cultural nationalism? To examine, then, whether these queer feminists of color create worlds that can function as alternate spaces of freedom, I analyze four poems from Borderlands/La Frontera (1987), Pérez’s Gulf Dreams (1996), and Gaspar de Alba’s Sor Juana’s Second Dream (1999). My aim is to show how decolonial and disidentificatory projects among feminist Tejanas who share similar backgrounds vary in genre, approach, and outcomes. “Tejana Literature and the (Un)Making of Queer Worlds” also links the theoretical with the creative by using Anzaldúa’s, Pérez’s, and Gaspar de Alba’s scholarship as roadmap to interpret their poetry and fiction. I therefore argue that concepts like Anzaldúa’s el mundo zurdo (1977), Pérez’s sitios y lenguas (1991), and Gaspar de Alba’s embodied aesthetics (1994) are the critical techniques through which they attempt to build worlds that reconfigure traditional (i.e., normative) aesthetics and politics. Hence, I look at the needs and desires that push Anzaldúa, Pérez, and Gaspar de Alba to negotiate dominant culture, their own Tejano upbringings, and build worlds through the notions of el mundo zurdo in Borderlands/La Frontera, sitios y lenguas in Gulf Dreams and embodied aesthetics in Sor Juana’s Second Dream. Assuming that Anzaldúa’s, Pérez’s, and Gaspar de Alba’a writing is performative in the sense that it discursively does something, I consider the performative power of queer Tejana literature and its particular effects on Tejano and Chicano cultures in relation to Aztlán as symbolic homeland.