CSREA’s New Book Talks highlight new and notable works studying race, ethnicity, and indigeneity. They facilitate thought-provoking and critical engagement with emerging scholarship.
In what ways can dissonant sounds challenge systems of dominance? In “Unbelonging: Inauthentic Sounds in Mexican and Latinx Aesthetics,” Assistant Professor of TAPS Iván Ramos answers these questions and more through an exploration into Mexican and US-based Latinx artists’, writers’, and creators’ use of the discordant sounds of punk, metal, and rock to give voice to the aesthetic of “unbelonging,” a rejection of consumerist and nationalist mentalities. Ultimately, these forms of inauthenticity move beyond negation and become ways to imagine alternative realities.
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About the Book
What is the connection between the British rock star Morrissey and the Latinx culture of transnational “unbelonging”? What is the relevance of “dyke chords” in Chicana feminist punk and lesbian dissolution? In what ways can dissonant sounds challenge systems of dominance?
Unbelonging answers these questions and more through an exploration into Mexican and US-based Latinx artists’, writers’, and creators’ use of the discordant sounds of punk, metal, and rock to give voice to the aesthetic of “unbelonging,” a rejection of consumerist and nationalist mentalities. Iván A. Ramos argues that racial identity and belonging have historically required legible forms of performance. Sound has been the primary medium that amplifies and is used to assign cultural citizenship and, for Latinx individuals, legibility is essential to music perceived as traditional and authentic to their national origins. In the context of twentieth-century neoliberal policies, which cemented the concept of “citizen” within logics of consumerism and capitalism, Ramos turns to focus on Latinx artists, writers, and audiences, who produce experimental and often “inauthentic” performances and installations in sonic subcultures to reject new definitions of economic citizenship.
Organized around studies of a number of artists, all whom are explored through the methodological frameworks of sound studies, performance studies, and queer theory, Unbelonging unearths how their very different genres of music share a unifying theme of dissonance. With the backdrop of neoliberalism’s attempt to define citizenship in relation to economic and cultural legibility, Unbelonging offers an urgent analysis of how these oft-overlooked queer and feminist performers and fans used sonic illegibility to challenge gender norms, official definitions of citizenship, and narratives of assimilation. Ultimately, these forms of inauthenticity move beyond negation and become ways to imagine alternative realities.
About the Author
Iván A. Ramos is Assistant Professor in the Department of Theater Arts and Performance Studies at Brown University. His broader research investigates the links and slippages between transnational Latino/a American aesthetics in relationship to the everydayness of contemporary and historical violence. In particular, he is interested in how the aesthetic may provide a way to engage with an ethics of difference. His work brings together performance studies, queer and feminist theory, Latina/o/x American Studies, and media and film studies. His first book, Unbelonging: Dissonant Sounds in Mexican and Latinx Aesthetics was recently published with NYU Press in the Postmillenial Pop series. The book examines how “dissonant sound” brought together artists and alternative subcultures on both sides of the border in the wake of NAFTA to articulate a politics of negation against larger cultural and economic changes. He is also currently at work on a second book project, tentatively titled Mourning Without Bodies, which argues that experimental aesthetics provide a way to grapple with ongoing violence in the Americas without relying on biographical narratives that limit collective mourning to certain “proper” subjects. He has published on subjects ranging from the Chicana artist Xandra Ibarra, the work of the late scholar José Esteban Muñoz, and the aesthetics of the tv show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, among other subjects.
His work has been supported by fellowships from the University of California Humanities Research Institute, the National Humanities Center and the Ford Foundation. In addition, professor Ramos was awarded a 2023 Mellon Emerging Faculty Leaders Award from the Institute for Citizens and Scholars (formerly the Woodrow Wilson Foundation). His writing has appeared in the Oxford Encyclopedia of Latina/o Literature, Third Text, Women & Performance, ASAP/Journal, among others. He was also a contributor to the award winning catalog for the exhibition Axis Mundo: Queer Networks in Chicano L.A. sponsored by the Getty Foundation. He has recently published peer-reviewed articles in the anthologies Turning Archival (Duke University Press) and Great North American Stage Directors, Volume 8 (Bloomsbury Academic). He currently sits on the editorial board for the journal Afterimage.
About the Moderator
Macarena Gómez-Barris is a writer and scholar with a focus on the decolonial environmental humanities, authoritarianism and extractivism, queer Latinx epistemes, media environments, racial ecologies, cultural theory and artistic practice.
She is author of four books including, The Extractive Zone: Social Ecologies and Decolonial Perspectives (Duke University Press, 2017) that examines five scenes of ruinous extractive capitalism. Beyond the Pink Tide: Art and Political Undercurrents in the Américas (UC Press 2018), a text of critical hope about the role of submerged art and solidarities in troubled times. She is also author of Where Memory Dwells: Culture and State Violence in Chile (2009), and co-editor with Herman Gray of Towards a Sociology of a Trace (2010). She is series editor with Diana Taylor of Dissident Acts at Duke University Press.
Her forthcoming book is At the Sea’s Edge (Duke University Press) that considers colonial oceanic transits and the generative space between land and sea. She is on the Social Text Collective, co-Director of the Queer Aqui Project at Columbia University, and on the Executive Editor Board of GLQ. She received the Pratt Institute Research Recognition Award (2021-2022) and the University of California, Santa Cruz Distinguished Alumni Award (2021-2022). She is the author of dozens of esssays and curatorial events. She was founder and director of Global South Center, NYC. She organizes a new series called Writing Media Now hosted by the Department of Modern Culture and Media.