What Ivan Ramos is Thinking About Now

Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America

A core component of CSREA’s mission is supporting faculty and advanced students in the development of cutting-edge, collaborative intellectual work. The “What I Am Thinking About Now” series provides a collegial, productive workshop space for faculty and graduate students to present and discuss recently published work and work in progress. Scholars test ideas and receive feedback from a diverse and supportive group of scholars on Mondays throughout the semester.



Breaking Down, Breaking Together: Xandra Ibarra’s Nude Laughing and the Ethics of Encounter

Iván Ramos, Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies

This essay considers the fragility of social relations through an understudied action that reveals the limits of sociality: laughter. Using Latina artist Xandra Ibarra’s ongoing performance piece Nude Laughing, the essay suggests that to face the body of another subject laughing is to face the uneasy reality of encounter. In the piece, Ibarra emerges mostly naked, wearing nothing but a plastic breast plate and a pair of yellow high heels, while dragging a large nylon bag containing various accoutrements of white femininity like ballet slippers, pearls, and other objects. The majority of the piece consists of Ibarra breaking onto a manic fit of laughter that goes on for several minutes at the time. In order to analyze this piece, I delve into long histories of laughter, focusing on the unease that it produces when one witnesses a body laughing, and especially on the ways in which women’s laughter can result in violent retribution from men who fear being laughed at.

Analyzing three iterations of Nude Laughing across geographic locales, this essay lingers in the kinds of reactions the piece produces in its audiences. Ramos shows how the uneasiness of bodies established through the performance reveals the sense of discomfort when one encounters a body contorted, made strange, culminating in an act of male aggression during a performance in Mexico City. Ultimately, he argues that to encounter an/other’s body laughing, especially across difference, rather than an impasse might provide a radical possibility to engage with a feminist and queer ethics of encounter.

Iván A. Ramos is an assistant professor in the Department of Theater Arts and Performance Studies at Brown University. He was previously an assistant professor in the Harriet Tubman Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park, and a UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California, Riverside. He received his Ph.D. in Performance Studies with a Designated Emphasis in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from UC Berkeley and his BA in Critical Gender Studies from UC San Diego. Iván is originally from Tijuana, Mexico. Iván’s 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.