Queer Rhythms: The Makings of Race & Rehearsal

queer_rhythmsThree participants from the Spring 2014 CSSC/CRG Dissertation Workshop Retreat will present work from their in-progress dissertations at the Center for Race and Gender’s first Thursday Forum event of the Fall 2014 semester, co-sponsored by the Center for the Study of Sexual Culture. This event is free and open to the public.  Location is wheelchair accessible. More info: http://crg.berkeley.edu/content/queer-rhythms

Moderated by Professor Mel Chen, Gender and Women’s Studies.

1. Ordinary Failures: Reciting Diaspora
Ianna Hawkins Owen, African American Studies

2. A Lover’s Scream: Latina Lesbian Desire, Queer Ethics, and the Mariachi-Punk of Las Cucas
Ivan Ramos, Performance Studies

3. Movement from the Underground: Rerouting the Birth of Waacking/Punking
Naomi Bragin, Performance Studies

PRESENTATIONS

Moderator: Professor Mel Chen, Gender and Women’s Studies

Ordinary Failures: Reciting Diaspora
Ianna Hawkins Owen, African American Studies

In the face of overdetermined failure, ranging from policy to philosophy, artists and writers of the black diaspora have chosen to depict, recite, and repeat intraracial failure in their work. My concern with these recitations are their capacity to racialize the interventions of Heather Love’s Feeling Backward to arrive at a place of critical, but not redemptive, exploration of black failure. What is failure and what does it do for those marked as backward people? Broadly, my project is interested in what theorizing black failure, as a kind of diasporic ethics, might reveal about the racial dimensions of success and failure. This talk pursues these interests through the memoirs of Paule Marshall, Saidiya Hartman, and Jamaica Kincaid. Each include moments of meeting and reunion between author and (m)other, engaging in acts of misrecognition and interpellation in pursuit of reparative diasporic aims such as recovery, forgiveness, and rememory that ultimately go unrealized, remain unsatisfied.
A Lover’s Scream: Latina Lesbian Desire, Queer Ethics, and the Mariachi-Punk of Las Cucas
Ivan Ramos, Performance Studies

This paper considers the possibility of lesbian desire as the starting ground for queer ethics through the work of mariachi-punk band Las Cucas, integrated by Nao Bustamante, Al Lujan, Marcia Ochoa and Devil Bunny. Following work by Monique Wittig, Lynn Huffer, and Juana María Rodríguez on the unwieldiness of lesbian desire, I explore the combination of the bolero and the punk scream as the site of queer desolation as ethical practice. Following the contours Nao Bustamante’s voice I linger on the promise of romantic dissolution as a site that has been often unexplored by queer theory and politics. By negotiating the space between the erotic and the abject, I argue, Las Cucas bridge the affective modalities of transnational Latinidad. I then turn toward Roland Barthes’ A Lover’s Discourse to place this performance within longer histories of longing and desire.

I propose that in the grain of Bustamante’s voice romantic bleakness, loneliness, and sorrow, function as a corrective to the felicitous subject of queer theory and Latina studies. I conclude by mining the history of other Latina punk screams and arguing that this sonic meeting, between bolero and punk, invites us to explore and reshape the grounds of queer theory through the lover’s desolation.

 

Movement from the Underground: Rerouting the Birth of Waacking/Punking
Naomi Bragin, Performance Studies

The improvisation-based dance styles of waacking and punking developed in gay underground disco clubs of 1970’s Los Angeles and were broadcast nationwide on Soul Train, the first black music and dance program and longest running show in TV history. Waacking often describes fast, rhythmic arm whipping that is a defining characteristic of the style, while punkin’ tends to focus on experimental movement behavior that incorporates elements of large locomotion, posing, melodramatic gesture, facial expression, and narrative. With almost all male progenitors passing during the early AIDS crisis, the dance culture was reborn in the 2000s into the competition-based global street dance arena. While vogue maintains a primary association with the LGBTQ-identified Ballroom World, contemporary punking and waacking are most widely practiced outside the United States, in the generally straight-identified hip hop/street dance scene.

I am exploring ideas for incorporating my research into documentary production and staged performance. This video interview with new generation waacker Princess Lockeroo accompanies the article “Techniques of black male re/dress,” published in the May 2014 Women & Performance special issue Critical intimacies: hip hop as queer feminist pedagogy. I argue that the ideas of woman, feminine and female that (widely nonblack and cisgender female) dancers are accessing and experiencing through the practices of punking and waacking, are made possible through the production of black masculinity, in the history and afterlife of slavery.