Pictured U of C's George Chauncey and Agnes Lugo-Ortiz. Photo by Tracy Baim
The University of Chicago's Lesbian & Gay Studies Project is hosting a one-day conference entitled Queer Latin(o/a) America: Diasporas and Histories. The May 15 event will bring together some of the most respected scholars in the fields of LGBT studies, race, immigration, and multiculturalism.
Coordinated by Professor Agnes Lugo-Ortiz of the Center for Gender Studies, the conference will be the first of its kind in Chicago. If successful, it could solidify inter-institutional ties and provide the basis for sustained collaboration among researchers of LGBT studies.
A specialist of 19th-century Latin American literature, Lugo-Ortiz joined the University of Chicago this year after nine years at Dartmouth. 'One of the things that attracted me to [U of C] was that I found that there was an emerging core of faculty interested in bringing together issues concerning sexuality, gender, class, and ethnicity,' she said. The advantages and opportunities of a large city with many academic and cultural institutions were also very attractive.
After consulting with her new colleagues, including Lesbian & Gay Studies Project Director George Chauncey, Lugo-Ortiz determined that there was indeed a need for a symposium and decided she would take on the task of organizing it. It has been a lot of work but she has put together an exciting and ambitious program. Local experts such as Lourdes Torres of DePaul University; Achy Obejas and Frances R. Aparicio of the University of Illinois at Chicago; and Dain Borges of the University of Chicago will share the billing with scholars and authors from New York, Colorado, California, and Puerto Rico.
Sylvia Molloy, professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at New York University, is considered a pioneer of gay and lesbian studies within Latin American studies. She is also an author in her own right and will discuss her two novels. Fluent in Spanish, French, and English, she is in the process of translating her latest book herself and will do a reading from it.
Chicana historian Emma Pérez from the University of Colorado at Boulder will speak on the topic of Chicano nationalism and its exclusion of women and gay people. Her book, The Decolonial Imaginary, illustrates the similarities between the Chicano experience and colonialism.
Sociologist Héctor Carrillo, who has looked at AIDS in Mexican migrant communities, will explore the complex relationship between gender identity and machismo.
He hails from the Center for AIDS Prevention Studies at the University of California San Francisco.
Rubén Ríos-Avila, an outspoken public intellectual from Puerto Rico University, will talk on issues of concern to both the gay community and society at large. He has a very popular television program on the island and his opinions are held in high regard.
Finally, Larry LaFountain-Stokes from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, is going to present his area of expertise: the use of sexuality and performance in the Puerto Rican community in New York. He will focus more specifically on the Gay Pride parade and the concept of negotiated performance. To finish the day in style, he is scheduled to put on a 'theatrical happening' at the closing.
While she is not sure this conference will become an annual event, Lugo-Ortiz believes the encounter can lead to a periodical conversation. Most of all, she hopes it will achieve two fundamental goals. The first one is to begin the process of pooling together 'a scholar community of queers of color,' in order to increase the visibility of lesbian and gay representation and foster the production of knowledge about LGBT issues. Secondly, she would like the exchange to build a bridge between the academic world and the broader LGBT community.
When asked about the composition of the prospective audience, she said she was looking forward to seeing 'anyone in the Chicago area who is interested in issues of sexuality and ethnicity and how they intersect ... . It's for people interested in issues of human dignity.'
The conference is free and open to the public. Amigas Latinas and the Association of Latino Men for Action (ALMA) are co-sponsors. It will run from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Saturday, May 15. Lunch will be provided. For more information, call the LGSP at (773) 834-4509.