Tag Archive | Josh Kun

Soundscapes of Narco Silence

Journalists Protest against rising violence during march in Mexico City, Courtesy of the Knight Foundation

Journalists protest in silent march in Mexico City, Courtesy of the Knight Foundation

Since the drug war began, the lives of approximately 95,000 people have been claimed, with an estimated total of 26,000 disappearances (“Continued Humanitarian Crisis at the Border” June 2013 Report). At the University of Texas, Pan American – an institution located 25 miles north of Reynosa, Mexico (a Mexican city that has been hard hit by drug violence in recent years) – I teach students who have been dramatically impacted by drug war violence.  Many have close relatives affected or hear horrific stories of those who have been kidnapped by the cartels; many fear traveling to Mexico to visit loved ones as a result and, in some cases, they report having relatives involved in the drug cartel business. Dinorah Guerra, psychotherapist and head of the Red Cross in Reynosa, describes the devastating psychological and physical toll: “There is a huge risk for people’s self esteem. They cannot speak about what they have seen or what they have heard. [They] lose [themselves] and lose [their] identity” (qtd. in Pehhaul 2010).

I name the space of the drug war and its resulting terror in the U.S.-Mexico border the “soundscape of narco silence.” This soundscape includes death and intimidation, from the brutal killings of news reporters by cartel members to the decapitation of citizen-activists who use online media to alert communities of narco checkpoints. It also consists of those powerful acts that call attention to silence as a tactic of terror. The Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, for instance, brought together tens of thousands of people in Mexico to speak out against drug violence through silent marches. Cultural productions, such as narcocorridos, or contemporary drug ballads that document the cross-border drug economy, also become part of the soundscape. The narcocorridos function as a powerful critical response to silence and fear because they enable those in Mexican society, as Jorge Castañeda, author of El Narco: La Guerra Falllida, explains, “to come to terms with the world around them, and drug violence is a big part of that world. The songs are born out of a traditional Mexican cynicism: This is our reality, we’ve gotten used to it” (Qtd. in Josh Kun 2010).

In this blog post, I focus on the role of U.S. Latina/o theater produced in the South Texas border region as it responds to the soundscape of narco silence. Building on David W. Samuels, Louis Meintjes, Ana Maria Ochoa, and Thomas Porcello’s definition of “soundscapes” in “Soundscapes: Towards a Sounded Anthropology” as “the material spaces of performance and ceremony that are used or constructed for the purpose of propagating sound” (330), I suggest that soundscapes of silence in theater function as material spaces of performance that focus the public’s attention on silence – with the intent of intervening in acts that propagate silence and fear. Soundscapes of narco silence are characterized not only by violence and terror, but by cultural productions that function as forms of critical resistance – those works that focus the publics’ attention on the economy of silence and fear that fuels the drug war, and in the process, enable communities to cope with narco violence.

Journalists Protest against rising violence during march in Mexico City

Journalists protest in silent march in Mexico City, Courtesy of the Knight Foundation

To closely listen to the soundscape of narco silence, I engage with the play script and production of Tanya Saracho’s play El Nogalar at South Texas College Theatre (STC) under the direction of Joel Jason Rodriguez in McAllen, Texas in June 2013. The play was first produced at the Goodman Theater in Chicago in April 2011, with a West Coast premiere at the Fountain Theater in Los Angeles in January 2012. I critically analyze the STC Theatre production’s incorporation of a multi-genre soundtrack that included narcocorridos, rancheras, and nortec (norteño + techno). I argue that this soundtrack focused audiences’ attention not only on the devastating effects of silence, but also the function of silence as a form of capital for those most excluded in society. I also offer a brief critical listening of the script’s rendering of silence through character dialogue and stage directions.

El Nogalar tells the story of an upper-class Mexican family comprised of three generations of women (Maité, Valeria, and Anita) whose land and home in the fictionalized estate of Los Nogales in Nuevo Leon, Mexico, and its adjacent nogalar (pecan orchard), are under threat by the maña (drug cartels) moving into the region. The play focuses on the women’s responses to the drug war economy as a result of their different relationships to home (both their estate and the space of Mexico). It also centers the experiences of Dunia, their maid, and López, a former field worker who now works for the maña.

STC Theater Production of El Nogalar. Photo Credit: Miguel Salazar

STC Theater Production of El Nogalar. Photo Credit: Miguel Salazar

Cecilia Ballí, in her article “Calderón’s War: The Gruesome Legacy of Mexico’s Antidrug Campaign,” explains the particular circumstances of marginalized men in this society: “The worst casualties of this ‘civil war’ were the estimated 7 million young men to whom society had closed all doors, leaving them the options of joining a drug gang or of enlisting in the military, both of which assured imprisonment of death” (January 2012, 48). With the characters López and Dunia, the play asks audiences then to listen to the impact of the drug war on the most vulnerable populations in Mexico and the US-Mexico border region.

The play script conveys how “narco silence” can be used by those who either seek to preserve traditional class hierarchies (the story of the matriarch Maité) or to survive and profit in the new drug economy (the story of López). “Narco silence,” a term coined by reporter Jonathan Gibler in his book To Die in Mexico, refers to “not the mere absence of talking, but rather the practice of not saying anything. You may talk as much as you like, as long as you avoid the facts. Newspaper headlines announce the daily death toll, but the articles will not tell you anything about who the dead were, who might have killed them or why. No detailed descriptions based on witness testimony. No investigation” (2011, 23). In an early exchange between López and Dunia, López defends “narco silence” as a strategy of survival:

STC Theater Production of El Nogalar. Photo Credit: Miguel Salazar

STC Theater Production of El Nogalar. Photo Credit: Miguel Salazar

DUNIA: Why are you the only one they leave alone, Memo?

LÓPEZ:….

DUNIA: All the men your age. Killed. Why Memo? (Beat).

LÓPEZ: Because I know when to keep my mouth shut which is not something I can say for you….

DUNIA: So that’s all it takes to be best of friends with the Maña? That doesn’t seem so hard to do? (American Theatre Magazine July/August 2011, 74).

Later in the play, Dunia, heeding López’s advice, offers a powerful observation of how “narco silence” enables her community to cope with death: “We all just walk around like we’re a movie on mute. You can see people’s mouths moving but all you hear is the static (my italics)” (American Theatre Magazine July/August 2011, 73-74).

The STC Theatre production enhanced the script’s soundscape of narco silence through its sound design, with a soundtrack that included rancheras, narcocorridos, norteño and nortec. This music provided audiences with a connection to the world of Los Nogales and captured each character’s process of coping with narco violence. For example, Maité’s soundtrack consists of several rancheras, such as Lola Beltran singing “Los Laureles” and Chavela Vargas’s powerful rendition of “Que te vaya Bonito.” Beltran’s “Los Laureles” – a cancion ranchera that includes Beltran’s powerful female vocals and mariachi orchestra instrumentation – invites audiences to hear Maité’s nostalgia and desire for an idealized Mexican society and her wish to preserve traditional class hierarchies.

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Vargas’s powerful rendition of “Que te vaya Bonito” captures Maite’s pain and suffering as she loses her home to the cartels.  In Vargas’s version of “Que te Vaya Bonito” – a song about love and abandonment – audiences hear Vargas’s choking and sobbing voice, accompanied by a single guitar.

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Vargas’s voice conveys, what Lorena Alvarado powerfully argues, is “the body’s dilemma between the hysteria of sobbing and the intelligibility of words, between resignation and retribution” (2010, 4). Vargas’s powerful singing also conveys, as Alvarado further describes, “un nudo en la garganta,” a common expression in Spanish that describes “the knot in the throat, when one cannot speak because words will not come out, but the desperate, or quiet, breath of tears” (Alvarado 2010, 5).

To sonically register the drug cartel economy and lifestyle underlying the “new” Los Nogales, the soundtrack also included narcocorridos. The first sounds we hear in the play are from the narcocorrido “El Carril Número Tres” – which includes two acoustic guitars and an electric bass – by Los Cuates de Sinaloa.

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“El Carril Número Tres” – tells the story of a secret “lane number three” that allows a Mexican drug lord to freely go back and forth between the US and Mexico because he makes a deal with the CIA and DEA. With this focus on the US government’s involvement in the drug trade, the song centers how silences north of the US-Mexico border have perpetuated drug violence.

The music also included nortec, with songs by the Mexican Institute of Sound, particularly the track “Mexico,” which is a critique of the Mexican government’s complicity with the narcos.

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With “Mexico,” audiences hear a fusion of norteño, electronic, and hip-hop with lyrics that use the symbols of Mexican national identity and culture to focus the public’s attention on violence and terror. With the lyrics “green like weed, white like cocaine, red your blood” (referencing the Mexican flag) and “at the sound of the roar of the cannon” (alluding to the national anthem), the song powerfully invokes the visual and sonic soundscape of violence that terrorize Mexican residents. With this charged critique of government corruption, “Mexico” momentarily interrupts the soundscape of narco silence rendered in the play script and rest of the soundtrack.

Ultimately, the production’s combination of rancheras, narcocorridos, and nortec captured the class tensions in Mexican society and emphasized the play’s critique of class structures that have enabled drug war violence to persist. With this range of music, the director explains he wanted to “maneuver between the [various] aspects of [the story]: the nostalgia, the corridos, the narcocorridos, and also this fusion of saying ‘we want something more,’ and so that was the whole aspect of it; the blending of the old, the new, and what the present is” (Interview with author July 2013).

The production also deliberately incorporated the sound of silence, particularly in the final scene. By the end, López buys the Los Nogales estate, thereby increasing his class status and social power. Saracho’s stage directions in this final moment indicate “an interpretive sound of trees falling. Now don’t go cueing chainsaws because it’s not literal. Just make me feel trees are falling. Along with the upper class” (87). The play’s reference to the staging of “an interpretive sound of trees falling” brings to mind the philosophical question: “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” We might then interpret the final sounds of El Nogalar as inviting audiences to listen attentively to the soundscape of narco silence, implicating audiences as social actors in the politics of the drug war that continue to devastate Mexican society.

Featured Image: Journalists Protest against rising violence during march in Mexico, Courtesy of the Knight Foundation

Marci R. McMahon received her Ph.D. from the University of Southern California with affiliations in the Department of American Studies and Ethnicity. She is an assistant professor at the University of Texas, Pan American, where she teaches Chicana/o literature and cultural studies, gender studies, and theater and performance in the Departments of English and Mexican American Studies. She is the author of  Domestic Negotiations: Gender, Nation, and Self-Fashioning in US Mexicana and Chicana Literature and Art published by Rutgers University Press’ Series Latinidad: Transnational Cultures in the United States (May 2013). Her essays on Chicana literature and cultural studies have been published in Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies; Chicana/Latina Studies: The Journal of MALCS; and Frontiers: A Journal of Women’s Studies. Her second book project, Sounding Latina/o Studies: Staging Listening in US Latina/o Theater explores how contemporary Latina/o drama uses vocal bodies and sound to engage audiences with recurring debates about nationhood, immigration, and gender.


tape reel

REWIND! . . .If you liked this post, you may also dig:

Listening to the Border: “’2487’: Giving Voice in Diaspora” and the Sound Art of Luz María Sánchez–D. Ines Casillas

Quebec’s #casseroles: on participation, percussion and protest–Jonathan Sterne

Deejaying her Listening: Learning through Life Stories of Human Rights Violations– Emmanuelle Sonntag and Bronwen Low

Sound at ASA 2012

ASA Caucus Flyer

This year, #ASA2012 is being held in San Juan, Puerto Rico at the Puerto Rico Convention Center from November 15-18.  San Juan provides a historic opportunity for the interdisciplinary scholars working under the banner of “American Studies” to ponder the theme, “Dimensions of Empire and Resistance: Past, Present, and Future,” from a site that has been an “unincorporated territory” of the United States since it was seized from Spain (its former imperial occupiers) after the Spanish American War in 1898.  According to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Insular Cases an “unincorporated territory” is “a territory appurtenant and belonging to the United States, but not a part of the United States.” Puerto Ricans have been citizens of the United States since 1917, despite not having voting representatives in Washington D.C. and being unable to vote in mainland presidential elections.  Just a few days ago, Puerto Ricans voted on yet another referendum to become a state—there have been 3 such votes, one in 1967, 1993, and 1998, but this is the first where statehood won a majority of the votes—an issue that both U.S. presidential candidates were all but silent on in their recent campaigns.  This vote suggests a sea change in Puerto Rican-U.S. relations–what an exciting time to hold ASA in San Juan!–and I’d also like to think this particular meeting portends an exciting shift in sound studies as well.

For one thing, sound studies scholars in particular will be discussing power and imperialism loudly and clearly at this meeting. Sounding Out!’s Managing Editor, Liana Silva, will be participating in a roundtable at 8:00 a.m Sunday morning entitled “Doing Disciplinarity: Puerto Rican Studies is/as/with American Studies” where she, along with Marta S. Rivera Monclova (Framingham State College), Leonardo L. Flores Feliciano (University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez), and Sara Poggio (University of Maryland, Baltimore County) will discuss the fraught relationship between the two fields of study, particularly in relation to America’s imperial history.

And then, the fully signed-sealed-and delivered ASA Sound Studies Caucus hosts two official panels that explicitly consider the politics of sound and listening.  The first is on on Friday from 4:00-5:45: Resisting Silences: Re-sounding Race, Gender, and Empire” chaired by Sherrie Tucker (University of Kansas) and featuring the research of Marci McMahon (University of Texas, Pan American), Genevieve Yue (University of Southern California and yours truly, Jennifer Stoever-Ackerman (SUNY Binghamton); and the second on Saturday from 4:00-5:45: “Sound and the State: The Politics of Acoustic Power” chaired by Jonathan Sterne (McGill University) and featuring the research of David Suisman (University of Delaware) and Peter Tschirhart (University of Virginia) with a comment by Mara Mills (New York University).   From the racial dynamics of postwar New York City’s noise laws to “Noise Exposure Maps,” Sonic Booms to the technics of female silence, ASA’s sound studies scholars continue the sociopolitical interventions of last year’s “Sound Clash: Listening to America Studies” special issue of American Quarterly.  This issue, edited by Josh Kun and Kara Keeling, explicitly focused on issues of race, gender, class sexuality, and nation (by the way, if you misplaced your copy, Johns Hopkins press has just released the issue in book volume form).

The Sound Studies Caucus also continues its very important organizational role this year by bringing scholars together for its second annual Sound Studies Caucus Meet-and-Greet, which will be co-hosted by none other than Sounding Out! !!! We have been thrilled to work with co-organizers Inés Casillas (UCSB), Roshanak Kheshti (UCSD) and Deb Vargas (UCR) to plan a get together at the District Bar of the nearby Sheraton (200 Convention Way, 787-993-3500, Map) where we will solicit volunteers and chat about the activities of the caucus this year and next.  Sounding Out! will be officially welcoming the members of its new advisory board at the meet-and-greet, as well as sharing details about current and future Calls for Posts, and pumping up the crowd for what’s ahead in the blog for 2013.  If you are in San Juan for the conference, please join us!

“Grupo Mania and My Puerto Rican Flag,” by Flickr User Photo Prodigy

Overall, while sound studies work is somewhat lighter than in years past—a trend I also noted at the Society for Cinema and Media Studies meeting earlier this year—the research on sound, listening, and aurality at this year’s #ASA2012 is, more than ever before, focused on questions of race, gender, and sexuality in ways that, as Keeling and Kun stated in their introduction to Sound Clash: “can enable an interdisciplinary American studies in which knowledges and insights that have not been perceptible to our dominant intellectual paradigms might be heard or heard anew” (453).  I am particularly enthused about what promises to be excellent new research in African American Studies—especially the panels “Ask Your Mama: The Sound(ed) Poetics and Politics of Black Feminist Internationalism” (Saturday, 12:00-1:45) andBlackness and the Sacred Performative” (Thursday 4:00-5:45, featuring SO! writer Ashon Crawley [Duke]—and Chican@/Latino Studies—notably roundtables on The Talking Cure for Empire? Oral History and Testimonio in the Twenty-first Century” (Friday, 10:00-11:45) and “Subjectivity and Sound: Rethinking Genre in Chicano/a Music” (Friday, 2:00-3:45).  There are also multiple panels that elicit transnational conversations about audio culture—Resisting Silences: Re-sounding Race, Gender, and Empire” (Friday 4:00-5:45) and “Jazz and the Voices of Empire and Resistance” in particular (Saturday, 10:00-11:45)—and enable transmedia comparisons—especially “Terrains of Modernity, Aural Research, and Critique” (Sunday, 2:00-3:45).

Whereas the downturn in sound studies work at SCMS 2012 was due primarily to a scheduling snafu—doublebooked with the 2012 EMP—I think the ASA’s is perhaps due to the beginnings of a sea change (a new wave?)  in sound studies.  It is certainly not attributable to a lack of interest or scholarship—the emails I get for Sounding Out! alone can attest to growing numbers of truly enthusiastic scholars working on sound and listening—therefore, I put forth that sound studies is entering a moment of reflection. It is no longer enough to breathlessly sound out new sonic terrain; we are moving beyond the period when sound alone could be the binding theme in a conference panel.  The work is getting more nuanced, robust sub-fields are developing—voice studies, for example—vocabularies are becoming shared, and more than ever, scholars are engaging with each other’s work on a deeper level, complicating and texturing the just-established histories, narratives, and canons of the field. Whereas Michele Hilmes’s foundational 2005 review essay in American Quarterly “Is there a Thing Called Sound Culture Studies? And Does it Matter?” noted that “various venues of academic work on sound phenomena so rarely speak to or take heed of each other” (252), I noted no fewer than twelve sound-related roundtables at #ASA2012 where scholars will be doing the difficult-but-rewarding work of acknowledging conflicts, hashing out shared interests, and forging what comes next.  Please take good notes, sound studies folks, because ASA has enacted an official ban on recording:

The papers and commentaries presented during this meeting are intended solely for the hearing of those present and should not be tape-recorded, copied, or otherwise reproduced without the consent of the authors. Recording, copying, or reproducing a paper/presentation without the consent of the author(s) may be a violation of common law copyright and may result in legal difficulties for the person recording, copying, or reproducing (ASA Program PDF, 17).

Unfortunately, this means that the 2012 sound roundtables will be one-time-only, be-there-or-be-square affairs.  But as we know from so much research in our vibrant field, even while the vocal grains and tones will fade away into the air of San Juan, these unscripted scholarly performances can’t help but have lasting reverberations.

The Liner Notes for the ASA Sound Studies Caucus “Cassette” Flyer.  This and Featured Image by Frank Bridges, fbridges@eden.rutgers.edu

Scroll down for the sound-related conference listings.  For the virtual experience, look for my live tweets via our Facebook and Twitter pages, Liana Silva’s live tweets (@literarychica) or on the official ASA backchannel: #ASA2012. Please comment to let SO! know what you think–both before and after ASA 2012.  Finally, If I somehow missed you or your panel in this round up, please let me know!: jsa@soundingoutblog.com

Jennifer Stoever-Ackerman is co-founder, Editor-in-Chief and Guest Posts Editor for Sounding Out! She is also Assistant Professor of English at Binghamton University and a former Fellow at the Society for the Humanities at Cornell University (2011-2012).

Jump to THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 15, 2012
Jump to FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2012
Jump to SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2012
Jump to SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 2012

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THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 15, 2012

THURSDAY, November 15, 2012

10:00 am – 11:45 am

 

007. Crimson and Clover: Hope and Dread in the Musical Countercultures of the 1960s

 Puerto Rico Convention Center 102C

CHAIR:  Eric Avila, University of California, Los Angeles (CA)

PAPERS: Rachel Rubin, University of Massachusetts, Boston (MA), “I Think That Maybe I’m Dreaming: Music, Counterculture, and the Renaissance Pleasure Faire”

Andrew Green Hannon, Yale University (CT), “Huey Digs Bob Dylan: The Black Panthers, Highway 61 Revisited, and Making Revolutionary Meaning”

Jeffrey Melnick, University of Massachusetts, Boston (MA), “The Ballad of Terry Melcher: Famous and Rising Sons in the LA Counterculture”

Will Spires, Santa Rosa Junior College (CA), “The Musical Holdouts of Colby Street: Formation and Legacy of an Old Time Music Community”

COMMENT:  Eric Avila, University of California, Los Angeles (CA)

INDIVIDUAL PAPERS:

Shane Vogel, Indiana University–Bloomington (IN), “Being a Fad: Black Performance and the Calypso Craze,” Puerto Rico Convention Center 104A

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12:00 pm – 1:45 pm

031. Invisible Structures and the Experience of Music

 Puerto Rico Convention Center 103B

 CHAIR:  Lisa Brawley, Vassar College (NY)

PAPERS: Carlo Rotella, Boston College (MA), “The Home of the Blues”

Eric Weisbard, University of Alabama, Birmingham (AL), “Structuring the Eclectic: Radio and Entertainment Formats (Not Genres)”

 Hua Hsu, Vassar College (NY), “Sounds of Confusion: H. T. Tsiang and Ruth Crawford Seeger’s Protest Music”

COMMENT:  Lisa Brawley, Vassar College (NY)

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 037. Blogging as Public Pedagogy: A Roundtable with GayProf, Historiann, Roxie, and Tenured Radical

Puerto Rico Convention Center 202B

CHAIR:  Martha Nell Smith, University of Maryland, College Park (MD)

PANELISTS:  Marilee Lindemann, University of Maryland, College Park (MD)

Ann Little, Colorado State University (CO)

 Anthony Mora, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (MI)

Claire Bond Potter, New School University (NY)

Martha Nell Smith, University of Maryland, College Park (MD)

 

INDIVIDUAL PAPERS:

Jack Hamilton, Harvard University (MA), “House Burning Down: Jimi Hendrix, Race, and the Limits of Sixties Music,” Puerto Rico Convention Center 104A

Mecca Jamilah Sullivan, University of Pennsylvania (PA), “Feeling Colors and Seeing Speech: Black Women’s Choreopoetic Diasporas of Difference,” Puerto Rico Convention Center 209C

 

2:00 pm – 3:45 pm

INDIVIDUAL PAPERS:

Nadja Millner-Larsen, “Black Synaesthesia: The Anarcho-Aesthetics of Black Mask,” Puerto Rico Convention Center 104B

Mary Beltrán, University of Texas, Austin (TX), “Blacking Up for Laughs: Televisual Blackface and ‘Post-Racial’ Cultural Memory,” Puerto Rico Convention Center 208B

 

 4:00 pm – 5:45 pm

 077. Blackness and the Sacred Performative

 Puerto Rico Convention Center 104A

CHAIR:  Michelle D. Commander, University of Tennessee, Knoxville (TN)

PAPERS: Amey Victoria Adkins, Duke University (NC), “‘Ain’t I A Woman’: Black Madonnas, Mammys, and the Performative Aesthetics of Darkness”

 Ashon Crawley, Duke University (NC), “Breathing Towards Lynching Critique: Whooping in Black Pentecostal Praying and Preaching”

 Terrion L. Williamson, Michigan State University (MI), “Black Sacred Dance and the Reverberations of Christian Sexuality”

COMMENT:  Johari Jabir, University of Illinois, Chicago (IL)

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INDIVIDUAL PAPERS:

Molly McGlennen, Vassar College (NY), “Re-imagining “Domestic Dependency”: The Transnational Motivations of Rebecca Belmore’s Sound Performances,” Puerto Rico Convention Center 209C

 

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Memorial to Salsa Composer Catalino (Tite) Curet Alonso (1926-2003) in the Plaza de Armas, Image by Flickr User roger4336

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FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2012

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2012

8:00 am – 9:45 am

 105. Mixtape Logics: Listening to Empire and Resistance

Puerto Rico Convention Center 104B

CHAIR: Matthew Carrillo-Vincent, University of Southern California (CA)

PANELISTS: Priya Jha, University of Redlands (CA)

Van Truong, Yale University (CT)

Chris Nielsen, University of Pittsburgh (PA)

COMMENT: Joshua Guild, Princeton University (NJ)

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108. Caucus: Digital Humanities: What Can the Digital Humanities Bring to American Studies, and Vice Versa?

Puerto Rico Convention Center 202A

CHAIR: Susan Garfinkel, Library of Congress (DC)

PANELISTS: Natalia Cecire, Yale University (CT)

Alex Gil, University of Virginia (VA)

Matthew K. Gold, City University of New York, Graduate School (NY)

Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Modern Language Association (NY)

Lauren Klein, Georgia Institute of Technology (GA)

Miriam Posner, University of California, Los Angeles (CA)

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117. Performance as Power and Critique: Social Change in African Diasporic Performance

Puerto Rico Convention Center 208C

CHAIR: Jennifer Devere Brody, Stanford University (CA)

PAPERS: Tisha Brooks, Tufts University (MA) ,“Performing Power and Privilege: The Spiritual Itinerant Practice of Amanda Berry Smith”

Shanesha R. F. Brooks-Tatum, Interdenominational Theological Center (GA), “Sonic Bridges: Conversion Narratives in Diasporic Christian Hip-Hop Performance”

Tanya Saunders, Lehigh University (PA), “Global Hip Hop, Black Feminism, and the Queer of Color Critique: An Analysis of Women-Centered Arts-Based Activism in Cuba and Brazil”

Lori Lynne Brooks, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (MI), “It’s Empire Time!: Black Popular Performance and the Temporality of Imperialism”

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10:00 am – 11:45 am

125. The Talking Cure for Empire? Oral History and Testimonio in the Twenty-first Century

Puerto Rico Convention Center 102B

CHAIR: Theresa Delgadillo, Ohio State University, Columbus (OH)

PANELISTS: Tami Albin, University of Kansas (KS)

Maylei Blackwell, University of California, Los Angeles (CA)

Thuy Vo Dang, University of California, Irvine (CA)

Theresa Delgadillo, Ohio State University, Columbus (OH)

Linda Garcia Merchant, Artist

Joseph Rodríguez, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee (WI)

Sonia Saldívar-Hull, University of Texas, San Antonio (TX)

Janet Weaver, University of Iowa (IA)

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127. ASA Program Committee: Dimensions of Empire and Resistance: Speculation, Futurity, New Materialisms

Puerto Rico Convention Center 103A

CHAIR: Tavia Nyong’o, New York University (NY)

PANELISTS: Jayna Brown, University of California, Riverside (CA)

Tavia Nyong’o, New York University (NY)

Dana Luciano, Georgetown University (DC)

José Esteban Muñoz, New York University (NY)

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131. Caucus: Science and Technology: What is the Future of Technology in American Studies?: A Roundtable

Puerto Rico Convention Center 104C

CHAIR: Jason Weems, University of California, Riverside (CA)

PANELISTS: Carolyn de la Pena, University of California, Davis (CA)

Lisa Nakamura, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (IL)

Joshua Shannon, University of Maryland, College Park (MD)

Elena Razlogova, Concordia University (Canada)

Joel Dinerstein, Tulane University (LA)

COMMENT: Jason Weems, University of California, Riverside (CA)

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133. Caucus: Digital Humanities: Digital Shorts: New Platforms of Knowledge Production and Resistance

Puerto Rico Convention Center 202A

CHAIR: A. Joan Saab, University of Rochester (NY)

PANELISTS: Susan Smulyan, Brown University (RI)

Stewart Varner, Emory University (GA)

A. Joan Saab, University of Rochester (NY)

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INDIVIDUAL PAPERS

Thomas George Sowders, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge (LA), Puerto Rico Convention Center 208C, “Martin Delany’s Sonic Transnationalism: Genres of Poetry and Sound in Blake; or, the Huts of America

 12:00 pm – 1:45 pm

146. Ask Your Mama: The Sound(ed) Poetics and Politics of Black Feminist Internationalism

Puerto Rico Convention Center 101A

CHAIR: Farah Griffin, Columbia University (NY)

PAPERS: Daphne Ann Brooks, Princeton University (NJ), “‘A Woman is a Sometime Thing’: Leontyne and Sarah’s Sonic Temporalities’

Salamishah Tillet, University of Pennsylvania (PA), “Hush and Listen: Mama Africa and Nina Simone’s Global Civil Rights Sound”

Imani Perry, Princeton University (NJ), “Sounding Like a Movement: The Advance of Miriam Makeba’s Retreat Song”

COMMENT: Farah Griffin, Columbia University (NY)

12:00 pm – 1:45 pm

168. Business Meeting of the Digital Humanities Caucus

Puerto Rico Convention Center Foyer A

 

2:00 pm – 3:45 pm

 182. ASA Committee on Graduate Education: Digital Dimensions of Graduate Education in American Studies (co-sponsored by the Digital Humanities Caucus and ASA Students’ Committee)

Puerto Rico Convention Center 202A

CHAIR: Robert W. Snyder, Rutgers University, Newark (NJ)

PANELISTS: Clarissa J. Ceglio, Brown University (RI)

Douglas Lambert, State University of New York, Buffalo (NY)

Sharon Leon, George Mason University (VA)

John Carlos Rowe, University of Southern California (CA)

Stephen Brier, City University of New York, Graduate School (NY)

 

187. Subjectivity and Sound: Rethinking Genre in Chicano/a Music

Puerto Rico Convention Center 208A

CHAIR: Tyina Steptoe, University of Washington, Seattle (WA)

PANELISTS: Anthony Macias, University of California, Riverside (CA)

Marie Miranda, University of Texas, San Antonio (TX)

Michelle Habell-Pallan, University of Washington, Seattle (WA)

INDIVIDUAL PAPERS

Marisol Negrón, University of Massachusetts, Boston (MA) “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Fania Records, Intellectual Property Rights, and Royalties,” Puerto Rico Convention Center 104B

Isabel Porras, University of California, Davis (CA) “Hypersexual and Excessive: Carmen Miranda and Sofia Vergara and Performing Latinidad,” Puerto Rico Convention Center 203

4:00 pm – 5:45 pm

208. Caucus: Sound Studies: Resisting Silences: Re-sounding Race, Gender, and Empire

Puerto Rico Convention Center 204

CHAIR: Sherrie Tucker, University of Kansas (KS)

PAPERS: Marci McMahon, University of Texas, Pan American (TX), “Tanya Saracho’s El Nogalar: Staging Soundscapes of Silence and Imperialism”

Genevieve Yue, University of Southern California (CA), “Technics of Female Silence”

Jennifer Lynn Stoever-Ackerman, State University of New York, Binghamton (NY), “‘Just Be Quiet Pu-leeze’: New York’s Black Press Fights the Postwar ‘Campaign Against Noise’

COMMENT: Sherrie Tucker, University of Kansas (KS)

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213. I’m a MuthaFking Monster: Alter Egos, New Media, and Black/Queer Performativity

Puerto Rico Convention Center 209B

CHAIR: Gabriel Peoples, University of Maryland, College Park (MD)

PAPERS: Treva Lindsey, University of Missouri, Columbia (MO), “I Am… Sasha Fierce: Resistive Alterity and African American Respectability Politics”

Uri McMillan, University of California, Los Angeles (CA), “Gone Campin’: The Campy Paradox of Nicki Minaj”

Kismet Nunez / Jessica Marie Johnson, University of Maryland, College Park (MD), “On Alter Egos and Infinite Literacies, Part 2 (An #AntiJemimas Imperative)”

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INDIVIDUAL PAPERS:

Omi/Joni Jones, University of Texas, Austin (TX); Sharon Bridgforth, DePaul University (IL), “Conjuring Jazz”

Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián, San Juan, Puerto Rico, by Flickr User Jorge Rodriquez

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SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2012

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 2012

 8:00 am – 9:45 am

237. Empires of Funk: U.S. Colonialism, Filipina/o Resistance, and Hip Hop

Puerto Rico Convention Center 202A

CHAIR: Victor Hugo Viesca, California State University, Los Angeles (CA)

PAPERS: Mark Villegas, University of California, Irvine (CA), “From Indios to Morenos: Exploring the Poetics and Memory of Postcolonial Racial Positioning”

Lorenzo Perillo, University of California, Los Angeles (CA), “Maganda at Malakas: Gendered Choreographies in Manila”

Roderick Labrador, University of Hawai‘i, Manoa, (HI) “Agitation Propaganda: Toward a Filipina/o Revolutionary Internationalism”

COMMENT: Brian Chung, University of Notre Dame (IN)

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242. Aesthetics in the Belly of the Beast: Reading American Carceral Art

Puerto Rico Convention Center 208A

CHAIR: Doran Larson, Hamilton College (NY)

PAPERS: Alessandro Porco, State University of New York, Buffalo (NY), “The ‘And’ After Every Sentence: Hip-Hop, Incarceration, and Creativity”

Imani Kai Johnson, New York University (NY), “B-Boying Behind Bars: A Profile of Batch from The Bronx Boys Rocking Crew”

Marcella Runell Hall, New York University (NY), “Assessment Data on ‘Lyrics from Lockdown,’”

COMMENT: Doran Larson, Hamilton College (NY)

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INDIVIDUAL PAPERS:

Sarah Perkins, Stanford University (CA), “‘Bound to trabble’: The Circulation of ‘Dixie,’ 1880–1910,” Puerto Rico Convention Center 201A

 Nicholas Bauch, California State University, Los Angeles (CA), “Practicing Geography Through Art Performance: Urban Interventions and the Renaissance of the Vernacular,” Puerto Rico Convention Center 209B

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10:00 am – 11:45 am

263. ASA Program Committee: Dimensions of Empire and Resistance: Language Ideologies, Spanish in the U.S., and Latinidad

Puerto Rico Convention Center 202B

CHAIR: Ana Celia Zentella, University of California, San Diego (CA)

PAPERS: Lourdes Maria Torres, DePaul University (IL), “Spanish in Chicago: Dialects in Contact”

Jonathan Daniel Rosa, University of Massachusetts, Amherst (MA), “Racializing Language, Regimenting Latinidad:Latina/o Ethnolinguistic Emblems in Diasporic Perspective”

Lillian Gorman, University of Illinois, Chicago (IL). “The (New) Mexican Familia: Ethnolinguistic Contact Zones in Northern New Mexico”

COMMENT: Ana Celia Zentella, University of California, San Diego (CA)

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12:00 pm – 1:45 pm

278. Black Independent Cinema Before and After Pariah

Puerto Rico Convention Center 101B

CHAIR: Kara Keeling, University of Southern California (CA)

PANELISTS: Jennifer DeClue, University of Southern California (CA)

Yvonne Welbon, Bennett College (NC)

Jacqueline Najuma Stewart, Northwestern University (IL)

Roya Z. Rastegar, University of California, Los Angeles (CA)

Kara Keeling, University of Southern California (CA)

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287. West Side Story: A Roundtable Discussion

Puerto Rico Convention Center 202A

CHAIR: Julia Foulkes, New School University (NY)

PANELISTS: Julia Foulkes, New School University (NY)

Alberto Sandoval-Sánchez, Mount Holyoke College (MA)

Deborah Paredez, University of Texas, Austin (TX)

Elizabeth Wells, Mt. Allison University (Canada)

Brian Eugenio Herrera, Princeton University (NJ)

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INDIVIDUAL PAPERS:

Rashida K. Braggs, Williams College (MA), “From Limited to Alternate Citizenship: How Image and Song Perform Historical Resistance in Bayou,” Puerto Rico Convention Center 208A

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2:00 pm – 3:45 pm

2nd Annual Sound Studies Meet and Greet! Co-Sponsored by the ASA Sound Studies Caucus and Sounding Out!: The Sound Studies Blog

The District Bar
SHERATON PUERTO RICO HOTEL & CASINO
200 Convention Center Boulevard, San Juan, PR 00907
Cash Bar
Appetizers! Drink Specials! VIP area!

303. Musical Movements

Puerto Rico Convention Center 102B

CHAIR: Ulrich Adelt, University of Wyoming (WY)

PAPERS: John Cline, University of Texas, Austin (TX), “Familiar Islands: The U.S., the Bahamas, and the Permeable Boundaries of ‘Folk’ Music”

Mikiko Tachi, Chiba University (Japan), “Folk Music and the Racial Imaginary in the U.S. and Japan”

Shana Goldin-Perschbacher, Stanford University (CA), “‘I need another world’: Queer Singer-Songwriters in Transnational Collaboration Post-9/11”

COMMENT: Ulrich Adelt, University of Wyoming (WY)

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314. Re-thinking Red, Yellow, Black, and Chicana/o Power through Oral History

Puerto Rico Convention Center 204

CHAIR: Rhonda Williams, Case Western Reserve University(OH)

PAPERS: Lorena Oropeza, University of California, Davis (CA), “He Said, She Said, But Who’s Right?: Oral History Unlocks Anti-Colonialism in 1960s New Mexico”

May Fu, University of San Diego (CA), “Oral History and the Asian American Radical Tradition”

Elizabeth Castle, University of South Dakota (SD), “Talking Back: Native Women’s Oral Histories in the Red Power Movement”

Lauren Araiza, Denison University (OH), “Oral Histories and Multiracial Coalitions in the UFW and the Black Freedom Struggle”

COMMENT: Rhonda Williams, Case Western Reserve University, (OH)

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INDIVIDUAL PAPERS

Rachel Donaldson, Vanderbilt University (TN), “Seeking the ‘Sensual’  and the ‘Significant’: Alan Lomax in Haiti”

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4:00 pm – 5:45 pm

325. Chavela Vargas, La Bamba, and Morrissey: Mapping Queer Musical Diasporas and Desires

Puerto Rico Convention Center 102A

CHAIR: Stacy Macias, University of Texas, Austin (TX)

PAPERS: J. Frank Galarte, University of Arizona (AZ), “‘Que soy muy canalla dice la gente’: The Pleasure of Queer Love, Desire, and Dolor in Chavela Vargas’ Repertoire”

Micaela Díaz-Sánchez, Mount Holyoke College (MA), “Yo también quiero bailar la bamba”: The Policing of Gender in the Chicana/o Son Jarocho Diaspora”

Melissa Hidalgo, Pitzer College (CA), “Complicated Colonial Legacies: Mapping the Queer Chicano Contours of Morrissey’s Los Angeles Fanscape in “Gay Vatos in Love”

COMMENT: Stacy Macias, University of Texas, Austin (TX)

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326. Marginal Digital Knowledges: A Workshop on Technology, Transformation, and Resistance

Puerto Rico Convention Center 102B

CHAIR: Tara McPherson, University of Southern California (CA)

PANELISTS: Simone A. Browne, University of Texas, Austin (TX)

Fiona Barnett, Duke University (NC)

Amanda Phillips, University of California, Santa Barbara (CA)

Tanner Higgin, University of California, Riverside (CA)

Moya Bailey, Emory University (GA)

Alexis Lothian, Indiana University of Pennsylvania (PA)

 

327. Caucus: Sound Studies: Sound and the State: The Politics of Acoustic Power

Puerto Rico Convention Center 102C

CHAIR: Jonathan Sterne, McGill University (Canada)

PAPERS: David Suisman, University of Delaware (DE), “Shock Wave Politics: The Battle Over Sonic Booms”

Peter Tschirhart, University of Virginia (VA), “Part 150 ‘Noise Exposure Maps’ and the Closing of the Acoustic Commons”

COMMENT: Mara Mills, New York University (NY)

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329. Between Island and Diaspora: Locating, Creating, and Performing Afro–Puerto Rican Bomba

Puerto Rico Convention Center 104A

MODERATOR: Tamara Roberts, University of California, Berkeley (CA)

This roundtable brings together bomba practitioners, cultural workers, and scholars from Puerto Rico and California. Rafael Maya and Pablo Luis Rivera will discuss their work as the founders of Proyecto Unión and Restauración Cultural. Sarazeta Ragazzi, Tamara Roberts, and Denise Solis will detail their work in the all-women’s performance ensemble Las Bomberas de la Bahia (San Francisco Bay Area). And Jade Power Sotomayor will extend the discussion of cross-cultural connections byconsidering the large Chicano participation in the form in the U.S., underscoring the ways that Latinidad and more specifically, Afro-Latinidad are corporeally articulated through this embodied practice.

Congas, Image courtesy of Flickr User Richard Alexander Caraballo

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SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 2012

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 2012

8:00 am – 9:45 am

 365. Doing Disciplinarity: Puerto Rican Studies is/as/withAmerican Studies

Puerto Rico Convention Center 204

CHAIR: Marta S. Rivera Monclova, Framingham State College (MA)

PANELISTS: Marta S. Rivera Monclova, Framingham State College (MA)

Liana Marie Silva, State University of New York, Binghamton (NY)

Leonardo L. Flores Feliciano, University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez (PR)

Sara Poggio, University of Maryland, Baltimore County (MD)

 

INDIVIDUAL PAPERS

Nadia Ellis, University of California, Berkeley (CA), “Dancehall’s Urban Possessions,” Puerto Rico Convention Center 101A

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10:00 am – 11:45 am

377. Jazz and the Voices of Empire and Resistance

Puerto Rico Convention Center 102A

CHAIR: John Gennari, University of Vermont (VT)

PAPERS: Daniel Stein, University of Goettingen (Germany), “Onkel Satchmo Behind the Iron Curtain: The Politics of Louis Armstrong’s Visit to East Germany”

Elliott H. Powell, New York University (NY), “Solidarity in Sound: John Coltrane, Indian Music, and Global Freedom Struggles”

Matthew B. Karush, George Mason University (VA), “Transnational Routes: Argentine Encounters with Jazz, 1959–1972”

COMMENT: John Gennari, University of Vermont (VT)

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INDIVIDUAL PAPERS:

Daphne Lamothe, Smith College (MA), “Trauma, Silence, and the Language of Resistance in Danticat’s Brother, I’m Dying”

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12:00 pm – 1:45 pm

INDIVIDUAL PAPERS:

 Imani D. Owens, Columbia University (NY), “The Politics of Sound: Race, Space, and Cuban Identity in the Poetry of Nicolás Guillén,” Puerto Rico Convention Center 209A

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2:00 pm – 3:45 pm

420. Terrains of Modernity, Aural Research, and Critique

Puerto Rico Convention Center 104C

CHAIR: Michele Hilmes, University of Wisconsin, Madison (WI)

PAPERS: Art Blake, Ryerson University (Canada), “John Cage’s Voice and New York’s Postwar Urban Sensorium”

Derek Vaillant, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (MI), “The Power of Piaf: Racial Formation and Nostalgia in Postwar U.S.-France Aural Culture”

Jason Loviglio, University of Maryland, Baltimore County (MD), “Radio Localism 2.0”

Benjamin Aslinger, Bentley College (MA), “Listening In to Web 2.0: Subjectivity, Alterity, and Power”

COMMENT: Michele Hilmes, University of Wisconsin, Madison (WI)

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423. Los Nombres: Puerto Rican Popular Music in Lorain, Ohio

Puerto Rico Convention Center 202C

CHAIR: Petra R. Rivera-Rideau, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (VA)

PANELISTS: Petra R. Rivera-Rideau, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (VA)

Eugene Rivera, Jr., Independent Scholar

José Pepe Rivera, Sr., Artist

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INDIVIDUAL PAPERS:

Mike Amezcua, Northwestern University (IL), “Brown Bop: Mexican American Jazzmen, Race, and the Quest for a Transnational Jazz Movement”

San Juan, Puerto Rico, Image courtesy of Ricymar Fine Art Photography

Sound and Curation; or, Cruisin’ through the galleries, posing as an audiophiliac

“L.A. Reimagined” by Dalila Paola Mendez (c), Mendez’ work will be featured in re:present LA, opening 5/3/12

 But to love this turf is love hard and unrequited.

To love L.A. is to love more than a city

It’s to love a language.

–“L.A. Love Cry” (1996) by Wanda Coleman

Los Angeles, an enigmatic metropolis to many who arrive here with a dream in hand and hope for a better tomorrow, still challenges historians, artists, and troubadours on how to best represent it. Poet Wanda Coleman, born in Watts, captures the pain and wonder of loving this city in “L.A. Love Cry.” Because the city is “hard and unrequited” one must also be willing to love its nuances and see it  as“more than a city.” To love this city, “it’s to love a language,” a cultural immersion that goes beyond the seeming ease of words into the complexities of sound and rhythm.

Through a Museum Studies course I teach at Claremont Graduate University entitled Welcome to L.A., I introduce students to varied texts in which scholars and artists challenge the imaginaries created by outsiders, boosters, and apocalyptic cinema. Instead, the course readings present how we in L.A. actively engage with one another by fostering communities of creative praxis. For the students’ final project, they curate and develop educational programming for an exhibition at a local museum or art center. On May 3, 2012, this semester’s project, re : present L.A., opens at the newly-renovated Vincent Price Art Museum (VPAM) located on the East Los Angeles College Campus. Showing works from over thirty artists from May 3-July 27,  re : present L.A serves as an extension of the conversations we had in class, not only celebrating the interconnectedness of our communities but encouraging new associations and encounters within  the visual and resonant space of VPAM’s Community Focus Gallery.  For a look at the Virtual Exhibit Catalogue, click here.

In each exhibition for Welcome to L.A., I try to include something that challenges myself to think outside the white-box, per se, of the gallery.  Given that we had read several texts that highlighted in the importance of music to build and uplift communities of color in Los Angeles, it  was both important and necessary for me to include sonic elements in re: present LA that exhibits L.A.s vibrant musical legacy as intermingled with and fundamental to its visual culture. Among the challenges to document the cross-cultural connections between ethnic communities in Los Angeles is how to unpack what Anthony Macias calls “the cultural networks” that facilitated these exchanges through the music scenes at music halls, clubs, youth centers and record stores in Mexican American Mojo (10-11). Studies done by George Lipsitz, Macias, and Victor Viesca, provide readers a means to understand how the music in Los Angeles is much more than entertainment; it is political; it is a lifestyle; it defines spaces of multicultural interactions. In How Racism Takes Place, Lipsitz points out how integral the reclamation of space defined the political outlook and music in Horace Tapscott’s Arkestra based in South L.A. Viesca’s research documents the rise of an East L.A. rock sound, post-Los Lobos, that was defined by the activism of the Zapatista Movement and California’s Prop 187 through the work done at the Peace & Justice Center, Self-Help Graphics, and Regeneración.

Therefore, in order to engage both the history and the sound of Los Angeles’s musics with the city’s visual representations, I invited Rubén Funkhuatl Guevara from Ruben & The Jets, is a multi-threat musician, performer, writer, and producer, and Jennifer Stoever-Ackerman (of Binghamton University, Sounding Out!, and of course, Riverside, CA) to curate playlists for a “sound booth,” which will consist of a stationary iPod™ Nano that gallery visitors can use at their leisure. The classic circular wheel allows the viewer to advance tracks or play the playlists on shuffle. Headphones will be set up so that the viewer can either focus on their listening experience or, listen while viewing the artwork around them. Since the gallery is relatively small, the pieces on the opposite wall are recognizable though are distant. In addition, Maya Santos of Form Follows Function will screen their short documentary on Radiotron, a youth center that presented Hip-Hop shows during the 1980s.

Guevara’s playlist Los Angeles Chicano Rock & Roll is included in the exhibition thanks to the Museum of Latin American Art.  Stoever-Ackerman’s playlist Off the 60, unites the two spaces of East L.A. and Riverside through a mix of intra- and trans-cultural musical experiences. Guevara’s rock & roll selections highlight many of the bands that emerged in East L.A. Both the musical listings and the liner notes for the sound presentations will be accessible on the re:present L.A website when the exhibit goes live on May 3rd, 2012.

Juan Capistran’s The Breaks (2000), Courtesy of the Artist

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My sonic intervention in the white, often silent, spaces of the gallery was especially inspired by two recent precedents: the inclusion of the iPod™ in MEX/LA (2011) at the Museum of Latin American Art and Phantom Sightings (2008) at the Los Angeles County Art Museum.  Both experiences invited me as a viewer to see the artwork through another sensory experience.  The first time I saw music included in an exhibition not specifically about music (such as the Experience Music Project’s 2007 American Sabor: Latinos in U.S. Popular Music, or Marvette Peréz’s curation of ¡Azúzar! The Life and Music of Celia Cruz at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History) was LACMA’s Phantom Sightings, which garnered much critical acclaim and criticism due to the premise of presenting contemporary Chicano Art inspired ‘after’ the Chicano Movement. However, I want to focus on one aspect of the exhibition, a corner display with books that informed the curators’ conceptual approach and on the bookshelf was an iPod™. The iPod™ included playlists from some of the artists reflecting their inspiration for their artwork.   I enjoyed listening and reminiscing while sitting in the gallery. However, I wanted the music to take more of a central role in the exhibition, especially because much of the artwork so obviously revealed traces of Los Angeles’ musical influences, partly due to the recent generation of artists who actively engaged in subcultural expressions and referenced it in their art. For example, as Ondine Chavoya describes in the Phantom Sightings  catalogue, Juan Capistran’s The Breaks (2000) is a giclée print documenting the artist break-dancing on Carl Andre’s minimalist floor pieces. The guerilla performance then is presented through a series of twenty-five still images showing the various movements seen in how to break-dance books (125). Shizu Saldamando’s ink on fabric portraits of Siouxsie (2005) and Morrissey (2005) showcase how post-punk and new wave music from England is part of her life as an Angeleno (and that of her friends), yet the medium is reminiscent of pinto drawings. Saldamando also does portraits of her friends at clubs, backyard bbqs “documenting a world where identity is fluid” as Michele Urton describes in the catalog (197).

Shizu Saldamando’s Siouxsie (2005), Courtesy of the Artist

It would be another three years before MEX/LA  would further marry music with art, now casting it in relation to the politics of Chicano and Mexican presence in Los Angeles.  MEX/LA, among the many Pacific Standard Time exhibitions presented throughout Los Angeles, was among the best curated due to the range of artifacts representative of the city and the cultural production emerging in post-war L.A. Another striking element was the influence of Méxicano popular culture among Chicanos and vice-versa. As curator Rubén Ortiz-Torres, and associate curator Jesse Lerner write on the MoLAA website:  “The purpose of the construction of a ‘Mexican’ identity in the South of California is not to consolidate the national unity of a post-revolutionary Mexico, but to recognize and be able to participate in an international reality, with all its contradictions and conflicts that this entails.” One of the ways this cultural exchange was embodied was in the playlists curated by Rubén Funkhuatl Guevara and Josh Kun that were prominently displayed alongside the artwork and heard in the interactive iPod™ “sound booths,” that invited viewers to sit on beanbags and listen. The music served to contextualize the art in relation to popular culture of the time. For example, Guevara presents a Chicano rock & roll genealogy that followed the chronology of the visual exhibit, 1930-1980, that begins with boogaloo and swing of the 1940s era culminating with the punk rock sounds of The Bags.

“Bag Parade,” 1977, Courtesy of Alice Bag

In both these exhibitions, the music served to complement the artistic elucidations of identity, race, and American popular culture seen in much of the artwork. The simplicity of the presentation was due to the inclusion of a familiar object like the iPod™. What is surprising is that more exhibitions have not incorporated more sonic elements to engage viewers’ other sensory experiences beyond the podcasts, or cell-phone audio listening tours set up at most major museums. While musical playlists can serve as another didactic component of an exhibition like the more established audio tours, I am arguing for a different use of sound in museum space, one that provides a wider sense of agency, connection, and encounter with the visual elements on display rather than a one-way transmission of information. In the cases of MEX/LA and Phantom Sightings, the inclusion of iPods™ provided a tool to understand the cultural production of a “post-Chicano movement” generation of artists while at the same time enabling an experience that recognized—and resonated with—my bicultural experience.

“Ancient Mexico in Ancient Mexico” by Yvonne Estrada (c),  is featured in re:present LA, opening 5/3/12

Being that L.A. is a car culture moving to the rhythms of the radio waves, I’m always seeking to find synchronicity between music that feels me with joy and my work as a cultural worker. Part of my impetus to locate Los Angeles sonically in re : present L.A. was driven by the question: is it possible to capture my sonic landscape growing up in the city of Los Angeles that ranges from Hip-Hop – British Rock – Mexican Pop?  The playlists curated by Guevara and Stoever-Ackerman are familiar to me personally. Stoever-Ackerman’s Off the 60, reminds me of the sounds of my youth, when KDAY and KROQ rocked the radio waves and my students banded together in my high school quad according to their favorite music – metal-heads, b-boys, alternative rock, and the cha-chas, who traveled across town every Friday night to Franklin High, where DJs spun L.A. disco. At home, the music was different. My mom and tías used to reminisce about their homeland every Sunday night through the variety show Siempre en Domingo, binding us to the t.v., religiously following the rising stars. Through the bi-lingual selections in Guevara’s Los Angeles Rock & Roll, there’s a familiarity of home and the music heard at backyard parties and quinceañeras.

By including my iPod™ nano, I bring together my lived experience as a cultural worker through the sounds of L.A. and activate the white walls of the museum. The playlists created by Guevara and Stoever-Ackerman serve to reflect the history of the community surrounding VPAM, as well capture the diversity of the city sonically re:presenting L.A. to our audiences. While the playlists can stand alone as audio curations in their own rights, I hope that they will engage audiences to rethink the relationship between music and art, and feel their lived experience inclusive within the museum.

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reina alejandra prado saldivar is an art historian, curator, and an adjunct lecturer in the Social Science Division of Glendale Community College in Glendale, California and in the Cultural Studies Program at Claremont Graduate School. As a cultural activist, she focused her earlier research on Chicano cultural production and the visual arts. Prado is also a poet and performance artist known for her interactive durational work Take a Piece of my Heart as the character Santa Perversa (www.santaperversa.com) and is currently working on her first solo performance entitled Whipped!

my mother’s voice, my father’s eye, and my other body: the sound of deaf photographs

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Editor’s Note: This post is the second in a three-part Sounding Out! series on deafness, Sound Studies, and Deaf  Studies during February 2012. Read last week’s post by Liana Silva here–JSA


dizzy snapshots

Lately, I’ve been halted by a particular photograph of my mother. Like Roland Barthes’ wonderland photo of his mother in Camera Lucida,

this picture “corresponded to a discomfort I had always suffered from: the uneasiness of being a subject torn between two languages, one expressive, the other critical” (8).

It began when my father reorganized his photographs.  Since retirement, he’s taken on archival projects with renewed fervor.  He began with 1974 (the year I was born), made it all the way to 1984 and from there slipped back.  My mother, a freckled farm girl in South Dakota, standing in front of a box house and snow, lots of snow.  The year, 1957 or so.  My father in a high chair in Sepulveda, California.  Perhaps 1948.  By then my grandparents knew he was deaf.

And every couple of weeks or so my dad calls me.  I finished another year, come see the pictures, he tells me via the Iphone, his slow, thoughtful typing shaped by many years of TTY-use (TTYs, or “Text Telephones,” are increasingly receding from every day use, replaced by chatting and text messaging).  I imagine him at home in my old room, surrounded by generations of Waldners, Cardinales, Jensons and Ewings.  Eagerly, he fills an old stereoscope viewer with 3d slides.  His favorite is of my brother and me at the Buschart Gardens in Victoria, Canada. My brother is six and I am eight; our  young faces are carefully tilted towards the pale cabbage roses.   My father fits more years into fewer albums, filing the stray photos in new Costco cardboard photo boxes. And yet, as he reduces by putting old pictures into new boxes, he continually finds older pictures, older boxes.

The last time he called me, he was in 1984.  These pictures depress my dad; he won’t spend much time here.  In the photos I’m always on the phone or covering my face.  Perhaps he remembers, as I do, the times he would attempt to enter my teenage world of sound.   He’d follow the knotted coil of the cord, pick up the phone and say “huh-lllll-ooo,” exaggerating his lips in a comical lip-synch, emitting a low, guttural voice while I danced for the phone. We’d both laugh as if we secretly agreed: hearing language is silly, ugly; my father rarely uses his voice.

But within 1984 was a stack of black and white 5×6 matte photographs bound by a rubber band.  They were a series of still television shots of my mother.  We lived in Berkeley then, and my mother would drive to San Francisco to record the DeafNews; I remember being sleepy, confused, and excited when my mother’s face appeared on the TV. These photographs frame my mother the way I saw her: her face elongated by the distorting concave screen surrounded by blackness; in the picture she seems still to be floating in TV space.  I wonder, who stood in front of the television, through several barriers and captured these stills of language?

For sign language is precisely that: a language of signs in the purest semiotic sense.  And yet, it’s precisely everything but that.  In all of them, the movement of sign language is snapped still—like words on a page; the particular one I’m fascinated with has her name imprinted at the bottom of the screen in all caps—the letters bend around the television I no longer see.  This one I’ve framed, and put on my desk.

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yearbook photo

In high school, I went to a dance at the Fremont School for the Deaf  where my parents were chaperones.  It was easy to find the dance; you could hear the throbbing bass from across campus.  It was so loud, it hurt. When I walked in, I wasn’t surprised to see a wall full of uncomfortably dressed teenagers holding balloons to feel the sound and bobbing their heads in tempo.  “Careless Whispers” played as it did at all high school dances and embraced couples locked bodies in a slow sway on the dance floor.  The music, the discomfort of boys in pressed shirts and Drakkar Noir, it was no different than the stiff dances at Ramona High school down the street. But it was Deaf more than any silence could be. When my friends found out my parents were deaf they nearly almost always gasped:  “I bet your house must be so quiet!”; they nearly always got it wrong.  Here, in this cafeteria-turned “sea of love,” Deafness announced itself. Deafness was not mute.

These voices, this bass, was (to borrow the language of Josh Kun) a virtual audiotopia grounding our bodies on the parquet floor, making real Douglas Kahn’s artistic notion in Noise, Water, Meat, that
sound does not just enter the gateway of hearing; it can also be perceived through the sense of force” (77).

The song changed to M.C. Hammer, and the dancers on the floor continued slowly rocking.  A nervous looking redhead held his palm out with one hand and with the other shaped his hands to form legs; he put the two signs together and asked me to dance.

I was flattered, and acutely aware that I was the foreigner there.  As I took his hand, I was filled with adolescent shame forever demanding: “be quiet! People can hear.”

sonnet xvii

así te amo porque no sé amar de otra manera,/sino así de este modo en que no soy ni eres/tan cerca que tu mano sobre mi pecho es mía,/tan cerca que se cierran tus ojos con mi sueño–Pablo Neruda, 100 Love Sonnets Cien Sonetos de Amor

I am six, and eight, and thirteen.  The door is open, so I crawl into my parents’ bed, and the pull of the sheets awakens my mother.  She grasps my hand.  I whisper in sign language so my father won’t be disturbed by the light.  Then, I take her hand and listen, tracing the terrain of her fingers, following the curves to read her words. I fall asleep talking to my mother, her hand in mine, my father’s snoring vibrating the bed.

I am twenty-nine and I am watching her hands, her signing, and seeing my own.  Her name, signed with a sweep from a handshape “L” to a curved “C” down the shoulder to the wrist (my name, the same “C”)— “now I know your mother, you sign just like her.”  And my punctum—sting, speck, prick—the kind of subtle beyond—as if the image launched desire beyond what it permits us to see: not only toward ‘the rest’ of nakedness, not only toward the fantasy of a praxis, but toward the absolute excellence of a being, body and soul together. Barthes again.

Her hands—her hands and my hands, let me see your hands she tells me.  She too sees herself on my body; we are both always looking at the blurrr of her hands.

And looking, I return always to a short story by Julio Cortázar, “Axototl” from Blow-Up and Other Stories about a boy who spends hours at the aquarium watching the axolotls; he is transfixed, haunted, obsessed, and keeps returning to watch these fish, no not fish.  The boy consults a dictionary and discovers that they are the larval stage of a kind of Mexican salamander.  I find the boy and his axolotls among my books, and discover highlighted in purple:


I was, I am, struck by this passage.  These atavistic creatures capture, compress space and being.  Identity breaks down—I, we, they are no longer discrete.  What side are you on?  Mother, Father Deaf.

non-negotiable photos

When I was eleven our family bought a deluxe conversion Dodge Caravan complete with metallic bronze customized paint job, rust colored velour captain’s chairs, and a boomerang-shaped television antenna.  I went with my parents to the car dealer on a sticky August afternoon.  “We want a minivan,” my mother signed to me, I voiced to the short man with greasy black hair and uncomfortably freckled arms.  He immediately took us past rows of suburb-like cutouts of vans and led us to the Las Vegas model of minivans—all the deluxe features and without a deluxe price.  A special deal.  I signed this eagerly—I wanted my parents to understand as I did—we were lucky to see this car.  It’s a familiar scene: father adjusting the seats and falling in love with cruise control;  mother insisting it was more than they budgeted; the dealer crawling in the back and hollering out through the nifty sliding third door all of the fantastic features.

Inside the car.  Tell them the back seat can be removed for more room.  Tell them there’s an acoustical equalizer for the stereo.  Tell them there’s air conditioning.  Tell them there’s a threeyearthirtythousandmilewarranty.  Tell them we do financing right here in the lot.  Tell them.

Outside the car.  Is this the best price?  Does he have anything less expensive?  Does it come with a warranty?  Do you have special discounts?  Are you telling us everything?

“Yes, they like all the extras.”  No—best price.

We left the dealer and got back into our happy orange VW van.  My bare legs stuck to the vinyl seats and I cried.  My mother was upset: “What’s wrong?  Did you want that car?”.

The salesman knew my parents didn’t care about the equalizer or the TV monitor in the back seat; but he didn’t know they understood.  “How nice of you to help your mother go to the store and do the groceries” while my mother writes a check, looking at the cash register screen for the correct amount. I am the mute one. “What did the lady say?” my mother asks; “nothing,” is my silent reply.  Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.

Yes, my mother has a college degree. Table 7 shows that the proportion of persons 18 years of age and over with under 12 years of education increases monotonically as the level of their hearing ability decreases.  A bachelor of library sciences.  No, she does not work in a library.  They were afraid of what would happen if she answered the phone.  They were afraid of hearing a deaf woman speak.  We moved several times when the rent for one reason or another had to go up; even being six you become familiar with friendly discomfort.  Interpreting for my mother when she caught my landlord in a contradictory lie—the distrust on both sides boomeranged off my nine-year old body.

In that parking lot, the traffic of misunderstanding and mistrust, all I wanted to do was to hide my lips, shield my transparent body so that neither side would see they were being betrayed.

talking pictures 

The stage is dark, but the theatre is  vibrating.  “Red hots . . .” lingers in the air.  My dad taps me on the shoulder.  What does the music sound like?

My father is sitting to my left, my husband to my right. It is between scenes at the DEAFWEST performance of Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire.   I’m thrilled to watch the interpreters peering from the balcony above; their voices float above the Deaf actors who take center stage.  Sign language takes center stage. The interpreters are for the hearing. The dividing line of the stage is several feet ahead of us.  Blanche Dubois begins signing to Stella on the stage.  But unlike the other Deaf actors, Blanche speaks with her own voice; the interpreters above are silent.  Her signs are stiff, they struggle to keep up with her vocal cadence.  I nod as I watch, transfixed: everything has been reversed.

I quickly sign to my father: She is speaking. She’s hearing! Then I lean over and whisper to my husband:  her signing.  It’s not Deaf.  She’s hearing.

I am signing Deaf.  I am whispering Hearing.

Cara Cardinale gives sound to her narrative with her mother’s voice–”sounding out” against audist notions of sound that keep Deaf voices silent and perpetuate the idea that deafness is interchangeable with muteness. She would like to thank her mother for sharing her beautiful voice, which to a CODA is a distinctive and comforting sound but often carries a stigma outside the home. Cara uses her own signing body here, not as interpreter, but as primary narration of this intimate photograph.

From his jacket pocket, my father pulls out his hearing aid still marked with red dormitory tape from his years at the residential state school for the Deaf; the opaque embossed letters have slowly curled back on themselves. He adjusts the petrified, squealing earmold then smiles at me.

 photo emulsion

Her hands are strapped to the hospital bed.  More violent than the search for willing veins to take the sedatives, is the silencing.  I cover my mouth to keep from gagging.  In the darkness, I watch the television screen as it shows the tour of my mother’s internal body: my face looking back at me against the glass.

The doctor freezes the image and points out the polyps clinging to the intestinal walls.  But I see gestation, birth—I am looking from the inside out:

If there exists a border-line surface between such an inside and outside, this surface is painful on both sides.  When we experience this passage . . . intimate space loses its clarity, while exterior space loses its void–Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space (218).

It was my body in her body and I found myself looking for the lost baby from years ago; perhaps it was there, inside of her body, my body.

The intimacy, the motion still in the blurrr of the photograph. I am fascinated with a delightful dread, horror.  Her name in captions, my name.  Her body, my body.  That picture says everything about my body. Everything about sitting between my father and my husband: lines drawn between us in the newly reupholstered seats, steel blue like everything new, between the actors and the audience, close enough to see the eyeliner drawn in for emphasis, between the Deaf actors on the stage and the hearing interpreters peering over them on the balcony.

I am transfixed. No transition and no surprise, I saw my face against the glass, I saw it on the outside of the tank, I saw it on the other side of the glass.  Then my face drew back and I understood.

Florescent lights saturate the room.  I lean forward;  take a breath; faint.

center of vision

Sometime within the last six months, my father’s left eye has had an aneurysm.  This led to a detached retina and a burst blood vessel.  The blood has been slowly moving towards the center of vision. During the day, my father sees shadows.  And my mother has been hearing things.  Last week she was startled by a high pitched noise; moments later the light in the kitchen flashed indicating that the phone was ringing. Lines are bleeding.  The darkness is terrifying for my father in the same way that sound has become disorienting for my mother.  And lately I’ve been on the verge of vertigo.  It seems as if it were the moving forwards and looking backwards at the same time that’s been disorienting me.

I go with my father to see a retinal specialist.  Once in the examining room, I am in the dark again.  I am signing in the dark, but my father cannot hold my hand.  He is across the room, peering at me with one eye, seeing my signs with the shadow of the pinlight.  It must be dark, they explain, his eye needs time to dilate, to open so we can see inside.  He will be injected with a kind of serum so that the shadow can be seen.

While we  wait for the dizzy eye to dilate, I describe my vertigo to my father.  He notes with interest and nods, yes, mother took me to doctors in Washington D.C.  He looks at me.  Your age.  Even the emergency room.  Nothing wrong.  Gone—he signs with a shrug.  Maybe gone—he points at me—soon.

The doctor returns and looks into my father’s eye.  The serum has worked, and the image is transparent.

I see his eye, enlarged, disembodied, projected on the screen behind him.  It is beautiful and dark, a moonscape clouded over by an eclipse.  Everything is transparent, and I think of the axolotls.

C.L. Cardinale has a PhD in English Literature from University of California, Riverside.  Currently she is editing her manuscript on what she calls “look-listening”—deafened gestures—in twentieth century narratives.  She also publicly reads Proust, edits for Lettered Press, and sings with her one and six year old in California’s east bay.


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