Date of Award

Fall 2020

Degree Type

Restricted to Claremont Colleges Dissertation

Degree Name

Cultural Studies, PhD

Program

School of Arts and Humanities

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Eve Oishi

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Jih-Fei

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Linda M. Perkins

Terms of Use & License Information

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Rights Information

© Copyright Pablo Alvarez, 2020

Abstract

Latinx and Chicanx literary, visual, and cultural productions addressing AIDS demonstrate strategies of AIDS consciousness and activism that are distinctly different from the confrontational and politically symbolic actions of largely white male groups like ACT UP, and, as such, they are often not recognized by scholars and historians as being political or even being about AIDS, and are consequently excluded from the history of AIDS in the United States. This dissertation offers an in-depth look into how queer Chicanx literary, visual, and cultural productions of AIDS consciousness and activism emerge from the archives and how Chicanx and Latinx cultural workers continue to labor at the front lines of AIDS activism. Archival research is a central aspect to this project. Chicanx and Latinx archives of AIDS continue to be inaccessible mostly because they remain stored in personal homes. By unearthing Chicanx archives and illuminating legacies of Chicanx and Latinx AIDS consciousness and activism, this dissertation makes interventions to the nation’s one-dimensional landscape of AIDS by offering new methodologies through a queer Chicanx positionality. This research focuses on three Chicanx artists from California who have produced work regarding AIDS: Gil Cuadros (1962-1996), Laura Aguilar (1959-2018) and Osa Hidalgo de la Riva (b. 1954). Aguilar, Cuadros, and Hidalgo de la Riva are not the only artists that have addressed the impact of AIDS in Latinx communities; however, the time period in which their work was created reveals a missing lens on the impact of AIDS in Latinx and Chicanx communities of the 1980s and 1990s. All artists are of the same generation and have challenged Chicanx politics of identity in their creative work. They have produced critical work regarding the impact of AIDS in Chicanx and Latinx communities of California. Theoretical frameworks and methods emerge from three areas of concentration: Cultural Studies, Chicanx Studies and AIDS discourse. These three areas of concentration bring forth a Chicanx Cultural Studies project of AIDS rooted in archival research, collaborations, and personal conversations with the artists and artists’ friends. The methods in collaborating with and reading the works of Aguilar, Hidalgo de la Riva, and Cuadros have entailed the unearthing of an archive stored in a garage for over twenty years, witnessing racism at the local DMV, arriving to a doctor’s appointment, going grocery shopping, visiting sick family members, translating documents, and pulling weeds. Writing about AIDS with Chicanx and Latinx people is also writing about breast cancer, audio-dyslexia, diabetes, economic disparities, and mental health. Unearthing Chicanx archives of AIDS involved non-institutional oral history methods that produced unexpected insights, embodiments, and historical revelations. Close readings of ephemera and archival practices that engage the memory and nostalgia of those closest to Chicanx and Latinx people impacted by AIDS exemplifies the way this research speaks of and with the dead to reveal, for example, the literary and personal remains in an archive left behind by an emerging writer whose life was interrupted by the impact of AIDS and whose friends continue to resist and refuse the settlement or burial of his literary career in Los Angeles. Finally, this project asserts that community is a methodology and praxis of AIDS consciousness and activism that re(emerges) from my archival investigations and fuels my responsibility to AIDS work and my responsibility to a nostalgia that I seek for guidance. This guidance reveals additional links to a Latinx and Chicanx ancestry that prompt the archives into legacies. Chicanx and Latinx AIDS consciousness and activism continue to thrive and flourish. With this project, methodologies are available to unsettle the burial of ancestral links to Chicanx and Latinx AIDS consciousness and activism. This project is in conversation with those methodologies, and with those ancestors, while offering an additional lens and positionality to recover and make visible these lineages.

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