Reading Chican@ like a Queer: The de-Mastery of Desire

Reading Chican@ like a Queer: The de-Mastery of Desire

Reading Chican@ like a Queer: The de-Mastery of Desire

Reading Chican@ like a Queer: The de-Mastery of Desire


A race-based oppositional paradigm has informed Chicano studies since its emergence. In this work, Sandra K. Soto replaces that paradigm with a less didactic, more flexible framework geared for a queer analysis of the discursive relationship between racialization and sexuality. Through rereadings of a diverse range of widely discussed writers--from Américo Paredes to Cherrée Moraga--Soto demonstrates that representations of racialization actually depend on the sexual and that a racialized sexuality is a heretofore unrecognized organizing principle of Chicana literature, even in the most unlikely texts. Soto gives us a broader and deeper engagement with Chicana representations of racialization, desire, and both inter- and intracultural social relations. While several scholars have begun to take sexuality seriously by invoking the rich terrain of contemporary Chicana feminist literature for its portrayal of culturally specific and historically laden gender and sexual frameworks, as well as for its imaginative transgressions against them, this is the first study to theorize racialized sexuality as pervasive to and enabling of the canon of Chicana literature. Exemplifying the broad usefulness of queer theory by extending its critical tools and anti-heteronormative insights to racialization, Soto stages a crucial intervention amid a certain loss of optimism that circulates both as a fear that queer theory was a fad whose time has passed, and that queer theory is incapable of offering an incisive, politically grounded analysis in and of the current historical moment.


We believe our racial and class backgrounds
have a huge effect in determining how we
perceive ourselves sexually. —AMBER hol
libaugh and CHERRÍE moraga (“What
We’re Rolling Around in Bed With”)

Indeed, some dimensions of sexuality might
be tied, not to gender, but instead to differ
ences or similarities of race or class. —EVE
kosofsky sedgwick (Epistemology of the

The growing dissatisfaction over the past twenty-five years with monological and monocausal approaches to subjectivity and power has motivated some of the most powerful experiential creative writings by women of color, such as those included in the edited collection This Bridge Called My Back: Writings By Radical Women of Color (1981), and, in turn, has generated some of the most enabling and robust scholarship in a range of interdisciplinary locations, including postcolonial studies, gender studies, African American Studies, and queer theory. As the epigraphs above suggest, if the identification of gender as the primary variable for investigating sexual identity forecloses a consideration of the equally meaningful place of racial formation and class relations in our “sexual” lives, then the acceptance of race and ethnicity as the defining characteristics of people of color prevents an adequate examination of the significant roles that sexual desires and sexual prohibitions play in racialization. We can now say with certainty that race and sexuality are not self-contained, discrete categories. Reading Chican@ Like a Queer stays with that certainty, even, or especially, when the analysis leads me to unpredictable terrain and de-masterful uncertainty. If racialized sexuality is one of my key terms, that is, I mean for it to do much more than stand in as a de rigueur flashpoint.

This brings me to the queer work that I mean for the term “de-mastery” to perform in my subtitle. As tiny as my mere two-letter prefix may seem, I cannot begin to do justice to what its expansiveness has meant for me as a . . .

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