|Deborah R. Vargas
Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies
University of California, Santa Cruz
I earned my doctorate in sociology with an emphasis in feminist studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz. My research and teaching areas include Chicano/Latino cultural studies, critical race feminisms, queer of color critique, popular culture, feminist ethnography, borderlands theory, and oral history methods. My first book, Dissonant Divas in Chicana Music: The Limits of La Onda (University of Minnesota Press, 2012) draws on Chicana feminism, cultural studies, and queer of color analysis to examine the ways in which Chicana singers push the heteronormative limits of what I refer to as sonic imaginaries of borderlands music. Dissonant Divas was awarded the Woody Guthrie Prize for Best Book in Popular Music Studies from The International Association for the Study of Popular Music (U.S. Branch); Honorable Mention, Best Book in Latino Studies from The Latino Studies Section of The Latin American Studies Association; Best Book in Chicano Studies from The National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies. Among the oral histories I have conducted, those with Lydia Mendoza, Eva Ybarra, and Rosita Fernández are included in the Smithsonian Institute's Latino Music Oral History Project.
I am currently working on two manuscripts. The first manuscript theorizes a queer feminist notion of “brown soul” that reimagines Chicanidad/Mexicanidad by tracing the African diasporic sounds and aesthetics of performers including Gloria Ríos, Mexican girl groups in the mid-twentieth century, Linda Ronstadt, and Martha Gonzalez, among others. The second book argues for a notion of “Latin@ sabor” to theorize what I refer to as suciedad as sociedad. It interrogates the potentiality of socialities that emerge through queer Latin@ taste — the déclassé, the foul, the bad, the offensive, the impure, the dirty, the nasty, the uncivil, the non-hygenic — and how such socialities may enact queer modes of endurance, longevity, and perseverance as alternatives to the kinds of visibility and recognition that are central to liberal constructions of Latino citizenship. Here, I explore a variety of Latin@ texts including, la cantinera, el grito mexicano, and the pork fat of el chicharrón.
Fellowships awarded: Ford Foundation, UC Office of the President, Smithsonian Institute, UC Humanities Research Institute, UCLA's Chicano Studies Research Center Frontera Music Collection, and the UC Center for New Racial Studies.
Vargas, Deborah R. “Un desmadre positivo: Notes on how Jenni Rivera Played music” (eds) Arlene Davila and Yeidy Rivero. Latin@ Media Now (New York: New York University Press, 2014).
Vargas, Deborah R. “Ruminations On Lo Sucio as a Latino Queer Analytic,” American Quarterly 66.3 (September 2014): 715‐726.
Vargas, Deborah R. “Punk’s Afterlife in Cantina Time,” Social Text 31, no. 3 (Fall 2013): 57‐73.