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Disidentifications: Queers Of Color And The Performance Of Politics (Cultural Studies of the Americas) Paperback – May 1, 1999

3.7 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In eight essays (six of them previously published), Mu?oz, an assistant professor of performance studies at NYU, explores the political and social impact of black, Latino and Asian performance artists on mainstream culture. Drawing on a wide range of examplesAfrom Jean-Michel Basquiat's painting and his relationship with Andy Warhol to filmmaker Isaac Julian's response to Robert Mapplethorpe's photographs of African-American men, to the camp performance work of Cubana artists Ela Troyano and Carmelita TropicanaAMu?oz outlines a process he calls "disidentification," in which an artist works inside the dominant culture while at the same time critiquing it. His insights into the complex ways that race, sexual difference, ethnicity, class and "professionalization" influence each artist's work can be startling, as when he compares mainstream drag films like To Wong Foo... to the work of transgressive drag performers like Vaginal Creme Davis, or when he reveals how Superman comics can be understood as a response to anti-Semitism. However, when he explores the work of the late Pedro Zamora (of MTV's The Real World) and claims that the Cubano star with AIDS "used MTV more then it used him," or when he discusses Magic Johnson's AIDS education work yet overlooks the gender politics of his message, his analysis can come off as na?ve. While these essays are consistently enlightening and provocative, their dependence on academic rhetoric makes them resistant to casual reading. (June)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Nowhere does the ambivalence of the minority culture toward the mainstream show itself more strongly than in the arts. In this densely academic work, Mu?oz (performance studies, NYU's Tisch Sch. of the Arts) posits this ambivalence as an essential tool of performance artists in their reaction to and relation to a mainstream culture that often rejects them. Through a process that Mu?oz terms "disidentification," artists, especially those within sexual and racial minorities, hold a distorted mirror to that culture through such techniques as camp and drag, lampoon, social satire, and outrageousness. By turning the dominant culture on its head, these performers call the emperor on his new clothes, revealing a white heterosexist society intolerant if not downright violent toward dissenting voices. A challenging, sometimes revolutionary work that should be added to serious performing arts and larger gay studies collections.AJeff Ingram, Newport P.L., OR
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Series: Cultural Studies of the Americas (Book 2)
  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Univ Of Minnesota Press (May 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0816630151
  • ISBN-13: 978-0816630158
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.7 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #103,138 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is a crucial book. It was written by a gay Cuban man who teaches in New York City though he grew up on the suburban lawns that grow on the drained swamp lands of South Florida. The book is all about how artists of color build subjectivities from the suffocating madness of neo-coloniality. We pick up the pieces of a system opposed to us, and we restage it, we push it into having new meanings, and in so doing we disarm, just a little bit, the weight of the world upon us. Muñoz's writings have always been full of beautiful stories. Vaginal Creme Davis, the half-African-American-half-Mexican drag performer who fronts a punk band where she pretends to be a white supremacist militia member because she thinks their look is "really hot". Or Muñoz himself, signing along as a teenager to the racist lyrics of an old X song because he needed their implicit critique of the suffocating conformity of Hialeah's cultural and sexual conservatism.
What Muñoz elegantly lays out for us is a strategy for intervening in the public sphere that resists both the deadly paralysis of identification (assimilation with the status quo), or an imagined counter-identification which inevitably only succeeds in reifying the very bifurcating dialectic it seeks to overthrow. What interests Muñoz is what he calls "disidentification", a third way which I can best describe as such: Caliban's strategy of learning the master's language so he may curse him with it, but staged for the Millennium, so that we learn to curse (or desire) with irreverence, humor, rhythm, and while wearing stilettos. Practice theory without this book at your own peril. It is certain to become a seminal influence.
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Format: Paperback
For those of us who have been starving since finishing Mercer's 'Welcome to the Jungle' or Fusco's 'English Is Broken Here', this is an excellent book to add to your reading list. Through complex theory and deep analysis, Munoz effectively articulates what many of us know but have difficulty proving to others: lesbian and gay artists of color are producing some of the nation's and the world's most revolutionary and counterhegemonic work. I am especially impressed that he examines work by Black, Latino, and Asian gays. This is a much-needed book for anyone who would like to see people of color come together in coalition. You will be impressed with Munoz's creation. This is not Hemphill's 'Brother to Brother' or Moraga's 'This Bridge Called My Back.' Some readers will be put off by the semiotic language Munoz uses. However, for those who can get through it, you will enjoy this book.
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Whether you're a gender studies student or just interested in learning more about queer theory, I really recommend Disidentifications. To get the most of out Munoz' text, I suggest reading about Julie Kristeva's concepts of abjection. This will help you better understand the concept of disidentification, which can be initially very confusing and elusive within the beginning pages of the book. If you're stuck looking for a clear definition in the book's introduction, don't feel frustrated! Keep reading, as I think Munoz deliberately avoids laying out his concept in broad daylight.

The book is a welcomed relief from dense and confusing theory alla Eve Kosofky Sedgewick, Michel Foucault and Gayle Rubin. Munoz writes clearly and not in the confusing manner that some academics use. This doesn't mean his ideas are simple - they are anything but!

Sometimes it's easy to be frustrated with queer theory texts because they don't always provide solutions for the problems they talk about. However, this book has lots of potential for real-life application in the queer community. Most optimistically, disidentification can save lives and be an agent of cultural change. Speaking from an American perspective, our culture is becoming more accepting, but there are some places or environments that are still very hostile towards queer bodies and people. Drawing from intersectionality, cross-identification and abjection, Munoz outlines disidentifications as a political and survival especially useful for queers of color, or queers with multiple minoritized identities (i.e. poor and trans and gay).

Finally, people dissatisfied with the mainstream LGBTQ movement and its assimilation-like tactics may also find this book useful and/or relevant.
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The idea I have taken from this book that I still use is the way we can misread people (and other things) purposefully: how Bette David can be treated by Black women *as* a Black woman. I don't think Muñoz's developments hold together but there's plenty of interesting stuff to make this worthwhile.
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