Narrating Female Bodies

Natalia Equihua

“My mother was a traitor, my mother was a savior”: Deconstructing the Ambivalence of the Mexican National Identity through its Female National icons

Since its independence, the formation of Mexico as a nation has been caught in a tension between the European/Western/Modern and the Indigenous/Native/Traditional. While postcolonial theorists have understood most ex-colonial national formations in terms of colonized vs colonizers, in Mexico the national identity was constructed around the idea of an in-betweenness resulting from this binary: the mestizo or mixed-race. While mestizos were famously described by a Mexican philosopher as the “cosmic race” –an identity that encompasses all races at once– in this paper I will argue that in practice mestizos occupy an ambivalent position. While symbolically Mexicans strongly identify with their Native origins, in practice they align with the Western ideal. In other words, they are caught in a constant interplay of accepting and rejecting the Native and the Western. To understand these dynamics, I will analyze Mexico’s relationship to two of its foundational female icons: Catholic Virgin of Guadalupe and Indian Malinche, where the former has been constructed as the mother savior and the latter as the traitor mother. My goal is to show how this ambivalence has resulted in a fractured identity which informs the cultural, political and economic attitudes and behaviors of the Mexican society at large.

Natalia is a Master’s student in the Cultural Studies program at Queen’s University. She holds a BA in English from the National University of Mexico (UNAM) where she did her thesis on creative non-fiction and the hybridity of this literary genre. Since graduating, she has lived in California, Scotland and now Canada, and the impressions left by these experiences have inspired her current thesis project on migration and emotions. More specifically, her research focuses on Mexican women who migrated to Canada for a romantic relationship. Aside from her academic work, she is interested in the uses of photography and narrative as a storytelling tool. Her latest project tells stories about the belongings of migrants living in Scotland.

Lorinda Peterson

Feminism, Trauma and Women’s Bodies: what does art say?

My research questions what it means to heal from trauma, and the possibility of healing for women, especially for mothers. The words and images traditionally used in trauma discourse are male centered and violent, generally describing the experience of the conqueror, and dismissing dimensions of women’s experience, even when the violence is against their bodies. The paper I propose for Undisciplined 2017 views trauma through a feminist lens at the intersection of women’s/mothers’ psychological, spiritual, and physical experience. With reference to specific visual works by German artist Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945), Mexican artist Frida Kahlo (1907-1954), and American comics artist Lynda Barry (1956 – ), I will explore how these artists have created spaces in their work where feminist discourses on trauma are possible, and in the process, have made a place for my voice within this activist tradition. Kollwitz, Kahlo and Barry are ahead of their times in making public the private lives of women, moving out of what Laura S. Brown describes as the comfortable position of one who studies trauma or treats trauma’s effects, to a position of identification and action, a position to which my research aspires.

Lorinda Peterson is a PhD candidate in the Cultural Studies Department at Queen’s University. Her research explores sequential art and comics creation as feminist activisms and ways of knowing, with specific reference to women’s/mothers’ experiences of trauma. Ms Peterson publishes and presents her work regularly, including at Mothers, Motherhood, Mothering in the 21st Century International and National Conferences, Toronto (2014, 2015), and Women’s and Gender Studies Congress, Ottawa (2015). Her chapter, “Loving Miss JBP” appears in Demeter Press’s The Mother Blame Game (2016), and she exhibited her handmade books and original comics at The Isabel Bader Center for the Performing Arts (2016). She has a co-developed chapter “Closets of Fear, Islands of Hope” forthcoming in an edited volume about growing up queer spawn, a comic about grandmothering under review, and she is co-editing a collection about mid-life mothering, all through Demeter Press. Her chapter, “Demons! Dialogues! Uncanny Doubles? Performativity and Fictional Mothers in Lynda Barry’s One! Hundred! Demons!” is under review for a collection on the work of Lynda Berry.

Julia Chan

Surveilling the Female Body: (Non)consent and the Teen Sex Comedy

This paper will explore the nonconsensual surveillant gazes employed in teen sex comedies to examine the role of surveillance mediation in the sexualization of the cinematic female body. It aims to situate these raced and gendered bodies and the nonconsensual surveillance practices they are subject to within both the discourses of the teen sex comedy genre and the logics of pervasive sexual(ized) violence.

Julia Chan is a second-year PhD student in Cultural Studies at Queen’s University. Her research focuses on the intersections of nonconsensual pornography with surveillance and cinematic practices, and is supported by the by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. She is also a writer whose fiction has been published in literary journals internationally (including Joyland, subTerrain, The Rusty Toque, and LitroNY) and whose short film In Shadow, directed by Shirley Cheechoo, screened at the Sundance Film Festival, among others.