From the Fields to the Streets to the Stage: Chicana Agency and Identity Within the Movimiento
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The unionization of the United Farm Workers in 1962 precipitated the longest labor movement in US history, which in turn inspired all sectors of Chicana/o activism and artistic production. As the Movimiento gained support and recognition throughout the 1960s, grassroots and activist theater and performance played fundamental roles in representing its causes and goals. By the 1980s, however, the Movimiento was frequently represented and understood as a reclaiming of Chicano identity through an assertion of Chicano masculinity, a reality which rendered the participation and cultural production of Chicanas even less visible within an already marginalized cultural and historical legacy. In this dissertation, I seek to develop historically grounded answers to questions around issues of male visibility and female and lesbian/gay/bisexual/queer invisibility within the Movimiento and dominant Anglo culture. I work to bridge this critical gap in the treatment of plays by Chicana/o dramatists in two ways: (1) by examining plays by Chicanas without attributing or reducing their impact to their identities as women, lesbians, and/or feminists but rather by considering the performative characteristics of their works and (2) by engaging issues of gender and sexual biases and hierarchies across several decades of Chicana/o cultural production. A primary goal of this project is to shift and expand the critical focus of scholarship and discourse on Chicana/o theater and performance in order to consider the lived experiences and creative contributions of the many participants in the Movimiento, many of whom are not represented through the perspective, experience, and voice of the heteropatriarchal Chicano subject. I maintain that we must take into account multiple and often conflicting representations of the Movimiento and of Chicana/o identity in order to more fully understand the history of Chicana/os in the US and to better confront the mechanisms of exclusion toward Chicana/os that have continued into our present moment. At stake is the equal treatment and inclusion of the contributions of Chicana and lesbian/gay/bisexual/queer Chicana/o dramatists as well as a more profound and nuanced understanding of the fight for the liberation of multiple and diverse Chicana/o subjects that has continued into our present moment.