New Faculty 2014-2015
Visiting Associate Professor
Macarena Gómez-Barris is Associate Professor of American Studies & Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. Her research focuses on the intersection of aesthetics and politics in Latin/a America. She holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from University of California, Santa Cruz, a MA in Latin American Studies from the University of California, Berkeley and a BA in Third World Studies from the University of California, San Diego.
She is author of Where Memory Dwells: Culture and State Violence in Chile (2009) and co-editor of Towards a Sociology of the Trace, with Herman Gray (2010). She is the guest editor with Jill Lane and Marcial Godoy-Anatavia of E-misférica, Decolonial Gesture, Spring 2014, and co-editor of forthcoming issue Las Américas Quarterly, Fall 2014, with Licia Fiol-Matta. Macarena recently taught a graduate course entitled “Art in the City” for Roski Art School with seminars in Mexico City and Tijuana.
Macarena received the Raubbenheimer for Junior Faculty at USC Dornsife 2009, and the Mellon Award for Graduate Mentorship in 2009 and 2014. She is the recipient of a Fulbright-Ecuador Research scholarship for 2015-2016 to finish her book on Decolonial Aesthetics. Macarena looks forward to her time teaching Latina/o Studies at NYU during Fall semester. During the Fall semester, she will also be Acting Director of the Hemispheric Institute for Performance and Politics at NYU.
I am interested in care as a social practice and the human body as a moral condition and mode of experience. Much of my research has focused on the ethical entanglements engendered by bodily vulnerability. I am also a committed ethnographer. My work moves across and often combines the disciplines of history, public health, and anthropology. For the past two decades I have worked mainly in Botswana, in southern Africa. My first book, Debility and the Moral Imagination in Botswana employed historical and anthropological methods to explore the rise in three domains of debility in Botswana over the past century: disability, chronic illness, and senescence. The book pursued pragmatic concerns that arise in the face of debility in a migrant labor regime, and also related epistemological and moral questions that emerge amid profound disruptions of bodily norms. My second book, Improvising Medicine is an ethnography of Botswana’s lone cancer ward. The book narrates the story of this place as a microcosm of global health and the cancer epidemic rapidly emerging in the global south, while also using this setting to query the movement of carcinogenic capitalism, and the master-narratives of cancer in the U.S (and the global north more broadly). I am now beginning research here in New York City on the aftermaths of suicide.
The risk and anxiety of difference have preoccupied my research and writing from my first book Performance Anxieties: Staging Psychoanalysis, Staging Race (1997) to the solo book I am currently completing Excess & Enchantment: Queer Performance Between the Religious and the Secular (which will be published in the Sexual Cultures series at NYU Press). My book projects and articles traverse several disciplines and interdisciplines, but one through-line is an abiding interest in exploring how feelings are lived, experienced, and communicated between and across bodies—and with what risks and possibilities for self and others. Another is the value of the aesthetic for repairing democratic social life. These two lines of interest converge insofar as I am keenly interested in the kinds of practices that make and un-make worlds. In all my work, I proceed with feminist and queer angles of vision as a way to put pressure on normative schemas of embodiment and subjectivity and to illuminate the cross-currents of gender, race, sexuality, and religion as they shape and impress the embodied life of feeling.
These crossing or contact points do not always feel good. Far from it. They can even be points of democratic—and psychic—conflict. Social conflicts over difference are a key concern in my co-authored book with Janet R. Jakobsen, Love the Sin: Sexual Regulation and the Limits of Religious Tolerance (2004). Love the Sin analyzes debates over religion and sexuality in the United States. We are particularly interested in how “religion” is invoked—even by the secular U.S. state—to manage and contain supposedly “threatening” social differences. Another joint project with Jakobsen, the edited volume Secularisms (2008), works explicitly to de-center U.S. conceptions of secularism. Both Love the Sin and Secularisms share a desire to disrupt the Enlightenment narrative that equates secularism with modernity, reason, freedom, peace, and progress. This narrative too often produces a forced choice between “conservative” religion and “progressive” secularism, a choice not unlike the one often forwarded by secular gender and sexuality studies: to wit, between “bad” religion and the “goods” of sexual liberation. In our work together, Jakobsen and I have consistently argued against such false choices, moving instead to consider how practices of sexual and religious freedom can be theorized in tandem with, rather than in constant opposition to, one another.
My new solo book, Excess & Enchantment, examines how public performances of sexuality and religion converge across a diverse archive of visual and performance art, musical theatre, religious protest, and public displays of mourning. Throughout, I draw on the interdisciplinary methods and questions of gender and sexuality studies, performance studies, affect studies, and psychoanalysis. I have a long-standing interest in psychoanalysis as a critical method for understanding interactions between individuals and their social contexts, self and other, and the inner and outer lives of feeling. But psychoanalysis is not just a diverse body of theory irreducible to the proper name Freud; it is also a critical and creative practice in its own right. In fall 2014, I begin the Respecialization Program at the Institute for Psychoanalytic Training and Research in New York City.
Assistant Professor/Faculty Fellow of Latino Studies in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis
I hold a Ph.D. from UCLA in political science, with emphasis in political theory and race, ethnicity, and gender. My work is situated at the intersection of contemporary political theory, transnational studies, social movements and Latino/a and Latin American studies. My research agenda revolves around the notion of unauthorized citizenship and the political becoming of undocumented migrants. These interests have emphasized the experiences of US Central American migrant communities as well as undocumented youth. I am currently working on a monograph, Revolutionary Refugees: Central Americans' Fight for Citizenship across Borders. Additional works include, "Contesting Citizenship from Below: Central Americans and the struggle for Inclusion" (forthcoming in Latino Studies) and "Transmedia Testimonio: Undocumented Youth and Coming Out in the Digital Age" (forthcoming in International Journal of Communications. Additionally, I am working on a book-length manuscript along with Henry Jenkins and a team of USC researchers that compares several cases of youth's political and digital participation.
Prior to coming to NYU, I held appointments in as Chancellor's postdoctoral fellow in the Dept. of Latino/a Studies at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, as well as Mellon postdoctoral fellow in Social Movements at the University of Southern California.