Authors Meet Critics: “Puta Life: Seeing Latinas, Working Sex,” Juana María Rodríguez

Part of the Authors Meet Critics event series

Puta Life book cover

Join us on May 1 for an Authors Meet Critics panel on the book Puta Life: Seeing Latinas, Working Sex, by Juana María Rodríguez, Professor in the Department of Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley. Professor Rodriguez will be joined in conversation by Clarissa Rojas, Assistant Professor of Chicana/o Studies at UC Davis, and Milena Britto, Associate Professor of Literature at the Federal University of Bahia and currently a Visiting Professor at UC Berkeley. The discussion will be moderated by Alberto Ledesma, Assistant Dean for Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity in the Division of Arts & Humanities at UC Berkeley.

The Social Science Matrix Authors Meet Critics book series features lively discussions about recently published books authored by social scientists at UC Berkeley. For each event, the author discusses the key arguments of their book with fellow scholars. These events are free and open to the public.

Co-sponsored by the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies and the UC Berkeley Department of Gender and Women’s Studies.

REGISTER TO ATTEND

About the Book

In Puta Life, Juana María Rodríguez probes the ways that sexual labor and Latina sexuality become visual phenomena. Drawing on state archives, illustrated biographies, documentary films, photojournalistic essays, graphic novels, and digital spaces, she focuses on the figure of the puta—the whore, that phantasmatic figure of Latinized feminine excess. Rodríguez’s eclectic archive features the faces and stories of women whose lives have been mediated by sex work’s stigmatization and criminalization—washerwomen and masked wrestlers, porn stars and sexiles. Rodríguez examines how visual tropes of racial and sexual deviance expose feminine subjects to misogyny and violence, attuning our gaze to how visual documentation shapes perceptions of sexual labor. Throughout this poignant and personal text, Rodríguez brings the language of affect and aesthetics to bear upon understandings of gender, age, race, sexuality, labor, disability, and migration. Highlighting the criminalization and stigmatization that surrounds sex work, she lingers on those traces of felt possibility that might inspire more ethical forms of relation and care.

Panelists

Juana María Rodríguez is a cultural critic, public speaker, and award-winning author who writes about sexual cultures, racial politics, and the many tangled expressions of Latina identity. A Professor of Ethnic Studies; Gender and Women’s Studies, and Performance Studies at UC Berkeley, she is the author of Puta Life: Seeing Latinas, Working Sex (Duke UP 2023); Sexual Futures, Queer Gestures, and Other Latina Longings (NYU Press 2014); and Queer Latinidad: Identity Practices, Discursive Spaces (NYU Press, 2003). In 2023,  Dr. Rodríguez was honored by The Center for Gay and Lesbian Studies’ with the prestigious Kessler Award, in recognition of her significant lifelong contributions to the field of LGBT Studies.

 

Clarissa Rojas is a scholar activist, poet, mama, and movement maker. Her mother’s indigenous lineages in the Americas root her in the Arizona/Sonora deserts. Clarissa grew up in Mexicali/Calexico and San Diego/Chula Vista where her family migrated. She lives in Oakland in unceded Huichin and is faculty in Chicanx Studies, Cultural Studies and Gender and Sexuality Studies at UC Davis. Clarissa co-founded INCITE! and has authored and co-edited multiple articles, special issues, and books on violence and the transformation of violence, including Color of Violence: the INCITE Anthology, Community Accountability: Emerging Movements to Transform Violence and most recently her writing appears in the Journal of Lesbian Studies and Abolition Feminisms.

 

Milena Britto is an Associate Professor of Literature at the Federal University of Bahia and currently a Visiting Professor at UC Berkeley. Her research focuses on gender, race, literature and strategies of legitimation in the cultural field. She is also a curator, publishing editor, and has worked in several positions of cultural public policy.

 

Alberto Ledesma (moderator) is Assistant Dean for Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity in the Division of Arts & Humanities at UC Berkeley. He grew up in East Oakland and received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from UC Berkeley. He earned a Ph.D. in ethnic studies in 1996 and is a former faculty member at California State University, Monterey Bay, and a lecturer in ethnic studies at UC Berkeley. He has held several staff positions at UC Berkeley, including director of admissions at the School of Optometry, and writing program coordinator at the Student Learning Center. He is the author of the award winning illustrated autobiography, Diary of A Reluctant Dreamer.

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