Research Questions

In popular culture the Latina body is often commodified as a consumable hyper-sexual curvy body that is strategically homogenized in order to reproduce ideals of whiteness, while simultaneously representing an exotic foreignness. In the media, the homogenized Latina body is not white, but does reproduce Eurocentric ideals of beauty—in both English and Spanish media outlets—often for capitalist demands. This of course requires a critical understanding of the history of colonialism in both Latin America and the Caribbean, in addition to an evaluation of the ways these histories get played out in the U.S., which as we know has its own racial discourse. Which brings me to my next point, in 2008 when Barack Obama received the presidential nomination we began to surprisingly see a new sense of visibility of black Latina bodies in U.S. popular culture. Popular magazines like Latina were now celebrating Afro-Latinas and were dedicating monthly issues to Afro-Latina/o culture. However, like any subculture that gets acculturated in the dominant imaginary, Afro-Latina bodies were subjected to commodification and homogenization. Today, our nations multicultural, bicultural and interracial explosion is undeniably influencing political discourses of race in the U.S., but what are these new portrayals of Latinidad—specifically, Afro-Latinas—telling us about how the African Diaspora is being represented in magazines such as Latina, or most important, how do readers consume these representations? Are consumers resisting Latina magazines homogenization of Afro-Latina bodies? For that reason, I find it important to look at social media spaces like Tumblr and Instagram in order to examine how counter-hegemonic resistance looks like within those sites.   


My methodology will include a theoretical breakdown of the homogenized Latina body in the media and its relationship to capitalist demands. In order to mobilize this connection, I will also need to ground myself in the theoretical conversations that scholars are having in fields like Latina/o Studies, Chicana/o Studies, Cultural Studies, and American Studies regarding popular culture representations of the Latina body, and the effects these representations have on the material reality of Latin@s in the U.S. today.  In addition, I will examine the magazine, Latina and their representations of Afro-Latinidad. I will specifically focus on the 2008 to 2012 editions, which will include an in depth analysis of both the online website and the hard cover magazine. Moreover, I will also look at Tumblr and Instagram in order to trace alternative representations of the Afro-Latina body in order to identify the voices that are resisting the coorporatization of Latina bodies in the media.


I do not want to completely reject Latina magazine in my analysis because I do believe that the magazine is making some important contributions to the Latina community, however we must always be mindful of what we are consuming. Coombe talks about the ways cultural hegemony is historically constructed through Eurocentric discourses of power, which speak directly to Latina magazine’s relationship to commodification, because although it is a magazine targeted for Latina women, the magazine must consent to commodification and to some extent cultural appropriation in order to successfully participate in capitalist demands. Therefore, is Latina magazine both a hegemonic and a counter-hegemonic production? If whiteness is understood as an ideological process, Latina unveils the social, cultural, political, and economic dangers of the Latin@ community, when fetishizing the Latina body as one that is consumable only when it poses no real threat to whiteness in mass-media productions. For that reason, I hope to suggest that counter-hegemony can be politically mobilizing when Afro-Latinas themselves not only reject the essentialized notions of Afro-Latinidad represented by the media, but in doing so, offer alternative representations of Afro-Latinidad that not only subvert western conceptions of ideal beauty, but also rupture the historical relationship between whiteness and “foreign-ness” that often gets played in the Latina body, especially in popular culture. 


So far, Coombe’s theoretical framework is extremely useful for my own individual research project because she not only addresses the role of whiteness and hegemony in technology driven spaces, but also provides critical analysis of alternative representations of resistance that challenge and subvert ideological processes. I also think Coleman will be useful in my navigation of Afro-Latinas as subculture within the Latin@ imaginary, especially when examining how they simultaneously play themselves out in the public sphere. Coleman’s chapter of “Code is Speech” will be influential to my analysis of Tumblr and Instagram, since I will read these spaces as spaces that allow counter-hegemonic resistance for Afro-Latinas, specifically when thinking about the ways they decide to subvert Latina magazine's representations of black Latina bodies in the media, which will I will argue speak to their own “type of freedom” (Coleman 133).

This is still a work in progress and I am completely aware that my own research can change at any time, therefore I welcome any constructive criticism that I hope will help me mobilize this topic to its fullest potential. Thank You!



2/7/2013 03:41:55 am

Great start!

I'd like to see more of a theoretical grappling and unpacking of the actual technology being used. It is different and plays out differently than offline spaces, so can you incorporate some guiding questions about the use of technology--social media, tumblr etc into your questions section and also unpack this in your methodology section as well.

You are on the right track and engaging with the technology itself--not seeing it as merely another medium will be essential.

Rachel Sauerbier
2/10/2013 07:18:07 am

Lizeth, what a great project! I love that you are comparing two different forms of media: the traditional print media with new communication technologies like social media and the Internet. When I was reading this, I was thinking about Juana Maria Rodriguez's book, "Queer Latinidad" that we read for our queer theory class last semester. Specifically, in the third chapter, she talks about how the virtual spaces of Internet Chat Rooms become sites of rupture within the dominant discourse on Latinidad. While it might not be a central text to your project, it might help in starting to unpack why sites like Tumblr and Instagram are so effective at disrupting the dominant discourse of society and traditional forms of media. I look forward to seeing where you go with this project!

2/10/2013 08:37:51 am

hiya Lizeth,

Since I have Castells on the brain right now, I was wondering how you felt about including in this discussion the notion of "autonomous communication" with regard to the online social media you're interested in? Also, Tumblr in particular has been noted by Castells as being a big part of why Occupy Wall Street was as successful as it was, since it made OWS a "moral movement" by providing specific stories that gave the movement an emotional center. I wonder if this will manifest in the sites you're planning to investigate?

Looking forward to hearing more about this!

Jen O'Brien
2/10/2013 11:55:29 am

Hi Lizeth,

The overall project you've laid out and especially your methodology are solid : )

I second Tiffany's suggestion of looking to Castells analysis of how the communication technologies themselves shape social movements. He does a great job of distinguishing between how mass media narrates culture versus how individuals narrative culture through social networking tools. His book might help you get at that "unpacking the technology" bit that Dr. Christen mentioned.

Also, you might want to glance ahead at Mirzoeff's The Right To Look. I have skimmed the intro and it looks like you might be able to use the book, especially because of your focus on the representation of bodies and colonialism.

2/12/2013 02:56:52 am

Hey Lizeth,

Really diggin' the research proposal you've laid out here so far. Like the constructive criticism provided above, I'm really interested in seeing how you set out to unpack your two guiding methodological frameworks. You mentioned how both English and Spanish media outlets homogenize the Latina body. I'm not well versed in the fields of popular cultural representations of Latinidad, so excuse if these questions seem irrelevant, but I'm curious if your going to distinguish the differences between the two, regarding the latter. How does a Spanish audience vs. an English audience problematize this homogenization? How does a Spanish outlet vs. an English outlet differentiate in the forms and means of acculturation? Do Spanish vs. English outlets differentiate regarding the dissemination of counter-hegemonic resistances?

I hope these questions make sense. Overall, very interesting work. Can't wait to see more. Suerte!

2/12/2013 03:07:43 am

Hi Lizeth,

I agree with the rest that Castelles would be great in unpacking SMS. Also I remember I read an article long ago that analyzed chat room talks about the representation of Latino/Latina in the film. I think this artcle would help you with your project.
Guzman, I. M. (2006). Mediating Frida: Negotiating discourses of Latina/o authenticity in global media representations of ethnic identity. Critical Studies in Media Communication. 23 (3, August), 232-251.

2/13/2013 06:52:15 am

I just got married to a woman who is Mexican/Spanish/Apache/Irish. The latina icon is interesting to me. She is very beautiful, all those things. WoW!


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