NepantlerX cosmologies: Spiritual activisms and new queer feminist paradigms in women of color speculative literature and popular performance

Date
2016
Authors
Ramirez, Susana N.
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Abstract

My dissertation maps spiritual activist paradigms by women of color feminists and womanists reclaiming the importance of the sacred (in its multiple manifestations) to personal, social, and environmental transformation. In Loving in the War Years, Cherríe Moraga states that no liberation movement has been willing to take on the task of walking the road that is both material and metaphysical (123). According to Jacqui Alexander, U.S. mainstream feminism has constructed this movement as primarily secular and devoid of the radical potential of spirit (326). AnaLouise Keating, author of “Gloria Anzaldúa’s Spiritual Activism as Catalyst for Social Change,” makes a similar point, and highlights academics downright refusal to acknowledge the terrain of the spirit and its healing properties. Keating calls this reluctance “academic spirit-phobia,” and traces it to the culture of academia that relies exclusively on Western thought that overvalues and privileges the rational mind as the only site of knowledge-making (55).

My study pressures the persistently under theorized potential of spirituality in our feminists and queer decolonial projects towards enacting social change and transformation, especially as it pertains to the work of Gloria E. Anzaldúa. I draw upon and extend Anzaldúa’s spiritual activist theories of nepantla and nepantleras to examine new and alternative knowledges and modes of being that negotiate multiple, often-contradictory worlds with their corresponding realities. Spiritual activism, as reintroduced by Anzaldúa, means merging the technologies of political activism (direct action, protests, boycotts) with spiritual work (meditation, ceremony, rituals) (311). Nepantla is a Nahuatl concept for “in-between-ness,” and nepantleras are visionaries committed to making new meaning from these “nepantla” threshold spaces. Through this survey of spiritual activist philosophies and strategies, I introduce a new queer feminist paradigm that I am calling nepantlerX cosmologies. NepantlerX cosmologies is an umbrella term that encompasses versatile, multidimensional onto-epistemologies rooted in interconnectivity and commonalities. Within this cosmological system, human beings are partly material and partly spiritual. More significantly, human beings are interconnected with everything living, including Mother Earth.

This dissertation is divided into two parts, each divided into two chapters. In Part One, I contextualize and define nepantlerX cosmologies, particularly in relationship to Anzaldúan thought and indigenous cosmologies. In Part Two, I test “nepantlerX cosmologies” in speculative and performative spaces of Chicana/o science fiction and Son Jarocho music respectively. I begin by noticing contradictions and negotiations of power in these spaces. I end by calling for a shift and application of nepantlerX cosmologies that confronts intersectional oppressions on our bodies, minds, spirits, and the land through recentering a spiritual political consciousness.

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Keywords
Gloria Anzaldúa, nepantla, nepantlera, science fiction, son jarocho, spiritual activism
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Department
English