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Mediating Blackness: Afro Puerto Rican Women and Popular Culture

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Title: Mediating Blackness: Afro Puerto Rican Women and Popular Culture
Author(s): Quinones-Rivera, Maritza
Director of Research: Molina Guzman, Isabel
Doctoral Committee Chair(s): Molina Guzman, Isabel; Denzin, Norman K.; Torrès, Arlene; Valdivia, Angharad N.
Department / Program: Institute of Communications Research
Discipline: Communications
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ph.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s): Black identity black Puerto Rican Woman Gender Blackness Media Popular Culture in Latin America Caribbean Feminist Media Black Diasporas Afro-Latina Afro-Puerto Rican Audience Studies Mediation Theory Caribbean Studies Afro-American
Abstract: In my dissertation I discuss how blackness, femaleness and Puerto Ricanness (national identity) is presented in commercial media in Puerto Rico. National identity, no matter how differently defined, is often constructed through claims to heritage, "roots," tradition, and descent. In the western world, these claims, almost inevitably allude to questions of "race." In Puerto Rico, it is the mixture of the Spanish, the Taíno Indian, and the African, which come to epitomize the racial/traditional stock out of which "the nation" is constructed, defended, and naturalized. This mixture is often represented by images, statues, murals across the island that display the three racialized representatives, as the predecessors of the modern, racially mixed Puerto Rican people. In their portrayals of black women, figures as Mama Inés (the mammy) and fritoleras (women who cook and sell codfish fritters), Caribbean Negras (Black Caribbean women) contemporary media draw upon familiar representations to make black women bodies intelligible to Puerto Rican audiences. In this dissertation I argue that black women are challenging these images as sites for mediating blackness, femaleness, and Puerto Ricanness where hegemony and resistance are dialectical. I integrate a text-based analysis of media images with an audience ethnographic study to fully explore these processes of racial and gender representation. Ultimately, my project is to detail the ways in which Black women respond to folklorized representations and mediate their Blackness by adopting the cultural identity of Trigueñidad in order to establish a respectful place for themselves within the Puerto Rican national identity. The contributions from the participants of my audience ethnography, as well as my own experiences as a Trigueña woman, demonstrate how Black women are contesting local representations and practices that have folklorized their bodies. The women who form part of this study also responded to the pressures of a nation whose official stance is that race and racism do not exist. In addition, I present global and local forces␣and in particular commercial media␣as means for creating contemporary Black identities that speak to a global economy. By placing media images in dialogue with the lived experiences of Black-Puerto Rican women, my research addresses the multiple ways in which Black identities are (re)constituted vis-à-vis these forces.
Issue Date: 2011-05-25
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/24132
Rights Information: © 2011 Maritza Quiñones Rivera
Date Available in IDEALS: 2011-05-25
2013-08-29
Date Deposited: 2011-05
 

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