Smithsonian Center for Lation Initiatives
The Interpretation and Representation of Latino Cultures: Research and Museums Conference Documentation
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Davalos, Karen Mary

Challenging Traditional Curatorial Practices

Historicizing Narratives

Borders and Diasporas

Aesthetics Beauty

The Body: The Real and the Symbolic

All Abstracts



History's Imprints, y que: Mestizaje and Diaspora as Paradigms for Chicana/o Experience and Museum Practices

Overlapping histories of mestizaje and dispersal produce complex representational practices by people Mexican descent. A long history of intercultural mixing makes it nearly impossible (or at least improbable) to contain Mexican-origin representational practices within Western binaries of "us" or "them." Polarities cannot address the multiple perspectives and subject positions that come from a history of mestizaje. In addition, the repeated experience of dispersal and displacement complicates representational practices by people of Mexican descent. People constantly on the move or forced to move are denied a homeland, a territorial location, and thus, turn both to their immediate surroundings (sometimes the United States) and to their memory of homeland in their representational practices. This paper explores the paradigms of mestizaje and diaspora as characteristics of Chicana/o experience and museum practices. It teases out the contradiction between mestizaje and diaspora and suggests that scholars braid and unbraid the two concepts in order to comprehend museum practices in Chicana/o communities of the Southwest, Midwest, Pacific Northwest, and emergent communities in the New South. The trenzas of mestizaje and diaspora are unwoven when the representations of homeland are attached to a place outside of the United States or when the paradigm of the immigrant erases a history of belonging that pre-dates 1848. The ironic contradiction and flexibility of mestizaje and diaspora are part of a decolonial imaginary that frames Chicana/o experience against Western notions of belonging, identity, and place. As Emma Perez (1999) suggest, the decolonial imaginary recuperates the histories and practices of museums and cultural centers, and it questions the celebratory and romantic historiography that often emerges from western dichotomous thought.

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