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"We Were There”: From Alice Bag to Emos The War on Punk and Other Décadas Podridas

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‘“We Were There”: From Alice Bag to Emos The War on Punk and Other Décadas Podridas” is a comparative ethnographic study of queer Chicana participants in the Los Angeles/Southern California and Latino diasporic punk scenes from 1977-2008. The project insists on a reexamination of queer Chicana punk culture from L.A. as a hemispheric and sonic migration throughout the global south. While Chican@/Latin@ identity is often tethered to physical migration from the global south to the U.S., I look to the way sound offers alternatives to understanding migration patterns for Chican@/Latin@ expressive cultures in the U.S. beyond physical movement. To accomplish this, I use a trans-disciplinary method I call “Intellectual Dumpster Diving,” to make use of obsolete or unlikely ephemeral objects of memory (re)covery as intellectual archives. These archives consist of memoirs, dance, spit, photographs, sexploitation films, and oral history which address how the cultural practices found within punk offer space to critique sexism and xenophobic discourse during the 1980s.

This research project illuminates an alternative genealogy of punk historiography–– one that accounts for the early Los Angeles punk scene and the queer women of color that helped create it. Alice Bag, a queer Chicana punk from the 1970s punk scene in L.A., creates this project’s foundation by calling for both a reexamination of the lack of representation of queer Latinas/Chicanas in punk historiography and L.A. punk as a global scene in conversation with the global south, specifically Mexico and Nicaragua. Considering how punk during these years existed within a broader network of other newly forming punk scenes in Latin America, “We Were There” aims to highlight particular punk scenes during the era Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari called “the lost decade” or “la decada perdida” in which he argued the moral fabric of Latin America was falling apart at the seams and thus insisted upon a Reaganesque rise in political conservatism.

Yet, according to punks in Mexico, these specified years were not lost but rather rotten or “pordrida.” This project sifts through that rot to challenge the idea that punk is a white cultural production by utilizing the queer Chicana praxis of testimonio to argue that in fact Chicana/Latina women and queer youth were pillars of an entire punk movement in Los Angeles and elsewhere during the late 1970s and into the mid 2000s during “the punk renaissance.”

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This item is under embargo until October 14, 2024.