English Language and Literature ETDs

Publication Date

Fall 11-15-2016


Chicana Feminist Acts intervenes in the patriarchal forces that negate the historical presence and social agency of Chicanas on the stage of U.S. literature by recovering the transformative power of Chicana drama to enact feminist change. I position early playwrights Josephina Niggli, Estela Portillo Trambley and Teatro Chicana, alongside contemporary feminist playwright Cherríe Moraga, as part of the rich and varied history of feminist cultural production in the U.S. that challenges the systematic sexist oppression of Chicanas. My thesis is that Chicana theater stages a series of feminist “acts” that continuously re-stage Chicana subjectivity to resist fixed patriarchal and nationalist paradigms of gender and sexuality. Moreover, I maintain that, since the 1930s, Chicanas have staged feminist acts in theater that challenge dominant and Chicano gender/sex norms by imagining and performing different Chicana identities. The humanistic social scientific approach I take to this project allows the subjects of Chicana feminist theater to create its living history. Chicana theater comes alive through interviews with Chicana playwrights alongside archival investigations of photographic stills, playbills, and theater reviews. As a result, the trajectory of Chicana theater that I trace proves Mexican and Mexican American women have challenged dominant paradigms of gender and sexuality long before the 1970s’ so-called first wave of Chicana feminism. My research shows that theater has always played a transformative role in advancing the social position of Chicanas to enact social change.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Dr. Jesse Aleman

Second Committee Member

Dr. Melina Vizcaino-Aleman

Third Committee Member

Dr. Kathryn Wichelns

Fourth Committee Member

Dr. Tey Diana Rebolledo

Project Sponsors

UNM-Mellon Dissertation Completion Fellowship




Chicana Theater, Chicana Feminism, Chicana Literature, Chicana Playwrights, 20th Century American Theater, 20th Century American Literature

Document Type


Available for download on Wednesday, May 15, 2019