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My dissertation examines the emergence of lesbian movements in Mexico City in the context of the Cold War and the onset of economic neo-liberalism. A transnational approach is crucial to understand the constitution of these movements because they responded and contributed to global sexuality rights movements as well as to the global Left. During this time, Mexican lesbians allied with the political Left offering support to socialist and anti-imperialist groups. In turn, the government treated lesbian activists as they did the Left, monitoring and harassing lesbians and their organizations in an effort to weaken the groups influence on civil society. Confronting this state repression as well as increasing economic instability throughout the 1980s, Mexican lesbian activists organized in coalitions with local, national, and international actors defending gay, lesbian, and human rights and pressing for the democratization of the Mexican state. Challenging Western understandings of the utilization of human rights discourse as a liberal construct, my research reveals that Mexican lesbian activists' use of these discourses was grounded in their work with anti-imperialist movements in Latin America to democratize the state from the grassroots. They used human rights rhetoric not only to uphold individual civil and political rights, but also to demand social and economic rights and to express solidarity with other marginalized groups working to democratize authoritarian states in Latin America. In particular, my study focuses on the anti-imperialist politics that Mexican lesbians brought to international organizing for lesbian and homosexual liberation and to the politics of lesbian and homosexual liberation that they sought to instill in the Mexican Left. As part of efforts to further lesbian and gay rights, Mexican lesbians also became leaders in international activism, particularly by their participation in campaigns and conferences of the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA).

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Hall, Linda

Second Committee Member

Slaughter, Jane

Third Committee Member

Brandzel, Amy

Fourth Committee Member

Olcott, Jocelyn



Project Sponsors

American Association of University Women, Latin American and Iberian Institute at the University of New Mexico

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