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This dissertation examines productions, consumption, and performances of female bodies, genders, and sexualities in Chile under changing Cold War political regimes from 1950-1990. Drawing on deconstructionist and performance approaches, I consider the multiple, changing ways Cold War Chilean cisgender and transgender women performed their femininity as part of racialized nationalist projects, analyzing laws and government documents, contemporary print media, television, film, literature, cabaret and theater performances, and oral histories and testimonies of female, queer, and transgender Chileans, including cabaret artists and nightclub owners. My focus on nonreproductive sexuality tells a new story of women in Latin America, of queerness in Latin America, and of Chilean politics and civil rights. It also reveals race, sex, and gender constructions as transnational processes. Establishing the entertainment industry as a fundamental structure of power, I demonstrate the role of productive sexualities such as beauty culture, sexual performance, and nude magazines in providing education in femininity under democracy and dictatorship. I show that, despite drastic regime shifts, including the presidency of socialist Salvador Allende and the US backed right-wing dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, the elite maintained overarching continuities in policing heteronormative gender and sexuality and in the related sexualization of female bodies. Yet all Cold War Chilean governments also made space for- and enjoyed the performance of- alternative sexualities. The performance of essentialized aesthetic and behavioral markers of femininity was central to constructions of gender and sexuality for both cisgender and transgender women. Likewise, cisgender women and queer Chileans resisted and inverted normative notions of binary gender roles in public and private spaces throughout the Cold War period. By centering transgender communities in the history of sexuality and states and reframing sexual performance as potentially emancipatory rather than inherently exploitative, my work pushes beyond the usual scope of Latin American feminist scholarship, challenging cultural and scholarly paradigms about Latin American gender and sexual identities and their sources of power and influence.

Level of Degree


Degree Name


Department Name


First Committee Member (Chair)

Gauderman, Kimberly

Second Committee Member

Bieber, Judy

Third Committee Member

Slaughter, Jane

Fourth Committee Member

Gundle, Stephen



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