Queer Transnationality: Narrative, Theatre, and Performance Across Temporal, Spatial, and Social Geographies. (Excerpt).
Dr. Alexandra G. Perkins
University of Miami
Ogando’s performances engage the theoretical implications of the present and presence. While documentation is an important element in his works, the physical interaction between performers and audience in his works highlight the urgency of queer transnationality. That is to say, the moment of performance, of bodily interaction with self and other—in the relationship between the performer and himself, the performer and collaborator, and the performer and audience—signals the theoretical crux of queer transnationality, which argues for an understanding of identity situated in a present, that understands identity as assemblage, as a process always in motion. The ‘now’ of contemporary queer theory—see Edelman and Halberstam, for example—resonates with the way Ogando articulates a dominicanidad specific to his experience in transnational spaces.
Ogando also addresses more directly notions of queer desire, and the taboo state of queer desire in the Dominican psyche. Antonio de Moya provides an important analysis of the role of masculinity and desire in the Dominican Republic. Regarding the performative impulse of Dominican masculinity, he argues that it is identification, rather than sexual desire that categorises masculinity in the Dominican Republic. He states, “This irrational fear of becoming a woman, as I have said, of ‘degenerating’, helps to compulsorily construct—and simultaneously deconstruct—exclusive heterosexuality. For de Moya, it is members of the category of hegemonic males who “are the ones who must produce and reproduce as a ritual the patriarchal power game of masculinity, primarily on the basis of sexual orientation”. This is the axis of definition that is taken out of the Dominican Republic and inserted into transnational spaces in Ogando’s pieces. Importantly, this highly codified understanding of masculinity and of masculine desire is displaced in transnational settings, and thereby is re-coded according to both the cultural specificities of the location of the performance and to the viewers.
De Moya highlights that the categorisations and nomenclature developed for his projects are translatable to other cultural contexts and “are basically intended as an invitation for linguistic and ethnographic cross-cultural research, mostly in the Caribbean”. The Caribbean as it exists in today’s globalised culture is not geographically delimited by the space of the islands. The Caribbean within the scope of this analysis in particular, stretches beyond the Caribbean basin, into the northern reaches of the United States, particularly that most distant island of the Caribbean, Manhattan; to Miami, the “capital of Latin America;” and into lesser known (within Caribbean Studies) but still culturally connected global city of Berlin. It is precisely through the transnational movement of these cultural codes that queer representations of national identity begin to emerge. Experiencing any number of culturally and nationally codified forms of identity, be they racial, gendered, sexual, class-related, etc. in transnational spaces reconfigures the articulation and reception of these identities. Furthermore, as a genre, performance art puts these issues of articulation and reception on display, quite literally. Performance can be directed in a manner that makes the spectator consciously aware of their culturally coded ways of seeing.