Chicanx Utopias
256 pages, 6 x 9
Release Date:29 Mar 2022
Release Date:29 Mar 2022

Chicanx Utopias

Pop Culture and the Politics of the Possible

University of Texas Press

Amid the rise of neoliberalism, globalization, and movements for civil rights and global justice in the post–World War II era, Chicanxs in film, music, television, and art weaponized culture to combat often oppressive economic and political conditions. They envisioned utopias that, even if never fully realized, reimagined the world and linked seemingly disparate people and places. In the latter half of the twentieth century, Chicanx popular culture forged a politics of the possible and gave rise to utopian dreams that sprang from everyday experiences.

In Chicanx Utopias, Luis Alvarez offers a broad study of these utopian visions from the 1950s to the 2000s. Probing the film Salt of the Earth, brown-eyed soul music, sitcoms, poster art, and borderlands reggae music, he examines how Chicanx pop culture, capable of both liberation and exploitation, fostered interracial and transnational identities, engaged social movements, and produced varied utopian visions with divergent possibilities and limits. Grounded in the theoretical frameworks of Walter Benjamin, Stuart Hall, and the Zapatista movement, this book reveals how Chicanxs articulated pop cultural utopias to make sense of, challenge, and improve the worlds they inhabited.

Chicanx Utopias moves like a musical score with break beats, pauses, and time changes, that is, a score that moves across genres of pop culture—TV, movies, theater, and frontera soundscapes. It is a cultural history of a radical imaginary that demonstrates that these dreams and imaginaries always contained the seeds of possible new worlds. Luis Alvarez brings Chicana/o/x studies in conversation with the vast, complicated, and often contradictory literatures on utopia—readers will buzz over this study and scholars will be inspired by this book’s transformative achievements. Alan Gomez, Arizona State University, author of The Revolutionary Imaginations of Greater Mexico: Chicana/o Radicalism, Solidarity Politics, and Latin American Social Movements
Chicanx Utopias sets a new standard of excellence for the study of the politics of culture and the culture of politics. Luis Alvarez has crafted a magnificent book that shows how films, music, poster art, and television programs became contested terrains attendant to the Chicano movement for dignity, self-definition, and self-determination. His erudition, imagination, and impressive ability to roam across different cultural forms enable Alvarez to show how social movements shake up social life. This book will transform in significant and lasting ways scholarship in social history, ethnic studies, and cultural studies.

George Lipsitz, University of California, Santa Barbara, author of How Racism Takes Place
Luis Alvarez is an associate professor of history at the University of California, San Diego. He is the author of The Power of the Zoot: Youth Culture and Resistance during World War II.
Chapter 1. Salt of the Earth
Chapter 2. Brown-Eyed Soul
Chapter 3. Chico and Kotter
Chapter 4. No Human Being Is Illegal
Chapter 5. Border Reggae
Coda: Ngātahi

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