Pop Culture and the Politics of the Possible
256 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 x 0.90 in
Sales Date: March 29, 2022
2023 Honorable Mention Best History Book, International Latino Book Awards
Broad and encompassing examination of Chicanx popular culture since World War II and the utopian visions it articulated
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
[Chicanx Utopias] opens new doors for understanding the complicated relationships that exist among television, film, music, art, people, politics, and social movements from the post-World War II years to the 2000s...This book is a valuable addition to the various conversations happening in Latinx/Chicanx studies, ethnic studies, cultural studies and many other disciplines. ~Southwestern Historical Quarterly
Alvarez’s focus on utopias is a fresh take on Chicanx cultural history...Alvarez’s expansive interdisciplinary scholarship—covering over five decades of Chicanx popular culture—makes Chicanx Utopias an important addition to the fields of Chicanx cultural studies, Chicanx history, and pop culture studies, and to the scholarship on utopias. ~Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies
[Alvarez] provides a passionate, in-depth analysis of the social impact of these cultural productions, incorporating historical accounts, film assessments, and primary materials. An insightful analysis of Chicanx pop culture, this volume is sure to inspire new directions in future research on this subject. Every library should obtain a copy for its Chicanx studies and ethnic studies collections. ~CHOICE
A comprehensive source on Chicanx popular culture... The book seems to be resourceful both for those interested in Chicanx (pop) culture and politics as well as for those studying the general connection between the media and political discourse. Furthermore, the book not only is a well-researched academic source contributing to the relevant literature but also proves to be an easy-to-follow read for the more casual reader. ~H-Net Reviews
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