Next of Kin

The Family in Chicano/a Cultural Politics

Next of Kin

Latin America Otherwise

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Book Pages: 272 Illustrations: 17 illustrations Published: June 2009

Chicanx and Latinx Studies, Cultural Studies, Gender and Sexuality > LGBTQ Studies

As both an idea and an institution, the family has been at the heart of Chicano/a cultural politics since the Mexican American civil rights movement emerged in the late 1960s. In Next of Kin, Richard T. Rodríguez explores the competing notions of la familia found in movement-inspired literature, film, video, music, painting, and other forms of cultural expression created by Chicano men. Drawing on cultural studies and feminist and queer theory, he examines representations of the family that reflect and support a patriarchal, heteronormative nationalism as well as those that reconfigure kinship to encompass alternative forms of belonging.

Describing how la familia came to be adopted as an organizing strategy for communitarian politics, Rodríguez looks at foundational texts including Rodolfo Gonzales’s well-known poem “I Am Joaquín,” the Chicano Liberation Youth Conference’s manifesto El Plan Espiritual de Aztlán, and José Armas’s La Familia de La Raza. Rodríguez analyzes representations of the family in the films I Am Joaquín, Yo Soy Chicano, and Chicana; the Los Angeles public affairs television series ¡Ahora!; the experimental videos of the artist-activist Harry Gamboa Jr.; and the work of hip-hop artists such as Kid Frost and Chicano Brotherhood. He reflects on homophobia in Chicano nationalist thought, and examines how Chicano gay men have responded to it in works including Al Lujan’s video S&M in the Hood, the paintings of Eugene Rodríguez, and a poem by the late activist Rodrigo Reyes. Next of Kin is both a wide-ranging assessment of la familia’s symbolic power and a hopeful call for a more inclusive cultural politics.


Next of Kin is an impressive, well-researched, and beautifully written study. It probes the trope of the family in Chicano cultural politics in a sophisticated and intelligent manner, reflecting Rodriguez's breathtaking knowledge. The author is well versed in many disciplines, which allows him to make insightful connections between his varied texts.... Historians should read this book with great care to learn how to truly engage in interdisciplinary work and in so doing call forth a more nuanced and complicated past.” — Ernesto Chavez, Journal of American Ethnic History

“Dedicated to unpacking the genealogy of the family in Chicano/a cultural politics, Rodriguez, unlike many scholars, does not dismiss cultural nationalism wholesale, but instead points to when and how its renderings of the family have been liberatory. The sexist and homophobic attributes of early cultural nationalism have been roundly critiqued by Chicana feminists, among others; Rodriguez does a more thorough job of making the Chicano ‘familia’ unfamiliar than most with his careful close readings of a variety of both well-known and difficult-to-access ephemera. . . . Rodriguez’s text is at its best when he takes his Foucauldian methodology most to heart and reads texts from the 1960s and 1970s as part of a genealogy to the present. For example, his analysis of ‘I Am Joaquin’ as it ghosts the later work of Kid Frost is an important intervention.” — Patricia Ybarra, American Literature

“Given its thorough examination of long-standing discourses, images, and expectations, Next of Kin is a book that should be read and discussed widely. . . . Next of Kin offers an important framework to continually challenge and reconceptualize more inclusive discourses, practices, and spaces.” — Gilda L. Ochoa, Gender & Society

“Rodriguez displays evident skill in his pictorial analysis, a talent that is augmented by the inclusion of the various reproductions of the materials that he is analyzing.” — Sophie M. Lavoie, Feminist Review Blog

“[T]he publication of Rodríguez’s book is exceptionally timely given widespread prejudices many Chicanos–Chicanas are still facing. The book is engagingly written and will certainly be of great value for specialists in the Americas, queer and feminist theory, cultural studies, popular culture, kinship, and migration.” — Julia Pauli, American Anthropologist

“By studying the works of writers, filmmakers, painters, and musicians, Rodríguez assembles a rich cultural study and illustrates how ‘alternative’ family configurations (as opposed to the husband-dominated model) have existed in Chicano culture longer than previously thought. . . .” — Charlie Vázquez

“Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Next of Kin and would recommend it highly. I plan to include it the next time I teach a gender and migration course. I think it would work well for upper-division undergraduate as well as graduate students.”
— Leah Schmalzbauer, International Journal of Sociology of the Family

“The centrality of the family to Chicano culture is indisputable. One of Next of Kin’s merits lies in its push to expand the notion of exactly who makes up this family. The cultural studies approach, which allows for the analysis of various modes of cultural expression, explains the general absence of canonical literary texts, many of which prominently feature both biological and fictive representations of family. Rodríguez counters this by critically engaging a rich variety of cultural practices, all of great relevance to the reconfiguration of la familia Chicana.”
— José Pablo Villalobos, Camino Real

Next of Kin offers one of the most cogent articulations of Chicana/o cultural critique to date. Through elegant readings of a dynamic archive of Chicano literary and popular culture, Richard T. Rodríguez scrutinizes the cultural authority of the biological Chicana/o family, critiquing its exclusionary impulses and championing transformative reconfigurations of la familia. Along the way, he provides a nuanced consideration of Chicana/o political and cultural history.” — José Esteban Muñoz, author of Disidentifications: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics

“A gorgeous tapestry of cultural forms and interpretive brilliance, Next of Kin reopens the debate over our conflicted understandings of la familia in light of the challenges produced by feminism and queer studies. A must read for all those interested in Chicana and Chicano politics, fiction, film, photography, performance, and painting. Richard T. Rodríguez has given us a map with which to negotiate the twenty-first century uses of the family.” — George Mariscal, author of Brown-Eyed Children of the Sun: Lessons from the Chicano Movement, 1965-1975


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Richard T. Rodríguez is Associate Professor of English and Latina/Latino Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Table of Contents Back to Top
About the Series v

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction: Staking Family Claims 1

Reappraising the Archive 19

Shooting the Patriarch 55

The Verse of the Godfather 95

Carnal Knowledge 135

Afterword: Making Queer Familia 167

Notes 177

Bibliography 211

Discography 235

Filmography 237

Index 239
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing

Winner, 2011 National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies Book Award

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4543-5 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4525-1
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