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Gilbert Hernandez and the Uses of Iconoclasm

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Abstract:

This paper examines the use of the stereotype in Gilbert Hernandez’s Palomar stories. Specifically, the paper considers the ways in which Hernandez’s deployment of the stereotype situates him between and across two traditions: alternative comics and Chicano/a cultural production. On the one hand, Hernandez’s invocation of racist stereotypes from the comic book cultures of Mexico aligns him with underground comic book artists like R. Crumb who wielded stereotypes as part of a project of flouting bourgeois conventions. On the other, as part of a group of Chicano artists who were extraordinarily sensitive to the representations of Chicanos that circulate in media of all sorts, Hernandez demonstrates some reservations about the deployment of stereotypes, resulting in a more complicated engagement with that form.

I argue that Hernandez uses the stereotype in two particular ways. First, he uses the stereotype as an iconoclastic tool for smashing the reified Chicano identities that he sees taking hold in the wake of the Chicano movement. In this way, Hernandez can be situated in a tradition of Chicano avant-garde visual and performance artists who similarly were frustrated with political imagery that exhausted itself. Second, Hernandez leverages the stereotype’s tendency toward fixity to allow characters spaces of composure in periods of traumatic emotional or physical displacement. In this way, he creates a space for the cultivation of new subjectivities and positionalities, maintaining a commitment to the ongoingness of Chicano identity and Chicano political projects.
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Name: American Studies Association Annual Meeting
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URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p509635_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Orchard, William. "Gilbert Hernandez and the Uses of Iconoclasm" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Hilton Baltimore, Baltimore, MD, <Not Available>. 2014-11-25 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p509635_index.html>

APA Citation:

Orchard, W. "Gilbert Hernandez and the Uses of Iconoclasm" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Hilton Baltimore, Baltimore, MD <Not Available>. 2014-11-25 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p509635_index.html

Publication Type: Internal Paper
Abstract: This paper examines the use of the stereotype in Gilbert Hernandez’s Palomar stories. Specifically, the paper considers the ways in which Hernandez’s deployment of the stereotype situates him between and across two traditions: alternative comics and Chicano/a cultural production. On the one hand, Hernandez’s invocation of racist stereotypes from the comic book cultures of Mexico aligns him with underground comic book artists like R. Crumb who wielded stereotypes as part of a project of flouting bourgeois conventions. On the other, as part of a group of Chicano artists who were extraordinarily sensitive to the representations of Chicanos that circulate in media of all sorts, Hernandez demonstrates some reservations about the deployment of stereotypes, resulting in a more complicated engagement with that form.

I argue that Hernandez uses the stereotype in two particular ways. First, he uses the stereotype as an iconoclastic tool for smashing the reified Chicano identities that he sees taking hold in the wake of the Chicano movement. In this way, Hernandez can be situated in a tradition of Chicano avant-garde visual and performance artists who similarly were frustrated with political imagery that exhausted itself. Second, Hernandez leverages the stereotype’s tendency toward fixity to allow characters spaces of composure in periods of traumatic emotional or physical displacement. In this way, he creates a space for the cultivation of new subjectivities and positionalities, maintaining a commitment to the ongoingness of Chicano identity and Chicano political projects.


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