by Joshua Javier Guzmán

About Joshua Javier Guzmán

Joshua Javier Guzmán (he/him) is Assistant Professor of Gender Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is a contributor to Keywords for Latina/o Studies.


Brown is not an identity. Brown, along with its nominal form, brownness, are also not objects of knowledge in the ways that identity markers such as “Latina/o” or “Chicana/o” are in the late twentieth and early twenty- first centuries. The more popularly used ethnic marker aligned with a certain hue or accent of brownness, “Latina/o” is widely understood as designating a population historically displaced from Latin America and living in the United States. Other identity variants exist within the Latina/o population that are assigned to people from specific national and cultural heritages; the most widely used of these is the politically charged banner of Chicana/o, which signifies a person of Mexican descent or origin living in the U.S. Southwest. The definitional incoherence of Latina/o—let alone Chicana/o, Cuban American, Nuyorican, and so on— reveals how not all identities capture the people, lives, and experiences they seek to demarcate. As a result, the aesthetic realm, particularly colors such as white, black, yellow, red, and brown, points to the impossible collection of people under one racial or ethnic category in the United States.


“Can the subaltern feel?” asks José Esteban Muñoz (2006, 677) in response to Gayatri Spivak’s well-known dictum “Can the subaltern speak?” According to Spivak (1988), the subaltern, a postcolonial variation of the Gramscian figure of the economically dispossessed, cannot speak, let alone know herself under the neocolonial structures of discourse she seeks to disrupt. But does this also preclude the subaltern from feeling? Muñoz’s provocative retort gets to the epistemological problem at the center of affect studies: Can knowing be felt, and is feeling a way of knowing?