By Deborah R. Vargas

About Deborah R. Vargas

Deborah R. Vargas is Henry Rutgers Term Chair in Comparative Sexuality, Gender, and Race at  Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick. She is the author of Dissonant Divas in Chicana Music: The Limits of La Onda.

About this Site

Keywords for Latina/o Studies is a generative text that enhances the ongoing dialogue within a rapidly growing and changing field. The keywords included in this collection represent established and emergent terms, categories, and concepts that undergird Latina/o studies; they delineate the shifting contours of a field best thought of as an intellectual imaginary and experiential project of social and cultural identities within the U.S. academy.

Bringing together sixty-three essays, from humanists, historians, anthropologists, sociologists, among others, each focused on a single term, the volume reveals the broad range of the field while also illuminating the tensions and contestations surrounding issues of language, politics, and histories of colonization, specific to this area of study. From “borderlands” to “indigeneity,” from “citizenship” to “mestizaje,” this accessible volume will be informative for those who are new to Latina/o studies, providing them with a mapping of the …


We wish to thank, first and foremost, the sixty-five contributors to this volume on Keywords for Latina/o Studies, without whom we would never have been able to create this book. We are also enormously thankful to Eric Zinner, Lisha Nadkarni, and Alexia Traganas at New York University Press for their enormous encouragement and support at all stages of production. We also want to thank Ricardo Bracho for his editorial assistance compiling the list of works cited.

Deborah R. Vargas would like to thank Eric Zinner for giving the three of us this opportunity to  engage the field, to struggle over meanings and ideas, and to learn to apply a politics of cariño y respeto in our debates. Thanks so much to Lisha Nadkarni for all of her expertise and assistance. I consider it a privilege to have had the opportunity to collaborate with and learn so much from Nancy …


Over the last five decades, Latina/o studies has rapidly evolved and expanded. An amalgamation of multiple disciplines, theories, and methods, Latina/o studies has generated an expansive, innovative, and ever-evolving framework to understand the experiences of persons of Latin American and Caribbean descent in the United States as well as broader sociohistorical, political, and cultural processes. By using the knowledges and methodologies of such diverse fields as American studies, anthropology, art, cultural studies, economics, education, ethnic studies, geography, history, labor, language and literary studies (particularly English and Spanish), Latin American and Caribbean studies, linguistics, media studies, medicine, music, political science, public health, religion, social work, sociology, and women’s and gender studies, among others, Latina/o studies reveals facts and truths that had previously not been visible or accessible.

In naming this book, we have chosen the term “Latina/o” with the full understanding that during the past decade a number of theoretical,  epistemological, …

Note on Classroom Use


Instructors who use Keywords for Latina/o Studies have employed it in multiple ways. Some use it to enhance required readings, others have structured assignments around individual keywords, and still others have used them to prompt discussions and complicate ideas.  Utilizing keywords to enrich readings is the most common tool.  They are often used to expand points and arguments. Terms such as “Borderlands,” “Citizenship,”  “Latinidad,” “Mestizaje,” “Rasquachismo,” and “Raza,” and so forth, either directly correlate or are born out of the various fields that constitute Latina/o/x theories and methodologies. In this case, the different submissions assist in not only explaining the term, but also highlighting their epistemology and how they have influenced the field and beyond.  For instance, questions concerning citizenship and illegality cannot be divorced from a long, problematic, and violent history of Latina/o/x migration to the United States.  Terms like “Latinidad,” “Mestizaje,” “Rasquachismo,” and “Raza,” necessitate a deeper …

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