Duberman Fellow Examines Latin American Lesbianism

Editor’s Note: Last year Peruvian scholar Norma Mogrovejo became the first recipient of the Martin Duberman Fellowship. CLAGS Board Member Oscar Montero provides an overview of Mogrovejo’s project, outlining its significance not only for lesbian and gay studies but for Latin American studies as well.

Norma Mogrovejo, a Peruvian scholar living and working in Mexico, is currently completing a book on the lesbian movement in Latin America. Her work focuses on the complex local relationships among lesbianism and its two main sources: feminism and the movement for homosexual rights. Mogrovejo has taken on the daunting task of reconstructing the fragmentary lives and works of Latin American lesbians who • have made their sexual preference a public issue. In the context of Latin American culture, her work is clearly situated on the margins of academic disciplines whose silences and exclusions on the subject of “deviant sexualities” are notorious. In this setting, Mogrovejo’s research takes on a clandestine aura. Mogrovejo’s study of lesbianism in Latin America has drawn on work by lesbians in literature, theatre, and activism. Her work has relied heavily on oral sources, whose fluid, unstable nature goes against the grain of established disciplines. In the words of critic Marfa Amparo Jimenez, “The history of lesbianism [in Latin America] still flows, because it is a story that women understand fully, because it still belongs to our rebellious side, that side that heterosexuality and imposed notions of maternity have tried to repress.” During the course of her research, Mogrovejo interviewed hundreds of lesbians from diverse areas, including her home base in Mexico as well as Argentina and Chile. As a sociologist, Mogrovejo reflects on the changes in Latin American political thinking unleashed by the debates on sexual freedom set forth by feminism during the 1970s. As a Latin American scholar, she describes the complex links between the lesbian movement and the hierarchical institutions that have sought to exclude, circumscribe, or tame it. Mogrovejo’s work is a significant contribution to the construction of a local knowledge that resists the ways in which power – whether embodied in a ruthless dictatorship, a revolutionary government, or in a formal democracy – resists and conditions pleasure. At the same time, her work is an impressive analysis of the repressive structures of Latin American cultural and political systems. A synopsis of Mogrovejo’s work is available in Spanish and English. Mogrovejo can be reach by e-mail at .

Oscar Montero
CLAGS Board Member