Skip to main content
UNC Latina/o Studies Program "Health, Environment, and LatinX Experiences" Symposium Day 2: Ecological Ruminations, Diagrams, and Philosophies - UNC English & Comparative Literature

Loading Events

« All Events

  • This event has passed.

UNC Latina/o Studies Program “Health, Environment, and LatinX Experiences” Symposium Day 2: Ecological Ruminations, Diagrams, and Philosophies

September 11, 2020 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm

Ecological Ruminations, Diagrams, and Philosophies

To attend, click on this Zoom Link or copy and paste the following URL into your browser:


Colonial Saints Subverted by an Indigenous Brush: Cecilia Vicuña’s pre-Pinochet Paintings

Presenter: emilio jesús taiveaho peláez

Writing about her paintings in 1973, latinx poet Cecilia Vicuña states: “I am slowly getting closer to form. To find it I need an opener and then a needle to join the loose ends into a structure that is not only a diagram, a spider web in the cosmos or a mandala but a particular universe to be used by the thinker.” For Vicuña, painting functions relationally rather than mimetically, serving as a mediating technology to be “used by the thinker” in order to generate new vistas for thought, affect, action, and experience. Rather than simply display or represent pre-existing information, paintings create ‘‘diagrams of thought” that shape the world itself, making it possible for their users to think differently and creatively about the correlation between themselves and their environments. Building on the work of C.S. Peirce, Frederik Stjernfelt, and Margaret Iversen, this talk will explore Vicuña’s semiotic experimentalism, highlighting her contributions to the nascent field of “diagrammatology.” I will argue that Vicuña uses diagrams to articulate an intercultural subjectivity in which mediation assumes a central role: By re-deploying and re-configuring colonial aesthetic practices, the artist superimposes maps to voice dissent and creativity, globe and community at once. Understanding Vicuña’s diagrammatic practice will allow us to conceptualize a hemisphere that is neither simply Hispanic nor Anglo-American but both: “America” thus becomes a site of transformation, mediation, and exchange between dissonant cultural histories and traditions, leading to an agonistic artistic and political practice that is loaded with past and pregnant with future.


Another Way of Seeing: Latinx Environmental Existentialism in Cortázar’s “Axolotl”

Presenter: Krysten Voelkner

The threat of climate change and environmental crisis is beginning to manifest in increasingly literal and physical ways as humanity bears witness to the rapid melting of arctic glaciers, dramatically rising sea levels, and the destruction wreaked by extreme weather events. Yet as these physical representations of climate change mount daily in headlines and lived experiences, there is another, less critically discussed effect of anthropogenic forcing—that of environmental existentialism. This study interrogates the intersections of Latinx eco-fiction and the philosophies of the existentialist movement in order to reveal a burgeoning context in Latinx criticism which is concerned with the philosophical questions unique to an era of climate change. Specifically, I posit a philosophical perspective which draws from traditionally existential concepts of environment, dwelling, and death in order to complicate modern discourses on place, dwellings, and the threat of extinction. Drawing primarily from an analysis of Julio Cortázar’s short story “Axolotl,” I develop a theoretical approach to Latinx eco-fiction which is capable of addressing the modern philosophical, emotional, and existential impacts of climate change.