Working at the intersection of political theory and Chicano political thought, this research considers how the concept of rasquache opens up new ways of thinking about political membership and the politics of abundance. Drawing on the work of Tomás Ybarra-Frausto and Amalia Mesa-Bains, I consider how rasquachismo offers an alternate ethos of membership and abundance. Emerging out of the lived experience of working class Mexican communities struggling to both survive and thrive, rasquache is an aesthetic sensibility of making do with what one has — creating beauty, pleasure and abundance in the context of scarcity. Examples of rasquachismo include creating new uses for conventional objects, giving a new function to what would be otherwise considered used up, useless, broken, or a type of trash. A rasquacheaesthetics creates works of dazzling beauty using discards, fragments, and other disposable materials, creating a sense of possibility and pleasure using what is abundant and available.
Theorizing our political attachments and desires in terms of beauty, brokenness, and refashioning — rasquachismo offers a way of approaching one’s affection and attachment to a broken national project as spaces of encounter where feelings of uselessness and waste exist alongside desire, pleasure and possibility. Refusing the narrow logic of elimination, rasquachismo offers the promise of new affective assemblages, where what is seen as worthless and too much can become beautiful, reincorporated, and radically reimagined.
Cristina Beltrán is an Associate Professor in the department of Social & Cultural Analysis at NYU. A political theorist, her research engages modern and contemporary political theory, Latinx studies, feminist and queer theory. She is author of The Trouble with Unity: Latino Politics and the Creation of Identity which won the American Political Science Association's Ralph Bunche Award and the Casa de las Américas prize for the best book on Latinos in the United States. Her second book, Cruelty as Citizenship: How Migrant Suffering Sustains White Democracy was awarded the Best Book Award in Latino Politics/Latino Studies by the Latino Caucus of APSA. For the past five years, she served as the co-editor of the journal Theory & Event.