Institutt for sosialantropologi

Performing Us and the Others: Latino identification through expressive culture in a Texan theater company


By Mari Garaas Løchen

Supervisor: Associate Professor Tone Bringa


When represented in media, Latinos in the United States are often associated with immigration, border control, drug dealing, gangs or the rising use of Spanish in the U.S. In this thesis I analyze how Latino identity is being expressed through performing arts, and what circumstances influence the creation of these cultural expressions.More specifically I explore how a group of middle class Latino artists in Austin, Texas use expressive culture like theater, humor and joking when they communicate how it is like to be Latino in the United States.

With the theater company Encuentros as a vantage point, and trough an analysis of a theatrical production and everyday interaction, I argue that among cast and crew members of the theater company Encuentros, difficult topics concerning Latinos in the United States are being reflected and debated through the use of comedy theater, humor and joking. And these expressions, as well as the cast and crew’s views of themselves and Others, are influenced by a dialectic relationship between governmental categorization, mainstream stereotyping and in-group identification. Performing arts and the use of humor can reveal much about social relationships and identity management among people living close to the U.S. - Mexican border.

With this thesis I wish to contribute to a broader insight and understanding of Latino lives and the making of Latino popular culture in the Southwest, which extends beyond the one-sided mainstream views of Latinos in the United States.