Meet the Fellows: 2018 Women’s Studies Fellow Yessica Garcia Hernandez

Yessica at the Jenni Rivera, La Gran Señora, Museum exhibit at Grammy Museum L.A Live. May 2014. Photo by Sandy Judith Garcia.

The Woodrow Wilson Dissertation Fellowship in Women’s Studies is the only national dissertation award for doctoral work on women’s and gendered issues. The 2018 Fellows include Yessica Garcia Hernandez, a Ph.D. candidate in ethnic studies at the University of California San Diego. The award will support Yessica’s final year writing her dissertation, titled Intoxicated by Jenni Rivera: Digital Chingona Solidarity, Sonic Pedagogies, and the Erotics of Fandom.

Yessica is drawing on her upbringing and its musical icons for her doctoral work:

When I tell people that I write about Jenni Rivera I receive all types of responses. Most Chicanas/Mexicanas who identify as fans and grew up listening to her music smile and are surprised that someone can get a Ph.D. writing about her. I tell them that there is a full study of Selena Quintanilla’s remembering too (Paredez, 2009) and other artists like opera singer Beverly Sills (Guy, 2015) or Bruce Springsteen (Cavicchi, 1998). The anti-fan usually stares at me in silence for a couple of seconds and asks me, “well, what exactly about her?” Then they usually want to know more about my own personal life to understand my approach and why I would even want to write about her.

My dissertation project embraces all these responses and analyzes Jenni Rivera’s phenomenon as an entry point to flesh out Chicanx/Mexican respectability politics. Most importantly, I get an opportunity to use my writing to honor the lives of the many working-class women who I admire and have raised me to be the Chingona who I am today. Their resiliency has taught me so many sonic pedagogies of living nonnormative lives as transnational Chicanas/Mexicanas. Following Cathy Cohen, who argued for the centering of Punks, Bulldaggers and Welfare Queens, my dissertation centers the radical potentials of Malandrinas who are Parranderas, Rebeldes, Atrevidas, Madre Solteras, and Damas Divinas. This dissertation centers deviancy as a radical mode and shows that our embodied archives will make a strong contribution to the field of women and girl studies, queer studies, fan studies, fat studies, and Chicanx/Latinx studies.


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