Performance art, researching homosexuality in Latin America
Written by Vivianne Schnitzer
ANN ARBOR—Larry La Fountain-Stokes is a leading international scholar, writer and performer who has found innovative ways to combine experimental performance art with scholarly work.
He has a special interest in Puerto Rican literature and gay culture. The associate professor at the University of Michigan also stages his own solo performances with dolls to tell the story of slavery and homosexuality in Puerto Rico and other parts of Latin America.
“Contemporary Puerto Rican performance artists use drag and cross dressing in very interesting ways to talk about issues of race, poverty and marginality,” said La Fountain-Stokes, director of Latina/o studies at U-M.
His most recent book is a collection of short stories, “Abolición del Pato” or “Abolition of the Duck.” In Puerto Rico, “duck” is a derogatory term for homosexual men. La Fountain-Stokes recently presented the book at the International Book Fair of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.
La Fountain-Stokes began his research about gay Puerto Rican culture in the 1990s and was one of the first scholars to make gay studies, gender studies and Latina/o studies the principal focus of his work. Referring to the environment previous scholars in the field worked in, he said, “Definitely, there is more openness and less hostility now.”
He is currently working on a new book, “Translocas and Transmachas: Trans Diasporic Puerto Rican Drag,” which covers theater, performance and activism since the 1960s as well as cross-dressing, sex/gender modification and physical displacement.