603.7 Traviesos: Trouble-making as resistance in U.S. debuts and quinceañeras

Friday, August 3, 2012: 3:30 PM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Mexican quinceañeras and Filipina debutantes are usually formal, expensive celebrations marking a girl’s entry into life as a young “lady.”  Criticisms of these events as frivolous have inhibited serious scholarly consideration; however, much can be ascertained about immigrants, culture, and identities, through careful attention to these rituals.  “Traviesos” is from my forthcoming book, Coming of Age: Identities and Transformations in Filipina American Debutantes and Mexicana American Quinceañeras (Temple University Press).  It examines debut and quince troublemakers to reveal prevailing power arrangements affecting US immigrant communities, and to illustrate how these rituals reflect organizers’ simultaneous aims to resist and become part of US culture and society.

For this talk, I focus on “Control Freaks”, “Big Spenders” and “Party Crashers”.  I show that Control Freaks, mothers who over-regulate their daughters, and their daughters’ events, highlight how debutantes and quinceañeras afford female parents with opportunities for creativity and self-expression.  These are valuable because of the ways immigrant mothers have been personally and systematically prevented from satisfying many of their dreams.  Big Spenders are accused of unwise time and money management.  But, for them, conspicuous consumption challenges differential inclusion, by signifying economic and cultural qualification for full legal and cultural citizenship in the US.  Finally, Party Crashers, uninvited guests, expose issues that threaten carefully-managed impressions of immigrant families as conflict-free.  They underscore the importance of immigrant families’ self-portrayals as morally superior to Whites, due to constructions as “less than” within American society.

My work enhances sociological theories of cultural resistance and immigrant adaptation.  It illustrates how extraordinary events like debutantes and quinceañeras can enable actors to fashion domains of creativity under the pretext of “following tradition;” and, it demonstrates that homeland traditions and rituals do not simply “preserve” immigrant cultures, but also help immigrant communities publicly claim cultural belonging in their new homes.