Added: August 23, 2014 – Last updated: April 2, 2016


Author: Gabriela Aceves Sepúlveda

Title: "Mujeres que se visualizan"

Subtitle: (En)Gendering Archives and Regimes of Media and Visuality in Post-1968 Mexico

Thesis: Ph.D. Thesis, University of British Columbia

Advisors: William E. French, Alejandra Bronfman, and Jessica Stites-Mor

Year: August 2014

Pages: xii + 438pp.

Language: English

Keywords: Modern History: 20th Century | American History: Mexican History | Representations: Films / Rompiendo el Silencio



Theses Canada (Free Access)

UBC Theses and Dissertations (Free Access)


Author: Gabriela Aceves-Sepulveda, School of Interactive Arts and Technology, Simon Fraser UniversityAuthor's Personal Website,


»This study analyzes the fundamental role played by a group of artists and feminist activists including Ana Victoria Jiménez, Rosa Martha Fernández, Mónica Mayer, and Pola Weiss in developing and transforming regimes of media and visuality in post-1968 Mexico. It considers this process as indicative of larger and potential transformations in historically constituted fields of power and knowledge in the context of the emergence of new wave feminisms and the broad shift in Mexican intellectual sectors away from an exclusive emphasis on literate-print culture and towards an embrace of audiovisual communications.
Throughout this dissertation, the concept of visual letradas is developed to describe women who by the second half of the twentieth century became more openly concerned with performing and recording audiovisual information about how their bodies were visually construed and politicized. Using recently opened archives of the Mexican secret services as well as photographic documentation on feminist demonstrations, oral testimonies, interviews, videos, performances, and films, this study shows how visual letradas transformed intellectual spheres of influence previously conceptualized as privileged masculine territory, the space of the letrado. The term visual letradas is also used to map out how the increased participation of women in Mexico's mediascapes shaped the emergence of competing political subjectivities that posited the female body, gender difference, and sexual violence at the forefront of public debates during the last decades of the twentieth century.
Moreover, in contrast to the closed disciplinary focus and national parameters that have characterized the twentieth-century Mexican historiography of feminisms, media, art, and women's history, this dissertation emphasizes the interconnections between these fields by focusing on three main categories—the city, the archive, and the media. By bringing an interdisciplinary, local, and transnational lens to bear on these categories and by showing how visual letradas appropriated them as key spheres of action, this project narrates how normative representations of the female body (visually and in formal politics) were contested throughout Mexico City and how, in turn, such challenges affected and effected politics.« (Source: Thesis)


  Abstract (p. ii)
  Preface (p. iii)
  List of Figures (p. vi)
  List of Acronyms (p. ix)
  Acknowledgments (p. x)
  Introduction. The Outline of the Visual Letradas (p. 1)
    Feminizing the letrado sphere of influence (p. 20)
    Archival Frameworks (p. 24)
    Feminism as keyword (p. 33)
    Feminism(s), art, social movements and media as categories of exclusion (p. 35)
    Gender as category of analysis (p. 39)
    Structure (p. 45)
  Section 1. Feminizing the City (p. 50)
    A preamble: the battle for the city (p. 60)
  Chapter 1. Map one: the official city (p. 73)
    Controlling women's bodies: gender equity and family planning (p. 75)
    La mujer en el arte or feminist art? (p. 83)
    Reforming the visual arts (p. 89)
  Chapter 2. Map two: the media city (p. 95)
    Television broadcasting in 1970s Mexico (p. 97)
    Women and television broadcasting in 1970s Mexico (p. 102)
    Video: from la caja idiota to la caja mágica (p. 109)
    Women behind the camera: competing approaches to politically committed film (p. 116)
    La mujer liberada (p. 124)
  Chapter 3. Map Three: the embodied city (p. 131)
    La (re)cámara de diputados: the personal turns political (p. 145)
    Fed-up women and beauty pageants: unacknowledged legacies in Mexican theater and performance (p. 149)
    Miss revolución (p. 159)
    Fed-up women take over the mother's Monument: fronts and artistic coalitions (p. 169)
  Section 2. The Archival Practices of a Visual Letrada (p. 185)
  Chapter 4. The archival and political awakenings of Ana Victoria Jiménez (p. 190)
  Chapter 5. Secret documents and feminist practices (p. 221)
  Chapter 6. Performing feminist art: Tlacuilas y Retrateras and la Fiesta de Quinceaños (p. 244)
  Section 3. The Visual Letradas Protesting the Media Archive (p. 267)
  Chapter 7. Interrupting photographic traditions: the photographs of Ana Victoria Jiménez (p. 273)
    Cross-dressing as indigenous and the gendering of photographic practice (p. 281)
    Women wielding the camera: images and genealogies of photographic practices (p. 292)
    Mexican visual letradAs: archival practices and the excavation of revolutionary moments (p. 306)
    Photojournalism, images of women and the ethics of seeing (p. 312)
    New photojournalism (p. 320)
  Chapter 8. "¿Cosas de mujeres?": Feminist collaborations in 1970s Mexico City (p. 328)
    "¿Cosas de Mujeres?": breaking the silence on "women's issues" (p. 331)
    Critique, reception and mechanisms of exclusion (p. 345)
    Legacies and networks (p. 348)
  Chapter 9. extraPOLAting, interPOLAting and POLArizing the archive: the videos of Pola Weiss (p. 353)
    Towards a pre-history of video emerging from Mexico City (p. 364)
    V is for video and vagina: the exchanges of Pola Weiss and Shigeko Kubota (p. 371)
    Video as archival record (p. 385)
    Videodanza and recognition (p. 388)
    extraPOLAting, interPOLAting, and POLArizing the viewer: Pola la Venusina (p. 394)
    Mi ojo es mi co-ra-zón: The return to the city as allegory of the female body (p. 400)
    Transnational networks, forms of erasure, and other video visual letradas (p. 403)
  Conclusions. Mujeres que se visualizan (p. 408)
  Bibliography (p. 421)
    Newspapers (p. 421)
    Magazines (p. 421)
    Interviews (p. 421)
    Archival and Library Collections (p. 422)
    Film and Videos (p. 422)
    Secondary Sources (p. 423)

Wikipedia: History of the Americas: History of Mexico