The editorial categories are research topics that have guided researchers during the recovery phase and continue to be the impetus behind the Documents Project’s digital archive and the Critical Documents book series. Developed by the project’s Editorial Board, each of the teams analyzed this framework and adapted it to their local contexts in developing their research objectives and work plans during the Recovery Phase. Learn more on the Editorial Framework page.
In this essay, Ramón García explores the foundations and essential qualities of Chicano camp (rasquache) and its artistic and literary manifestations. García begins with a discussion of the walking murals of the Los Angeles conceptual art group, ASCO, and their role in the development of a camp style that aimed at negotiating and confronting a bordered marginalization. He articulates a crucial divide between critical and conventional forms of camp, with Chicano camp representing the former. García differentiates between Eurocentric and Chicano camp based on historical and cultural distinctions, so that he frames his discussion of camp in Chicano art and literature within a consideration of popular culture as a field of struggle in Chicano aesthetics. García addresses the notion of rasquache, arguing that camp involves a more conscious and critical representation of working class culture; however, campiness or kitsch art is usually defined outside of the subcultures it is meant to reflect. He then outlines a genealogy of Chicano camp, linking its roots to traditional Mexican culture. García identifies two currents of camp in Chicano art: an ironic, self-parodying camp, and an historical camp, both of which are also manifest in Chicano literature. García attributes the emergence of Chicano camp in part to Chicano cultural hybridization, which has led to a multiplicity of Chicano cultures that makes the definition of a camp, kitsch, or rasquache style problematic. According to García, ultimately it is important to define the Chicano community’s various subject positions in order to truly understand itself and achieve political unity.
Ramón García, professor at California State University at Northridge, provides a detailed analysis of Chicano camp and his exploration of its critical stance, especially as a form of survival for those left outside of Chicano culture and U.S. culture. His thorough investigation covers many areas of culture and aesthetics, including Los Angeles conceptual art group ASCO, Chicano/a writers, Susan Sontag, and the concept of rasquachismo as developed by literary scholar and cultural critic, Tomás Ybarra-Frausto. While contrasting rasquache with other notions of camp and kitsch, García concludes that all of these sensibilities are present as Chicano forms of resistance, and there needs to be an acceptance of multiple “Chicano cultures” and aesthetics. García’s essay also makes an important contribution in substantiating the role of Chicana feminism and queer politics in exposing and countering patriarchal and hetero-normative oppression within Chicano culture.