Panel discusses gender, sexuality in Latin American research

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History doctoral student Vasken Markarian discusses the forced militarization of rural Mayan communities during the Guatemalan Civil war of the 1980s. Markarian analysis of The Civil Defense Patrols, local militias forcibly recruited by the Guatemala government, revealed that the militarization was indiscriminate towards gender.

Photo Credit: Joshua Guenther | Daily Texan Staff

An aerial view of Latin American history exposes a landscape of mazes and gaps. What may not be apparent are the modern day experts working diligently to mend these holes through an intimate understanding of gender.

A panel of graduate students and visiting researchers presented their findings on gender roles, sexuality and race within a Latin American context on Friday at Garrison Hall. The panel, one of several symposiums organized by Department of History, also focused on using gender as a method of analyzing historic events and minority narratives.

“I think that gender is important (as a method of analysis) because there (is) a lack of studies on masculinity and especially in cases where there is military rule or war, which we see a lot of in Latin America,” said Vasken Markarian, a history graduate student. “It is important to look at the culture inside that militarization and what motivated actors in the military.”

One of five speakers, Markarian presented research on forced militarization in the Guatemalan Civil War, focusing on how women’s perceived status influenced their military interactions.

“Women held moral power in interactions with authorities,” Markarian said. “They would often use their identification papers to claim innocence to try to protect their husbands. This was a gendered action.”

History graduate student Chloe Ireton presented research on the prevalence of free black women in 17th century Hispanic countries. Ireton highlighted one woman of color’s petition for divorce, which was a rarity at the time.

“Gender as a category of analysis can enrich our understanding in some cases, and how, in this exceptional case, she was making important assertions about gender roles and her husband’s inadequacy within the expectations of marriage,” Ireton said.

Jurema Brites, guest presenter from the Universidade Federal de Santa Maria, was questioned on how patriarchal structures influence Brazilian domestic life during a question and answer session. Brites said the two spaces are inseparable.

“The household is an inherently political setting,” Brites said.

Though the study of history can seem opaque, Markarian said he believes viewing the past through a gendered lens creates
newfound understanding.

“I think that often times by focusing on the larger political arguments obscures the realities on the ground and the struggles that people went through,” Markarian said. “By revealing these on-the-ground stories, it helps tell everyone’s story and it helps deconstruct the larger political narrative.”