We are deligthed to shared Dr. Carlos Halaburda presentation "Sentimental Disability: Queer Melodrama and Crip Bodies in 20th Century Argentine Theatre." - this presentation was co-hosted with the Centre for Dissability Studies.
In this research project, I explore how queer and disability scholarship in conjunction with performance studies may approach early-twentieth-century Argentine theater as a dramatic archive of corporeal difference. I discuss how the principles of late nineteenth-century medicine metastasized through vast transnational networks of scientific innovation and aesthetic experiments that shaped the development of multiple expert disciplines in South America such as neurology, psychiatry, genetics, and heredity. As an expanding corpus of ideas about mental and physical disorders emphasized that social chaos could be explained through biological inheritance, soon this medical matrix shaped the theatrical practice, particularly, melodrama. The melodramatization of queerness and disability in modern Argentina became a strategy to consolidate a national identity tied to projects of reproductive improvement, the central principle of the emerging eugenics movement in the Southern Cone.
The main claim of this investigation is that melodrama was the predominant narrative mode of theatrical productions about queerness and disability, as the use of strong emotional appeal, the struggle between “good” and “evil,” and exaggerated rhetoric advocated for a national victory over deviance. Melodrama became a cultural channel with which playwrights distributed ideas about social hygiene therefore solidifying a colonialist imaginary on reproductive health, heteronormativity, and biological inheritance. By delving into an extensive catalogue of plays informed by clinical procedures, I examine the migrations of medical knowledge from the hospital and the university classroom into the performance stage, turning theatre into a didactical space for health education, disease prevention and eradication. Addressing diverse Argentine theatre collections as a eugenic archive allows an understanding of how bodies disassociated from the imperatives of optimal offspring were staged as queer and disabled. Plays such as The Inverts, The Degenerate, The Empire of Instinct, The Alcoholics, The Horrible Experiment, The Epileptic, and The Crippled, among numerous others, show the inseparability of the concept of sexual deviance from the ableist impulse of the modern clinic during the birth of the disciplinary society.
Dr. Carlos Gustavo Halaburda (PhD Northwestern University 2021) is a Marie Skłodowska Curie Research Fellow with the Department of Romance Studies at the Universität zu Köln and associate fellow with the Erich Auerbach Institute for Advanced Studies (Germany). His work has appeared in journals and print houses such as Latin American Theater Review, Revista Canadiense de Estudios Hispánicos, Taller de letras, Symposium, Universidad Nacional de la Plata, 17 Instituto de Estudios Críticos, Palgrave Macmillan, and Himpar Colombia, among others. In 2022, he received two awards for his article “Lunfardos: Queerness, Social Prophylaxis and the Futures of Reproduction in Fin-de-Siècle Argentine Dramaturgy”: the LASA Carlos Monsiváis Best Article of the Sexualities Section and the Canadian Hispanic Association Essay Prize. He was formerly a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Spanish and Portuguese of the University of Toronto. His book-length study about queerness and disability in turn-of-the-century Argentine print culture is in preparation.