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Judith Sierra-Rivera's research focuses on twentieth-century and contemporary Caribbean, Latin American, and U.S. Latinx literary and cultural productions. The keywords that organize her publications and courses are: intellectual thought and networking, affect, emotions, anti-colonialism, feminism, queer studies, race and intersectionality studies, masculinity studies, and youth cultures.
In Affective Intellectuals and the Space of Catastrophe of the Americas (Ohio State University Press, 2018), she weaves together five different contexts (Mexico, Chile, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the U.S.-Central America relationship) to argue that there is an intellectual tradition in the Americas rooted in the stories, desires, and needs of those who have been systematically pushed out of the public sphere (indigenous peoples, Afro-descendants, immigrants, LGBTQ sexualities, and inhabitants of poverty). This argument leads the author to analyze a number of writers whose emotional discourses during catastrophic circumstances have had a measurable impact on the formation of communities that organize civil efforts to surpass a crisis and, even more, to demand their full political inclusion in society.
Currently, she is working on a second monograph, entitled Mongo Heroes: Laboring Vulnerable Masculinities for Anti-Colonialism in Puerto Rico. In this project, she proposes that a number of women's, gay men's, and transmen's reproductive labor has created vulnerable (old, ill, or maimed) representations of anti-colonialist male fighters that contradict the portrayal of a normatively strong leader guiding Puerto Rico towards independence from the United States. Through the identification and examination of what she calls a mongo (limp) hero in a series of twentieth-century literary and artistic productions, she analyzes political junctures where vast consumption of this labored masculinity has being at the center of ephemeral consensuses on the precarity of the colonial condition among Puerto Ricans in the island and the diaspora. This analysis guides her in arguing that the laborers of mongo heroes have been the true revolutionaries working for a Puerto Rican sovereignty that can defy, not only U.S. imperialism, but capitalist and neoliberal economic and environmental catastrophes, too.