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Imagine Otherwise: Jillian Hernandez on the Politics of Confidence and Creativity

Imagine Otherwise: Jillian Hernandez on the Politics of Confidence and Creativity

November 12, 2020
Jillian Hernandez wearing black glasses and resting her chin on her hand, which has colorful nail polish with designs

Women and girls are constantly bombarded with messages to be more confident, whether it’s about demanding what we’re worth in salary negotiations or just moving through the world with “the confidence of a mediocre white man.”

Although such advice might be useful for some, it doesn’t account for how race and class shape the politics of confidence to begin with, much less center the perspectives of women, girls, and femmes of color in determining the goals of such confidence.

In episode 122 of Imagine Otherwise, I interview curator, community arts educator, and professor Jillian Hernandez, whose interdisciplinary research examines how Black and Latinx women and girls negotiate gender, sexuality, race, and class through cultural production and bodily presentation. 

In our conversation, Jillian and I discuss the racialized, gendered, and classed politics of confidence, how women and girls of color are challenging the art world’s social hierarchies, what collective creative support looks like during COVID-19, and why building a world where girls, women, femmes, and mothers of color can rest and resist is how Jillian imagines otherwise.

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You can also read the transcript and show notes on the Ideas on Fire website, which have links to Jillian’s work and all the concepts, people, and events we discuss on the show (great for teaching!).

Guest: Jillian Hernandez

Jillian Hernandez is a scholar, community arts educator, curator, creative, and assistant professor of gender, sexualities, and women’s studies at the University of Florida. Her interdisciplinary research examines how Black and Latinx women and girls negotiate gender, sexuality, race, and class through cultural production and body presentation. 

Her book Aesthetics of Excess: The Art and Politics of Black and Latina Embodiment (Duke University Press, 2020), examines how the bodies of women and girls of color are racialized through cultural valuing that marks them as sexual “others.” She demonstrates how the styles of working-class Black and Latina women and girls generate cultural capital when appropriated in contemporary art, while drawing mockery and denigration in everyday contexts. Through analyzing the art and self-image of working-class Black and Latina girls alongside works by contemporary artists and musicians such as Kara Walker and Nicki Minaj, Jillian shows how girls of color challenge the policing of their bodies and sexualities through artistic authorship. 

Jillian is the founder of Women on the Rise!, an insurgent collective of women of color artists who worked with Black and Latina girls in Miami, Florida. Over the course of a decade, the collective engaged thousands of girls in art making and critical dialogues about gender and society through feminist art. 

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