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Author, activist, professor and UCLA alum Emma Pérez delivered the keynote address at the UCLA doctoral hooding ceremony on Thursday, June 15, at 3 pm in Royce Hall.
“I’m thrilled to be the inaugural speaker for the doctoral hooding ceremony of the 2023 graduating class. As an alum of UCLA, I still treasure my training on campus, and I’m honored to celebrate a new generation of young scholars with talent, fortitude, and wit (because you’ll need it).”
“Your Ph.D. hooding represents the culmination of a long, arduous quest, a quest that demonstrates resilience and hope. I truly believe you are warriors prepared to fight for a better, healthier world. I feel fortunate to be invited to address you on such a momentous day of your lives. “
A triple Bruin, Dr. Emma Pérez earned her undergraduate degree in political science and women’s studies and her master’s and doctorate in history. She is currently Research Social Scientist at the Southwest Center and Professor in the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Arizona.
Pérez’s first literary work, Gulf Dreams, published in 1996, is a coming-of-age story set in a small racist Texas town and is considered one of the first Chicana lesbian novels in print.
Her second novel, published in 2009, Forgetting the Alamo, Or Blood Memory, is a historical fiction set against the backdrop of the 1836 Alamo and San Jacinto battles. It is a tale of travel and adventure that narrates the story of a young cross-dressing Tejana and her romance with a black, indigenous woman, both of whom are witnesses to the racial complexities of the southwest during this turbulent period. Forgetting the Alamo won the Christopher Isherwood Writing Grant in 2009, the National Association for Chicana/Chicano Studies Regional Book Award for fiction in 2011 and was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Awards in 2010. Pérez sat for artist Don Bachardy at his home in Santa Monica, which he shared with writer Christopher Isherwood as part of the Isherwood Award.
Her third book, Electra’s Complex, is an erotic murder mystery set on a university campus that features the sexual adventures of a Chicana lesbian professor, her transman best friend, and the detective assigned to the case. Currently, she is completing a dystopic novella, Testimony of a Shifter, detailing the lives of sex-shifting rebels resisting a corrupt global world order, forthcoming in 2024.
Her academic book, The Decolonial Imaginary: Writing Chicanas into History (1999) is a significant work that explores the marginalized history and experiences of Chicanas. The book critically examines the dominant narratives and historical accounts that have excluded or misrepresented marginalized communities. Pérez emphasizes the importance of decolonizing the collective imagination and reconstructing historical narratives to include diverse voices and perspectives. By shedding light on their struggles, resistance, and contributions, Pérez challenges the prevailing historical framework and aims to create a more inclusive and accurate understanding of history. Pérez’s theoretical formation connects Chicana and women of color feminist thought to the work of Michel Foucault and postcolonial theorists. She is considered one of the founding theorists of Chicana feminism.
Her most recent publication is a collection of previously published essays and poems titled, Queering the Border (2023).
In 2020, Emma Pérez was inducted into the Texas Institute of Letters, a distinguished honor society founded in 1936 to celebrate Texas literature and to recognize distinctive literary achievements.
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