This article examines how Nilaja Sun explicitly employs the minstrelsy traditions of blackface to push the conceptual limits of racial identity, and expand the nodes of intersection within diasporic identities. The act of bluing up, as opposed to blacking up, is Sun's way of provoking her audience to think more expansively about the performance of racialized identity outside of black and Latino paradigms, and toward a more complicated and not-clearly discernible Afro-Latino hybrid subjectivity. Sun uses what I call bluefacing, a performance tactic that magnifies the constrictive and monolithic perceptions of blackness and Latinidad as a means of generating alternative ways of living inside and outside racial and ethnic social masks. In her earlier works, Black and Blue and La Nubia Latina (1999), Sun demonstrates how the act of putting on and taking off various social masks both affirms and troubles her engagement with Afro-Latina diasporic lineages. I explore the ways Sun's masking techniques are not simply about the mask itself, nor about what the mask conceals or reveals, but rather about bluefacing as a way to embody the lived experience of oppression across multiple and intersecting racial histories. What are the social and political implications rendered when Sun wears a blueface mask? What racial politics does Sun's strategy of blueface perform in concert with traditions of blackface by African Americans? How does Sun's creation of blueface masking embody and intervene in racial politics?
Copyright © 2012 Johns Hopkins University Press. This article first appeared in African American Review 45:3 (2012), 403-418.
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Herrera, Patricia. "She Wears the Masks: Bluefacing in Nilaja Sun's Black and Blue and La Nubia Latina." African American Review 45, no. 3 (2012): 403-18.