Jennifer Ponce de León (formerly Jennifer Flores Sternad) is an interdisciplinary scholar whose research focuses on cultural production and antisystemic movements in the Americas since the 1960s and critical theory. She works across studies of contemporary visual arts, literature, and performance; transnational Latinx and Latin American studies; and Marxist aesthetics and social theory, including anticolonial and postcolonial thought. She is Associate Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania where she is also faculty in Latin American and Latinx Studies and Comparative Literature and affiliated faculty in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies and Cinema Studies.
Dr. Ponce de León is Associate Director of the Critical Theory Workshop/Atelier de Théorie Critique, which holds an intensive summer research program at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris every summer, as well as symposia at the University of Pennsylvania, and she is Co-Editor of the book series Reinventing Critical Theory at Rowman & Littlefield International. She has also worked as an independent curator. She curated the exhibition and film series Resurgent Histories, Insurgent Futures for the Slought Foundation in Philadelphia. She was a 2018-2019 Ford Postdoctoral Fellow and a Visiting Scholar at the Chicano Studies Research Center at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Dr. Ponce de León’s first book, Another Aesthetics Is Possible: Arts of Rebellion in the Fourth World War (Duke University Press, 2021) theorizes aesthetics as an integral aspect of contemporary political and social struggles. Its interdisciplinary analysis of experimental literature, visual art, and performance produced by Chicanx, Argentine, Mexican, and Chilean artists in the past two decades shows how these works have been influenced by, and articulated with, antisystemic movements, popular uprisings, and local struggles, including Zapatismo, anti-displacement struggles in Los Angeles, the 2001 uprising in Argentina, and radical grassroots human rights activism.
Dr. Ponce de León is currently working on two new book projects. “Envisioning Internationalism” shows how Latinx, Argentine, and Brazilian writers and artists bring internationalist political commitments and perspectives to representations of contemporary social conflicts. As it situates contemporary struggles pertaining to immigrant justice at the center of contemporary global class struggle, it argues that recent works of literature by Chicanx writers (such as Ricardo A. Bracho, Rosaura Sánchez and Beatrice Pita) illuminate contemporary relations between labor and capital, including the reconfiguration of colonial and racial-caste modes of social control in the era of globalization and neoliberalism.
Her other current book project, “Revolutionizing Aesthetics: Composing a World beyond Art,” is co-authored with Gabriel Rockhill and under contract with Columbia University Press for their series New Directions in Critical Theory. “Revolutionizing Aesthetics” intervenes in debates within Marxist aesthetics and art and literary theory, while offering new analyses of works of literature, film, and visual and performance art from the Americas and Europe. Engaging with a broad array of international critical theorists, it proposes a radical materialist account of aesthetics that provincializes and historicizes the institutions of fine art and literature, and considers how the entire realm of sense-making—including thought, perception and affect— is shaped by social and historical life processes. While elucidating the colonial-capitalist commodification of collective aesthetic practices and the power of the culture industries, the book simultaneously shows how the means of cultural production are a crucial site of contestation, as they can be – and have been — seized upon and transformed in order to forge alternative worlds of sense-making. An article from this project, “Toward a Compositional Model of Ideology: Materialism, Aesthetics & Cultural Revolution,” was published in Philosophy Today, 63.1 (Winter 2019).
Dr. Ponce de León’s other publications include “After the Border Is Closed: Fascism, Immigration and Internationalism in Ricardo A. Bracho’s Puto” (forthcoming in American Quarterly, 2021), “Through an Anticolonial Looking Glass: On Restitution, Indigenismo, and Zapatista Solidarity in Raiders of the Lost Crown” in American Quarterly (March 2018) and “How to See Violence: Artistic Activism & the Radicalization of Human Rights” in ASAP/Journal (May 2018). Her writing has also appeared in the edited collections Talking to Action: Art, Pedagogy and Activism in the Americas (U. Chicago Press, 2017); Dancing with the Zapatistas (Duke U. Press, 2015); Live Art in LA, 1970-1983 (Routledge, 2012); MEX/LA: Mexican Modernisms in Los Angeles (Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2011); Art and Activism in the Age of Globalization: Essays on Disruption (NAi, 2011), and in the journals Social Text, GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, e-misférica, Contemporary Theatre Review, The Journal of American Drama and Theater, and Interreview.
Dr. Ponce de received her PhD in American Studies from the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University, her M.A. in Art History from the University of California, Los Angeles, and her A.B. in Literature from Harvard University.
Header photo credit: Antonio Berni, La gran tentación, 1962.