Nelly Richard is one of the most prominent cultural theorists writing in Latin America today. As a participant in Chile’s neo-avantgarde, Richard worked to expand the possibilities for cultural debate within the constraints imposed by the Pinochet dictatorship (1973–1990), and she has continued to offer incisive commentary about the country’s transition to democracy. Well known as the founder and director of the influential Santiago-based journal Revista de crítica cultural
, Richard has been central to the dissemination throughout Latin America of work by key contemporary thinkers, including Néstor García Canclini, Jacques Derrida, Fredric Jameson, and Diamela Eltit. Her own writing provides rigorous considerations of Latin American identity, postmodernism, gender, neoliberalism, and strategies of political and cultural resistance.
Richard helped to organize the 1987 International Conference on Latin American Women’s Literature in Santiago, one of the most significant literary events to take place under the Pinochet dictatorship. Published in Chile in 1993, Masculine/Feminine develops some of the key issues brought to the fore during that landmark meeting. Richard theorizes why the feminist movement has been crucial not only to the liberation of women but also to understanding the ways in which power operated under the military regime in Chile. In one of her most widely praised essays, she explores the figure of the transvestite, artistic imagery of which exploded during the Chilean dictatorship. She examines the politics and the aesthetics of this phenomenon, particularly against the background of prostitution and shantytown poverty, and she argues that gay culture works to break down the social demarcations and rigid structures of city life. Masculine/Feminine makes available, for the first time in English, one of Latin America’s most significant works of feminist theory.