Susana Vargas Cervantes mines the connections between gender, sexuality, class and skin tonalities to reconceptualize pigmentocracy. Deftly navigating between cultures and methodologies that bridge Latin America and Anglo North America, her work relates media and visual culture to theories of performative gender and sex, transnational feminisms, critical race and postcolonial theories and queer and trans theories.
A writer, researcher, activist and curator based in Mexico City and Montréal, Vargas Cervantes holds a PhD in Art History and Communication Studies from McGill University, where she wrote Alarma! Mujercitos performing gender in the pigmentocratic sociocultural system of Mexico. That discipline-spanning dissertation, centred on a 1970s true crime magazine and its depictions of “effeminate men,” can be seen in part in the Mujercitosphoto book by Barcelona's Editorial RM, for which she has lectured internationally, as well as in Transgender Studies Quarterly from Duke University Press, a book chapter in La Memoria y el deseo.
Estudios gay y queer en México, and in book Aprehendiendo al delincuente: sociedad y medios en Norteamérica, which she co-edited. Her forthcoming book The Little Old Serial Killer: The Sensationalized Crimes of Mexico's First Female Serial Killer (NYU Press, August 2019) dives deep into the cultural implications of Mexico’s first female serial killer and lucha libre wrestler, analyzing a shift in news media and police discourses around constructions on who counts as a victim and how a criminal is constructed. Her next project theorizes the “pigmentocratic social system” in Mexico, examining skin colour as a marker of class and privilege via an interdisciplinary historical analysis that includes Mexican popular culture and criminology discourses.