Welcome to the Department of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

  • Portrait
  • Associate Professor and Henry Rutgers Term Chair in Comparative Sexuality, Gender, and Race
  • Email: deb.vargas@rutgers.edu
  • Tel: : 848-932-8428
  • Office: RDJC 212





Vargas holds undergraduate degrees from The University of Texas, Austin and a Ph.D. in Sociology (doctoral emphasis in Feminist Studies) from The University of California, Santa Cruz.

During 2021-22 Vargas will be on research leave participating as a member of the Institute for Advanced Study, School of Social Science, in Princeton New Jersey.

Research Interests

Professor Vargas’s research draws from queer of color critique, critical race feminism, Chicana/Latina studies, oral histories, borderlands theory, and queer ethnography to pose questions related to queer sexuality, racialized gender, cultural productions, and working/underclass aesthetics.

Vargas is the author of Dissonant Divas in Chicana Music: The Limits of La Onda (University of Minnesota Press, 2012). Awarded three book prizes: The Woody Guthrie Prize for Best Book in Popular Music Studies (International Association for the Study of Popular Music); Best Book in Chicana/o Studies (The National Association for the Study of Chicana and Chicano Studies); Honorable Mention, Outstanding Book in Latino Studies (Latin American Studies Association, Latino Studies Section. Book Webpage: http://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/dissonant-divas-in-chicana-music

Currently, Vargas is at work on two manuscripts that analyze race, sexuality, gender, and working/underclass aesthetics in various Latina/Chicana cultural texts through an approach to studies she calls sucialogy. Sucialogy draws on the Spanish term “sucia” to designate queer studies of cultural productions and aesthetics deemed offensive, crude, or inappropriate according to normative constructions of citizenship. Drawn from the etymological roots of “sucia" —sweetness, succus and juice as a life force — these two book projects center the creative life forces of queer racialized working class Chicanas/x that are too often deemed by racist logics as “cultures of poverty.” Both are invested in documenting and analyzing queer life forces that sustain joy, well-being, kindness, and connection in everyday performances that offer lessons in forms of love, nourishment, and companionship for thoughtful, generous, and conscientious ways of being.

The first manuscript, “Sucialogy” centers everyday cultural forms of life forces in varied social spaces, kinship formations, and visual fields often characterized as “lowlife” or offensive, impure, and uncivil within racist capitalist foundations of individualism, possession, and property. The manuscript documents and analyzes Chicana/x queer modes of tenacity to sustain quotidian dissent to disposability and exploitation. Chapters devote attention to borderlands cantina culture, the errant voices of el grito mexicano, photography by Star Montana and Xandra Ibarra, homegirl ecologies of affinity and loyalty, and care-taking expressions in brown butch kinship.

A second manuscript, “Lower Frequencies,” proposes an archive of Black and brown sonic productions that demonstrate queer life forces that emerge as affronts to lines, binaries, boundaries, and borders that normative racialized citizenship thrives on. The manuscript explores the crossings of Black and brown musical travel circuits, performance intimacies, and alternate sonic terrains. A chapter titled “South-West” explores the chitlin’ and taco travel circuits of musicians in the mid-twentieth century as well as the retrofitted Black and brown aesthetics of Chicano oldies music; another chapter; “The Gulf/el golfo,” reconsiders the limits of “the gulf of Mexico” by exploring Black and brown intimacies in music ranging from, corridos, conjunto and zydeco, and artists such as Freddy Fender, Thee Sacred Souls, and The Suffers; The chapter, “El Norte/the north,” proposes added meanings to the historical paradigms of “northern migration” and “para el norte” through a variety of music performances; the sonic practices of witchcraft and curanderismo is the focus of an epilogue chapter titled “A Greeting between Double Consciousness and Differential Consciousness."

Selected Publications

Keywords for Latina/o Studies (co-edited with Nancy Raquel Mirabal and Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes) New York University Press, 2017. Designated as a Choice Outstanding Academic Title. Book webpage:  https://nyupress.org/books/9781479883301/

“Ruminiations on Lo Sucio as a Latino Queer Analytic,” American Quarterly 66.3 (September 2014): 715‐726. pdfLoSucio.AQ.Vargas_copy.pdf

“The J/Jota in Jenni,” Women and Music: A Journal of Gender and Culture 22 (2018): 26-43.  pdfJjota.Jenni.WM.Vargas_copy.pdf

Journal Boards

Aztlan: A Journal of Chicano Studies; Latino Studies; Women Studies Quarterly; American Studies; Women and Music: A Journal of Gender and Culture; Journal of Popular Music Studies


The Ford Foundation, The Smithsonian Institute’s Latino Initiates Fellowship (American History Museum), University of California Humanities Research Institute, University of California Office of the President.

Upcoming Events

No events

Follow us on Twitter







Support WGSS

Become a supporting member of WGSS: Click here to donate

News & Announcements

Spinning loader