Core Faculty

Vargas, Deborah

  • Portrait
  • Associate Professor and Henry Rutgers Term Chair in Comparative Sexuality, Gender, and Race
  • Email:
  • 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.

Research Interests

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

Currently, Vargas is at work on two manuscripts that analyze race, gender, and working/underclass aesthetics in various cultural texts through an approach she calls suciology. Suciology draws on the Spanish term “sucia” to designate queer studies of cultural productions and aesthetics deemed offensive, crude, or inappropriate according to normative performances of citizenship. Drawn from the etymological roots of sucia —succus or juice — suciology centers the self-cultivated creative productions, the life forces or powerful energies of queer racialized class dissent that are too often deemed by racial capitalism’s experts as “cultures of poverty.” A suciological approach documents and analyzes queer racialized working/underclass life forces that sustain joy, well-being, and alliance in the face of the consistently broken promises of the state.

The first manuscript, “Spic Splendor: On Latina/o/x Queer Tenacity,” centers everyday cultural forms of “juice” in varied spaces, aesthetics, and performances deemed offensive, impure, and uncivil within racial capitalist foundations of individualism and property. It documents and analyzes Latina/o/x queer modes of tenacity to sustain quotidian dissent to disposability and exploitation. Vargas explores cultural texts and spaces like cantinas (family owned bars), sonic performances of el grito mexicano, photographic series responding to displacement by artists such as Star Montana and Xandra Ibarra, and expressions of brown queer love through butch care-taking.

A second manuscript, “Brown soul,” explores queer relationality between Black and brown sonic productions in order to propose life energies that emerge as affronts to lines, boundaries, and borders of heteronormative racialized citizenship. The manuscript illuminates new sonic geographies that emerge through sucia affinities in the circuits, travels, and channels of Blackness as/with/through brownness. A chapter titled “South-West” explores the chitlin’ and taco travel circuits of musicians in mid-twentieth century as well as Chicano oldies music; another chapter, “El Golfo/The Gulf,” explores music ranging from Freddy Fender to the gulf coast soul of The Suffers; “El Norte/the north” reconsiders the paradigms of “northern migration” and “para el norte” of Black and brown peoples through the sonic practices of witchcraft and curanderismo.

Selected Publications

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:

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:

“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.