micha cárdenas wins prestigious Gloria E. Anzaldúa Book Prize from National Women's Studies Association

Dr. micha cárdenas was awarded the National Women's Studies Association’s Gloria E. Anzaldúa Book Prize. (Photo by Carolyn Lagattuta)
cárdenas’ book, Poetic Operations: Trans of Color Art in Digital Media.

UC Santa Cruz Associate Professor and Associate Chair of Performance, Play and Design, and Associate Professor of Critical Race and Ethnic Studies Dr. micha cárdenas has been awarded the National Women's Studies Association’s Gloria E. Anzaldúa Book Prize for her book Poetic Operations: Trans of Color Art in Digital Media, Duke University Press, February 2022. cárdenas, along with co-winner Rana Jaleel, author of The Work of Rape, also from Duke University Press, will be honored at NWSA’s 2022 conference this November, "killing rage: Resistance on the Other Side of Freedom."

Named in honor of visionary feminist philosopher and writer Gloria Anzaldúa, the prize is awarded for groundbreaking monographs in women's studies that make significant multicultural feminist contributions to women of color/transnational scholarship. Anzaldúa, a long active member of NWSA, was also a lecturer in the Women's Studies Department at UCSC where she influenced a generation of students, offering such courses as Autohistorias and Women of Color in the United States. Her groundbreaking book Borderlands: La Frontera (1987) was selected as one of the “100 Best Books of the Century” by both the Utne Reader and Hungry Mind Review. 

“One of the highest honors in Women/Gender/Feminist Studies, this is a landmark, field-transforming win!” says UCSC Arts Division Dean Celine Parreñas Shimizu. “micha cárdenas joins the ranks of the most distinguished feminist scholars who are expanding the field.”

cárdenas’ book considers contemporary digital media, artwork, and poetry in order to articulate trans of color strategies for safety and survival. Drawing on decolonial theory, women of color feminism, media theory, and queer of color critique, cárdenas develops a method she calls algorithmic analysis. Understanding algorithms as sets of instructions designed to perform specific tasks (like a recipe), she breaks them into their component parts, called operations. By focusing on these operations, cárdenas identifies how trans and gender-non-conforming artists, especially artists of color, rewrite algorithms to counter violence and develop strategies for liberation. In her analyses of Giuseppe Campuzano's holographic art, Esdras Parra's and Kai Cheng Thom's poetry, Mattie Brice's digital games, Janelle Monáe's music videos, and her own artistic practice, cárdenas shows how algorithmic analysis provides new modes of understanding the complex processes of identity and oppression and the intersection of gender, sexuality, and race.

"Poetic Operations is arguably the first major academic work to deal with the subject matter in such detail,” writes Sofie Vlaad, Journal of Critical Race Inquiry. “How cárdenas uses the term [trans of color poetics] will likely become the standard by which other engagements with the term are measured.” 

“I am humbled by this honor,” says cárdenas. “This award is the most meaningful recognition I have received in my career. Gloria Anzaldúa has been, and continues to be, one of my primary inspirations, as a queer Chicana feminist who blended artistic practice and scholarship. She is a large part of why I came to UCSC—to be in the place where she taught, studied, and wrote. I am honored to carry on her legacy. I hope that this award brings more attention to trans of color poetics, and helps continue to establish transgender studies as an essential part of women’s, feminist, and gender studies.” 

cárdenas directs the Critical Realities Studio at UCSC, a hybrid studio/lab for critical theory and art practice. The studio engages multiple realities in art, including augmented reality and alternate reality games, as well as other forms of art practice, to engage with the most pressing issues the world faces, including climate change, gender violence, racism and colonialism, using algorithmic and intersectional methods.

cárdenas’ co-authored books The Transreal: Political Aesthetics of Crossing Realities (2012) and Trans Desire / Affective Cyborgs (2010) were published by Atropos Press. She is co-editor of the book series Queer/Trans/Digital at NYU Press, with Amanda Philips and Bo Ruberg. She is a first generation Colombian American.

Her solo and collaborative artworks have been presented in museums, galleries, and biennials including the Thessaloniki Biennial in Greece, Arnolfini Gallery, De La Warr Pavilion in London, Museum of Modern Art in New York, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, the Centro Cultural del Bosque in Mexico City, the Centro Cultural de Tijuana, the Zero1 Biennial, and the California Biennial. cárdenas is a member of the artist collective Electronic Disturbance Theater 2.0.

cárdenas’ newest artwork, Oceanic: Queering the Ocean, a collaboration with UCSC professors Cynthia Ling Lee and Susana Ruiz, as well as Gerald Casel and Huy Truong, will be screening at the San Francisco Transgender Film Festival on November 11, 2022. On October 11, she spoke at the event “Art and Tech in a Warming World with the New York Times” at KQED in San Francisco. Her next talk about Poetic Operations will be online on October 20, hosted by the Drescher Center for the Humanities and the Latinx and Hispanic Faculty Association at the University of Maryland. 

​​This project was supported in part by a grant from the Arts Research Institute at UCSC. Duke University Press gratefully acknowledges the Critical Race and Ethnic Studies Program at UCSC, which provided funds toward the publication of this book.