Romina Wainberg

Ph.D. Candidate in Iberian & Latin American Cultures
M.Phil., Hispanic Studies, University of Glasgow
B.A., Modern Literature and Literary Theory, Universidad de Buenos Aires
Spec., Creative Writing, Casa de Letras

In my dissertation, Against Productivity: Unproductive Writing as Resistance in Early Latin American Fiction, I examine novels from the 1840s through the 1920s in which characters use writing as a means to resist oppression. While acknowledging that in the period of nation-state consolidation, writing worked as a colonial imposition (Mignolo), a tool for neocolonial domination (Rama), and a means of social indoctrination (Sommer), I argue that certain writing practices of the time were rebellious and “unproductive” in that they worked against the economically productive interests of slavery-based and emerging capitalist societies. I show that Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda’s Sab (Cuba, 1841), José de Alencar’s O Guarani (Brazil, 1857), Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis’s Memórias póstumas de Brás Cubas (Brazil, 1881), and Teresa de la Parra’s Ifigenia (Venezuela, 1924), often depict migrant and disenfranchised subjects (clerks, homemakers, enslaved peoples, former Indigenous leaders) writing in minor genres (notes, letters, scribbles, diaries) to take a stance against racial, gendered, and social norms, as well as to escape the oppressive experiences of domestic, pauperized, and forced labor. Given the paucity of archival evidence documenting penning habits in the national consolidation era, novels serve as privileged sources to interrogate how nineteenth-century and early-twentieth-century Latin Americans conceived of the writing process and experienced its liberating power.
By considering the freeing function that writing adopts in early national novels, my research shifts the conversation away from the binaries that have dominated the fields of literary, cultural, and historiographical studies of Latin American societies, including writing/orality, original/derivative, local/colonial, foundational/afoundational, hybridity/homogeneity, representation/appropriation, low/high, and above/below. I move away from binaries by demonstrating that in post-independence Latin America, acts of writing were not mere colonial impositions of the Spanish and Portuguese Empires, but also practices that might have historically worked alongside oral traditions to turn colonial legacies and their successor neocolonialist orders against themselves. Following early novelists, writing may have worked as a way to escape experiences of bodily oppression and temporal homogeneity and to creatively resist the expectation of “productivity” by socioeconomic systems.
More broadly speaking... I'm interested in Latin American aesthetics’ potential for expanding the onto-epistemological breadth of other fields of knowledge; some of the intersections that I've explored so far include: media theory, philosophy of technology, and science fiction; motion graphics and aesthetic computing; plastic art and philosophy of art; postmodern novels and theories of individuation; Amerindian thought, contemporary metaphysics, and short fiction; feminist philosophy and perspectival anthropology; poetry, gender identity laws, and LGBTQ+ approaches to the gender/sex dyad. I've also worked on the relationship between extractivism and aesthetics in Portugal and Brazil—in particular, I've looked at the tension between gemstones’ chemical composition, their historical aestheticization, and the forced and exploitative labor inherent in their geological extraction.
I am the Graduate Student Coordinator of the DIF Project Queer Latin American Voices (with Alberto Quintero) and the France-Stanford Collaborative Research Project The Multiplicity Turn: Theories of Identity from Poetry to Mathematics (with Marisa Galvez and Gabriel Catren).

Recent courses:

  • ILAC 278A: Senior Seminar: 4 Boom Novels
  • COMPLIT 258A/ILAC 211-311: Existentialism, from Moral Quest to Novelistic Form
  • ILAC 161: Modern Latin American Literature
  • COMPLIT 123A/ILAC 123A: Resisting Coloniality: Then and Now
  • COMPLIT 139A/ILAC 139: Jaguars and Labyrinths: A Survey of South American Short Fiction 
  • ILAC 255: Climate Change and Latin American Naturecultures

Feel free to contact me!




Research Unit Groups

Research Interests

  • Cognitive Studies


  • Comparative Studies


  • Contemporary Literature


  • Cultural History & Studies


  • Ethnic Studies in Language and Literature


  • Feminist Studies


  • Intellectual History


  • Language and Society


  • Language Theory


  • Literary and Cultural Theory


  • Literary Criticism (history of criticism, theory of literature)


  • Luso-Brazilian Languages, Literatures & Cultures


  • Narratology


  • Philosophy and Literature


  • Portuguese Languages, Literatures, and Cultures


  • Prose Fiction Studies


  • Spanish Languages, Literatures, and Cultures


  • Speculative Fiction


  • Theory of Rhetoric and Composition


  • Transatlantic Studies


  • Translation and Translation Studies


  • Visual Arts and Visual Culture


  • Women’s Studies