Public Engagement

Encoding Steps, Decoding Stories

April 22, 2022
Workshop presentation by the graduate student researchers on the “Migrant Steps” project.

Co-organized by Dr. Kim Brillante Knight and myself, this one-day workshop brought together members of the UT Dallas and DFW community to think through the politics of migration narratives and how we connect to those narratives. Along with student researchers affiliated with Fashioning Circuits, we introduced “The Migrant Steps Project” and worked collaboratively through a series of activities designed to address the ethical, technical, and logistical aspects of the project. Our goal was to bring together those with interests in Latinx studies, border studies, media studies, wearable technology, interface design, data visceralization, and digital humanities tied to social issues.

Description and wrap-up reflection by one of the participants found here.

The House of Flowers Is Proof That Telenovelas Are Changing—and So Is the Way We Watch Them”

TIME Magazine (June 23, 2021)

In this TIME article, I was interviewed by Suyin Haynes about the changes to the genre of the telenovela, in particular the presence of more LGBTQ+ stories in series such as Netflix’s La Casa de las Flores. Full article available here.

“The House of Flowers should be recognized for normalizing formerly taboo topics surrounding gender and sexuality,” Juan Llamas-Rodriguez, assistant professor of critical media studies at the School of Arts, Technology and Emerging Communication at the University of Texas at Dallas tells TIME via email. While it’s not the first Mexican telenovela to include gay and transgender characters, “the fact that The House of Flowers’ LGBTQ characters have been allowed to have stories beyond their gender or sexual identities goes a long way towards moving such stories away from salacious content or ‘very special episodes,’” he says.
A still from 'La Casa de las Flores: La Pelicula' NETFLIX—© 2021
Yet Llamas-Rodriguez also points to the series’ limitations: the cast of characters is largely white and affluent, giving a limited representation of LGBTQ experiences in Mexico. And the casting of cisgender male actor Paco León as María José, a transgender woman, has also received criticism. Such casting decisions are not unprecedented, as seen through the history of transgender representation on screen in U.S. entertainment that have included hurtful depictions of trans stories and experiences. For Llamas-Rodriguez, these trends are “emblematic of the media industries’ more conservative tendencies. In that sense, I think The House of Flowers is a lot more traditional than its promotion makes it out to be.” He also points to major legacy broadcasters like Telemundo, who too have been adapting the format and narratives of their shows in recent years to attract new audiences.

“Merger set to create world’s largest Spanish-language media company”

Marketplace [American Public Radio] (April 14, 2021)

In this segment for Marketplace, I was interviewed by Andy Uhler about the announcement of the Televisa-Univision merger and what that may mean for the future of Spanish-language streaming media. Full radio segmentnt available here.

Platforms to the World

January 30 – February 1, 2020
Opening plenary session on the relationship between media and the making and unmaking of borders in everyday life, moderated by Juan Llamas-Rodriguez and featuring Feng-Mei Heberer (NYU), Carlos Jiménez (U of Denver) and Shannon Mattern (The New School).

During this three-day symposium, twenty scholars interested in the intersections of media, urbanism, and migration convened at the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication (ATEC) at the University of Texas at Dallas to address an essential contradiction in 21st century media: While emerging media technologies promise faster and more intimate connections with people around the world, how are media technologies themselves actively contribute to the reinforcement of social divisions and political borders?

Description and wrap-up reflection of the event available here.

The Global Media Festival

November 20, 2019
Opening remarks by Juan Llamas-Rodriguez at the 2019 Global Media Festival at the University of Texas at Dallas.

The Global Media Festival was a one-night screening of international shorts organized and presented by the students enrolled in my Global Media Cultures course during fall 2019. On the evening of November 20, 2019, we held the event at the main auditorium at the University of Texas at Dallas. In addition to the members of the class and their friends, members of the ATEC community also showed up. Each group had selected one person to introduce their short, and I gave a brief introduction at the beginning explaining the project and the work students had put into it.

Description and photos from the event available here.

La Revolución de los Alcatraces

April 21, 2016
Juan Llamas-Rodriguez interviewing director Luciana Kaplan after the screening of La Revolución de los Alcatraces at the Pollock Theater at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

In spring 2016 I programmed a screening of La Revolución de los Alcatraces (2013), an award-winning documentary by Mexican filmmaker Luciana Kaplan, at UC Santa Barbara’s Pollock Theater. The film tells the story of Eufrosina Cruz Mendoza, an indigenous woman who ran for mayor of her small community in southern Oaxaca, Mexico. During the Q&A, Kaplan and I discussed the limits of identity politics, the parallels between this story and the 2016 U.S. presidential hopefuls, and the role of artists and academics in interrogating these ideals.

Description and video from the Q&A available here.