10: Melanie Peinado



Program and Year of Study

PhD, 3rd year

Previous degrees and colleges

BA History, California State University, Long Beach 

Where did you grow up?

Bakersfield, CA, although most of my weekends were spent in the LA area. Both of my parents are from LA and all my extended family lives there. 

Where do you live now?

Davis, CA

What's your favorite spot in Davis?

Common Grounds Coffee. It’s got great vibes for writing and studying. 

How do you relax?

I like to unwind from the day by cooking a good meal. Cooking always transports me to the Zen zone, especially when listening to good music. 

What was the last book you read for pleasure?

I recently re-read Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth, and I’m currently reading Zadie Smith’s Swing Time

What was the last film you saw at the theater?

Renee Tajima-Peña and Virginia Espino’s No Más Bebés. The Women and Gender in the World DHI cluster screened the documentary for free at the Varsity theater on February 7th. It was a powerful film about the forced sterilization of Latina (primarily Mexican immigrant) women who went in to LA county hospital to deliver their babies and left, often unknowingly, with their tubes tied. 

Research interests

I am interested in understanding why same-sex desire has been such a historically resilient taboo in Latin American societies. While many attribute this resilience to Catholic doctrine, the Church was not the only entity that preached strict heteronormative conformity in modern Latin America. In the late 19th century, doctors began to form a medicalized discourse that considered same-sex desire to be pathologically aberrant behavior. My dissertation looks at how doctors in Chile created and disseminated medicalized notions of male homosexuality, paying close attention to the ways in which their ideas influenced popular attitudes and institutional practices towards gay men during the first half of the twentieth century.

Dissertation title or topic

Sex and Medicine: Treating Homosexuality in Chilean Society, 1880-1960

Please share a surprising or noteworthy fact or finding from your research

In the nineteenth century, doctors believed that you could identify a “homosexual” just by looking at the shape of his teeth and lips.

Which professor or class inspired you to pursue graduate studies?

Dr. Emily Berquist from Cal State Long Beach had a profound effect on my decision to apply to graduate school. She was also a huge help in preparing my personal statements and applications, I don’t think I would have gotten into graduate programs without her. 

Which scholarly text do you wish you had written? Why?

George Chauncey’s Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890- 1940. Chauncey broke new historical ground in reconstructing urban gay culture in New York before WWII, and it truly is a fascinating read. 

Which other researchers at UC Davis are doing work that particularly interests you?

I’m really looking forward to reading Professor of History Sally McKee’s new book The Exile’s Song: Édmond Dédé and the Unfinished Revolutions of the Atlantic World. Also, I’m interested in Associate Professor of Chicana and Chicano studies Natalia Deeb Sossa’s work on women’s reproductive rights. 

What’s the best thing about being a grad student?

Traveling and meeting new people. I’ve been fortunate to spend the past two summers doing research in Santiago where I’ve made life-long friends and I got to meet the Chilean scholars working in my field. Also, in moving to Davis I’ve been lucky to have meet and gotten to work with some really great people. 

What’s the worst?

Never being able to enjoy free time. There’s always something that I could or should be doing, and it’s always in the back of my mind whenever I have (or try to take) some time to myself.

If you weren’t a grad student, what would you be doing?

Culinary school and filmmaking. I’d love the opportunity to learn some professional cooking techniques and I’m dying to translate some of the stories and concepts I’ve learned thorough studying history into a visual narrative.  

Finally, please ask yourself a question

What shows are you currently (binge) watching? (I ask my students this as an icebreaker activity on the first day of class—it’s usually a fun conversation starter.)

I just finished The OA on Netflix and I’m re-watching Gilmore Girls. I’m also tuning in for the latest season of Homeland


—April 2017


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