Assistant Professor

María Regina Firmino-Castillo is a transdisciplinary artist, researcher, writer, and educator. Born in Guatemala and raised in Miami, she works across national and colonial borders. Her research and writing critically engage dance and performance studies, anthropology, decoloniality, ontology, and “new” materialisms. Firmino-Castillo’s current book project, tentatively titled Choreographies of Catastrophe, is a multi-sited work that investigates how bodies are sites of ontological violence in the context of genocidal coloniality and its complex and transnational reverberations across the hemisphere. Through the work of artists in Guatemala, México and the United States, the book also attends to ways that those affected by the multiplicitous catastrophes of coloniality deploy insurgent corporeal strategies not only to survive, but also to enact otherwise bodies, worlds, and lives despite ongoing necropolitical control and violence. Firmino-Castillo is also co-editing an anthology on critical Indigenous dance studies with Jacqueline Shea Murphy (UCR) and Karyn Recollet (University of Toronto).

Firmino-Castillo’s previously published work analyzed the role of performance in the genocidal, ecocidal, and ontological destruction committed during the Guatemalan counterinsurgency war against Ixil Mayans in the 1980s, while also examining the ways that—30 years later—genocide survivors and others engaged in ritual, dance, and theater to confront this complex violence and its aftermaths. With Kaqchikel dancer and musician, Daniel Guarcax, and Ixil artist and epigrapher, Tohil Fidel Brito, Firmino-Castillo has published collaborative experimental texts that center Mayan performance and aesthetic theories to enact radical forms of relationality that contest colonial paradigms of personhood, space, time, and movement and that inform a dialogical, decolonial, and reparative research praxis.

As an artist, popular educator, and organizer, Firmino-Castillo has years of experience working with human rights and social justice collectives in Guatemala and with health, racial, and economic justice organizations in Washington, DC. She has created documentary, performance and experimental video pieces that interrogate the paradoxical social imaginaries of the Guatemalan post-war period and depict the complexities of life in the diaspora. With Tohil Fidel Brito, she has directed site-specific sculpture, installation, and interdisciplinary performance projects in Guatemala, México, and the United States. Her video and performance work has been presented at Teatro Nacional Miguel Ángel Asturias (Guatemala), Yoochel Kaaj  (México), New York University’s Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics (Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá), Performance Space New York, Santa Fe Art Institute, University of California-San Diego, and other venues. Her research has been supported by the Woodrow Wilson (soon to be renamed) Foundation and the National Science Foundation, while her work as an artist has received the support of Iniciativas Ruk’u’x (Guatemala). As the recipient of a National Dance Project grant, she coordinated the 2017-2018 US tour of Grupo Sotz’il, a Kaqchikel Maya dance company from Guatemala. Since 2018, Firmino-Castillo, has co-directed UCR’s Indigenous Choreographers Gathering at Riverside, which was founded by co-director Jacqueline Shea Murphy in 2011.

As an assistant professor of critical dance studies, Firmino-Castillo teaches graduate seminars on decolonial approaches to dance and performance studies, choreographies of catastrophe, and anticolonial intersections between Black and Indigenous performance. She also teaches undergraduate courses in critical dance studies and performance which combine research, writing, and embodied practice. Firmino-Castillo is committed to a continued engagement in performance-making as an epistemological and ontological praxis that informs her approach not only to research, writing, and pedagogy, but also to living and being.