Tag Archives: MALCS Summer Institute

My Shadow Beast’s Time

November 12, 2012

Photo Credit: "Our Time is Running Out 157/365" by gravity_grave on Flickr

Photo Credit: “Our Time is Running Out 157/365” by gravity_grave on Flickr

By Anonymous

I have been thinking a lot about time and its processes lately. When I took and passed the Candidacy Exam in my graduate program, time was paramount. As in most universities, departmental guidelines dictate that students in the program make timely progress to the degree. There are, however, minimal guidelines for writing the requisite three exam papers. Some said that the reading lists were to help me write the dissertation. Others told me that this exam was completely separate from my dissertation. I then couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to write about my reading lists. “Was I to integrate all 40 books and articles from one reading list into a paper? How?” I kept asking. I was unable to get a straight or clear answer about what to write. Previous students successful in advancing to candidacy did not allow the program to archive their papers as resources for future students working on their exams. Social scientist candidates in the department were willing to share their work with me, but I felt I couldn’t follow their examples because I was working with texts in the humanities.

Still, I read every day. I was determined to finish on time. I joined a writing group, and in two months, I wrote countless drafts of the first paper. The group was organized and led by a senior professor who I eventually learned did not take well to assertive feminists. One day, before a group of other graduate students, the professor asked if I had “a chip on [my] shoulder” because my writing style seemed “bitter.” I conceded that the passion behind my writing stemmed from anger prompted by relentless systemic violence. The professor had not expected my response, and he answered by saying I wouldn’t go far with my “attitude.” I smiled nervously as he initiated the class’s roar of laughter. After our session, I felt even the snowy wind was mocking me. I couldn’t run fast enough into my sister’s arms.

My subsequent anxiety about writing catapulted me into a depression. No matter how much I beckoned it, my writing voice would not come out of hiding. I had to finish these papers within four months in order to be eligible for a fellowship for those who are making “timely progress.” My inner critic wouldn’t go away: STUPID. SLOW THINKER. BAD WRITER. BAD PERSON. IDIOT. LOSER. JUST SIT DOWN! UNFOCUSED. LIMITED VOCABULARY. STOP CRYING. IMPOSTER. It was not until after I suffered a major break down that I learned I could ask for an extension without penalty. Why hadn’t anyone told me this before? Was the break down part of the process? I had been conditioned to believe that the only way I could be a “good person” was by being a “good student.” Facing my Shadow Beast, I realized my self-worth had been dependent upon my ability to produce, my colleagues’ perceptions of me, my professors’ praise, my parents’ “Good girl, m’ija,” and on someone else’s notion of “timeliness.” Western culture has us believe we are essentially flawed, we must constantly work on ourselves, and we must prove ourselves to belong. Resenting the exam process as yet another way for me to prove my worth, I refused to write until I could convince myself that there is no sinful self to redeem. Humans never fell from grace. All beings are essentially good.

Although I certainly learned in the depths of Coatlicue, I knew couldn’t stay there forever. I moved and began the healing process. I stopped thinking so much about what I had to do and what I hadn’t done and tried to focus on each present moment. I began to practice compassion toward myself including my vicious inner critic, my Shadow Beast. I learned that I couldn’t go on ignoring her. We had to dialogue. When I listened, I learned she only wanted to help me achieve that happiness I feel when I read, think, and write. I explained to her that I can’t work with unrealistic daily goals and harsh criticism used as “motivation.” She pointed out that no one taught her how to practice non-violent communication. Together we learned that time is but a construction, a historically specific concept, and we came to a truce. I was finally able to write. I finished my papers, took my exams, and passed at the right time.

I write about my struggle to underscore our continuous negotiations as Chicanas in the academy. Confessing that I embark on more writing with trepidation, I am reminded by my MALCS mentors that I must revel in this moment’s sense of accomplishment and the fact that I found ways to manage an arduous process. Yet I know I must remember my time in the depths of Coatlicue so I too can be compassionate toward my students in their times of crisis. The U.S. university system is not set up to be conducive to our “timely” progress. As a capitalist enterprise, the university embraces competition—a race against time—to produce extraordinary scholarship, thereby discouraging genuine collegiality. This system does not encourage us to satisfy our urge to “make face and heart,” or to find ourselves, by learning from one another through compassionate social interactions. For this reason, I look forward to summers during which MALCS, conversely, focuses on giving shape and meaning to our selves and community. MALCSistas remind me that there have always been philosophers, artists, scientists, and lovers of “making sense” of the world. I dream that it is possible to transform the U.S. university to meet our needs as humans. I look forward to this reemergence from what may be our collective trance in the Coatlicue State. I look forward to our inherently interlinked individual and collective experiences of triumph.

Comment(s):

  1. Monica    November 12, 2012 at 10:55 AM

    Thank you for your words. This is definitely a process many of us go through, and yet very few talk about it. Gracias.

  2. Anonymous   November 12, 2012 at 11:34 AM

    What a “timely” piece! I was driving to my office with my inner critic saying many of the horrible words you mention. It has been a long time since I have written out of joy rather than fear. Deadlines and timelines help me to be “productive” but are sucking the life out of my voice. Thank you for such a thought-provoking piece.

  3. Unknown   November 12, 2012 at 11:45 AM

    Thank you. So very much. Thank you.

  4. Anonymous   November 12, 2012 at 6:26 PM

    This is exactly how I felt a couple of days ago when I was going through my exams. Thank you so much for writing this!

  5. Anonymous   November 12, 2012 at 9:10 PM

    THANK YOU! This is exactly what I experienced.

  6. Theresa Delgadillo  November 19, 2012 at 3:55 PM

    Dear Anonymous Blog Author,
    In the classroom scene you describe, where a focus on the work and the writing would be most beneficial to all, the discussion unfortunately shifts to “correcting a person,” making an individual Latina the problem. Your honesty appears to have been alarming to those present then but shared here, in this space, it is a welcome meditation on the kind of relationships we build together in academia as well as the self-knowledge and skill you have gained in working with others and negotiating your expectations of others and self. I join in thanking you for this beautiful essay, especially the brilliant observation: “I look forward to this reemergence from what may be our collective trance in the Coatlicue State.” It’s a statement that resonates beyond academia as well as sign of the keen insight with which you have emerged from the fire. Congratulations to you! I am so very glad you will be making a difference in higher education!

  7. Anonymous   November 22, 2012 at 7:51 PM

    Dear Anonymous,
    Thank you for your essay, and speaking truth to power.
    My writing style has also been called ‘bitter,’ but by an anonymous manuscript reviewer who also asked why I was complaining about the lack of mentorship if I successfully received my Ph.D.! In other words, the lack of compassion in academia is pervasive. It is scholars like you and other MALCSistas who will make a difference

TransGenderInter

October 29, 2012

Photo of "The Art of Inclusion #1" by Stella Beli.

Photo of “The Art of Inclusion #1” by Stella Beli.

“Gender as a category of analysis explodes as technologies remap the category to reinvent fresh ways of interpreting sexualities and social/political desire.”

Emma Pérez, The Decolonial Imaginary (14)

By Marie “Keta” Miranda 

It has been more than two years that the MALCS membership has been in a challenging discussion on inclusion in our organization. As I try to draw lines from so many conversations, I see that the issue of a “woman’s space” has permeated the contentious arguments for or against expanding categories of membership. What has developed in this process, what has become a central focus of Chicana feminisms is the conscious effort to negotiate, to shift from the types of binary oppositions that fix and position us at the margins.

As Gloria Anzaldúa, Chela Sandoval, Emma Pérez articulated a fronteriza/border- lands, differential consciousness, and decolonial imaginary—each in their own way defining a third space, a way to express lived experience—the concepts served to explode existing categories, producing many more liberatory forms of analysis and ways of examining life lived at the borderlands. Similarly, Jose Esteban Muñoz’s concept of “disidentifications” acknowledges the theories of women of color and particularly Chicana feminisms to understand how subordinate subjects resist dominance. Disidentification becomes a decolonizing act–a political strategy of survival that finds alternative routes of desire, identification, and power.

As MALCS emerged from the debates about gender within NACCS in the eighties, these questions remained “unsettled” and continued to make our MALCS space one where our differences are left open-ended…unsettled, waiting, and anticipating. As Chicana feminists began defining what occurs in third spaces —the processes, the ways of doing things—has rested on a continual need to find our histories, of learning again what our practice was and what it could be like. MALCS has also become that alternative space, the third space of developing ideas, nurturing our voices and building solidarity.

As MALCS began to work through these topics we additionally processed the memberships discussion when it came time to update our bylaws, to develop more inclusive terms of membership. Through workshops directly addressing inclusion and in workshops discussing our bylaws, we discussed what a change in membership would mean. We also learned that bylaws are guidelines and therefore are not only amendable, but can reveal or reflect a future vision, directing or indicating a move forward. Ex-Officio Monica Torres and I shared a conversation in this process where we both expressed pride in how this organization takes up very problematic issues. We jump into the fray of battle; we take up previous questions, one that we thought or assumed settled long ago. We are challenged each of us by other members…we can’t be too comfortable…there is much more to understand…to perceive differently.

As MALCS’ previous chair, at various times, I had to write to members to request that they un-invite their partner who significantly contributed to the work, or to a professor to un-invite a student who provides a different path to understanding, or to ask a chapter to un-invite a participant/member from attending the MALCS Institute. At those times, I worked and revised and reworded these requests, looking for words that would honor the restrictions. How to express that MALCS space was a mujer space, woman’s space, to give us the space to articulate, to conjecture, to find, to express in words that go against the grain, negotiate and resist without also excluding. That is what our space has meant to us, and it has been an important one. Yet, so many more have engaged the essays, the poems, the films, the art of women of color feminists, moved by or ignited by new ways of thinking about race, class, gender, sexualities, abilities no longer contained by borders.

It was Maylei Blackwell who best expressed for me our decision to include trans and gender non-conforming people in the membership of MALCS as the legacy of Chicana feminisms: “they are the children” of our labor. Finding space in MALCS–the issues of who to include and to exclude–aren’t put to rest with a bylaw change. Will transgender and intergender folks want to come to this space? What can/will MALCS do to make this a safe(r) space? Is this changed space only a temporary one? A place to hone one’s voice, to find some respite—as it has been for so many of us?

As I think through my own process of thinking what inclusion means to MALCS—from an essentialist definition of woman/mujer—to consider what MALCS can become, I find that we, MALCSistas, have to go to new ground, new engagements, new territory, to unsettle what we have assumed. We need to re-consider, review, and even rework what “feminist practice” is. In many instances, it seems that feminist practice is about cordiality as discussions become heated. Yet each discordant voice helps us to hear; each clamor alerts us to listen. At other times, feminist practice underscores love for one another. I think love is the premise of our discussions and that it should recognize disagreement. We have a long way to go. The inclusion of transgendered and intergendered folks has shifted the ground…this MALCS space. It shows us where we have to go and it reveals that we need to find our definition of feminist practices, of good practices. Our MALCS elders brought these issues to the table when it was founded and it shows how difficult yet unafraid our elders are. We are the children of those irreverent theories, those conflicting experimentations, of those words that speak to our multiple experiences, of this MALCS space.

As I took up this essay I heard that disagreements were circulating, that emails were starting up re-engaging the bylaws change on membership. I wish this conversation could take place on our MALCS web, here on Mujeres Talk or via the listserv to all members. Our engagements, our disagreements, our differences make MALCS the unique organization that it is. Our work, our discussions and debates attempt to make MALCS a “safe(r) space” to find ways of creating bridges between our many communities.

Our bylaws change reflects more than three years of discussion. Members disagreeing, members finding ways to bring the discussion to the table, finding ways of putting the hallway discussions onto the floor of our panels and workshops, on our agendas. It has been and will continue to be debated, however, I don’t think we will go back; I think the discussion of inclusion has never been closed/settled.  Our membership finds ways of interrogating, intervening and changing what we look like, of who we are. The bylaws change begs the question: who else will be included? That answer will reveal itself as we find how our practices and theories sometimes blend, collide, sometimes even confuse. And as we develop a working definition of feminist practice, I believe, we will develop discursive and material practices, revealing our limits as well as showing us new paths/circuits for liberation.

Marie “Keta” Miranda is on the faculty at University of Texas at San Antonio in Mexican American Studies and a former Chair of MALCS.

Las Madres Profesoras in the Academy

September 3, 2012

Castañeda and son, Miguel Angel

Castañeda and son, Miguel Angel

By Mari Castañeda

For the past twelve years, I’ve lived in Amherst, Massachusetts, an iconic New England college town that has a high-income and predominantly white population that often boasts about a family lineage that dates back to the first pilgrim settlers. Luckily for my son Miguel Angel, who is now a seventeen-year-old and about to enter is senior year at the local high school, he’s learned to meet such boasting with his own story of a family lineage that pre-dates those settlers and is tied to the Yaqui Indians of California and Mexico. It has not always been smooth sailing—such as the time his elementary school teacher called me because my son upset his white classmates by telling them with a typical nine-year-old bluntness that “they didn’t belong in this land.” We worked through the incident together, making it the prototypical “learning moment” with his class. For my son Miguel Angel, such historical positioning became necessary in order for him to claim a space in a place that was not originally intended for him. Yet we learned from other friends of color who had a longer history of making space for themselves in the region, and over time built a diverse community of family friends. The making of home and community are indeed socially constructed, in addition to being passed on from generation to generation.

At the 2012 MALCS Institute, Susana Gallardo and I organized a roundtable titled, “Las Madres Profesoras in the Academy” in an effort to create a space to discuss the joys and challenges of working in academic environments while also being a mother/parent. What we found most enjoyable about the roundtable was sharing about how each of us were succeeding and struggling with creating such a balance. In doing so, we learning from each other’s strategies and sabiduria, especially since most of us were the first mujeres in our families to forge this professorial path. We also discussed the institutional realities of faculty positions, which often causes us to be far away from our extended families, thus forcing us to rear our children in communities that are regionally, culturally, and even economically radically different than the ones we grew up in.

When we introduced ourselves at the beginning of the session, we also noted the ages and names of our children—something which often doesn’t happen at conference panels. Although the ages of our kids ranged from four years old to seventeen, it was clear that despite the age differences, we were all trying to figure out how to reconcile our lives in academia (which often negates the personal lives of students, staff, and faculty) with the fact that our children and broader families were at the forefront of our lives.

At the roundtable, we discussed the importance of building such homes and communities on our own terms, regardless of where we were located. Each of us had stories of the lengths we went—whether driving across town, or flying across the country—to make sure our children had a range of experiences that would help them develop a healthy and well-grounded sense of identity. We also discussed ways in which we could influence our institutions to be more sensitive to motherhood/parenthood issues so that we can be in a work environment that allows us to be successful in all the areas of our lives. Increasingly (although perhaps grudgingly), academic institutions are recognizing that they must change their insensitive practices and unrealistic expectations if they are to remain as cutting edge and relevant scholarly environments in the twenty-first century. Creating a work place where mother-scholars are welcomed, encouraged and expected to succeed is central to this shift. For instance, the chair of my department when I first started at UMass Amherst (a white male) was incredibly sympathetic when I told him I needed to teach between 9am-3pm because my son’s inability to be in an after school program as a five-year-old. Not only did he schedule my courses T/Th between those hours, but the faculty meeting was also scheduled between 12-2pm. These seemingly simple accommodations made a world of a difference in mine and my son’s happiness and success.

When I was a graduate student mother in the early-1990s, virtually no conferences held panels, workshops, or roundtables on the topic of balancing motherhood with academia. At this Summer Institute, our panel was one among several on mother-related topics including Danielle Barrazza’s “My Baby Bump” and Karleen Pendleton-Jimenez’ wonderful reading of her memoir on butch pregnancy and motherhood (http://labloga.blogspot.com/2011/11/how-to-get-girl-pregnant.html).

Things are starting to change and it’s great to see that MALCS is once again at the forefront of this important discussion. At the roundtable, it became clear that we wanted to continue the conversation outside of the institute, and thus we are starting a queer-friendly parenting list for MALCS members and affiliates. We hope you will join us in our effort to share experiences, best practices, and a safe space to get advice.  Please join us on our new email discussion list!  To join the “Madres Profesoras” email list, please email Susana@malcs.org

Mari Castañeda is an Associate Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.  She studies new media and telecommunication policy, Latina/ethnic media studies, and transcultural political economy of communication industries. Her latest book is Mothers’ Lives in Academia, a collection of essays co-edited with Kirsten Isgro, forthcoming from Columbia University Press.

Comment(s):

Theresa (Mujeres Talk Co-Moderator)  September 5, 2012 at 7:54 AM

Mari, Your essay highlights how much the question of Chicana/Latina/Native American women’s inclusion in the academy is not only about whether an institution provides affordable and quality child care – which is vitally important, but also about the practices of the profession and the services that we can all make use of to help that next generation. I like how much your essay emphasizes that even the seemingly small gestures matter. Thank you!

Juan Crow: Alive and Kicking in Arizona

July 2, 2012

By Seline Szkupinski Quiroga

Last week, the US Supreme Court ruled on the constitutionality of Arizona’s notorious SB 1070.  I was profoundly interested in the outcome not only because I am an Arizona resident and aware of the human rights implications if this law was allowed to stand, but also because I have been doing ethnographic research with a Phoenix Latino community over the past 5 years and I have witnessed first-hand how the lead-up to, passage and aftermath of SB 1070 has negatively affected the community and its members.

The Court upheld the most egregious provision of SB1070: the “show me your papers“ provision which requires law enforcement to determine the immigration status of anyone they stop in the course of routine policing if they have a “reasonable suspicion” that person is undocumented. The ability of authorities to treat others differently based on appearance was not declared unconstitutional, as were three other provisions of the bill.

At the time the Arizona v. United States decision was handed down, I was not in Arizona but in North Carolina for a family emergency. I was monitoring the progress of the proceedings via Facebook, live blogs, CNN and texting with a colleague who had been attending the vigils held in Phoenix. Given that North Carolina has a significant Latino population (more than 800,000 people) and is considered to be the hub of Latino migration to the South, I was surprised that so many around me didn’t seem to grasp the importance of what was happening – even though South Carolina, the state next door, passed similar anti-immigrant legislation last summer and it too included a “show me your papers“ provision.

Being in the South at the time of the ruling highlighted the parallels with Jim Crow, the de jure institutionalized racism that prevailed one hundred years ago. (I was not the only one who made this connection as this powerful poster by artists Favianna Rodriguez, Roberto Lovato and Gan Golan began circulating the next day).

Juan Crow

Listening to the media responses to the ruling was like listening to someone from another reality. I heard conservative commentators pooh pooh the idea that racial profiling would flourish under the allowed provision. I live in Maricopa County where, under Sheriff Arpaio’s guidance, racial profiling thrives.  He and his office are being sued by the Department of Justice for, among other things, targeting Latinos for traffic stops. In my own work, I have heard multiple stories from men and women of being targets of hostility and suspicion for speaking Spanish in public, for having the Mexican eagle on their truck, for waiting at a bus stop late at night.

Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority, acknowledged that police offers may resort to racial profiling, but that would raise constitutional concerns. In other words, eyes will be on Arizona; if you don’t behave, you will face more court challenges about civil rights violations. Really? We have to go through MORE instances of discrimination and differential treatment before the injustices are addressed in the courts?

Other commentators have pointed out that the provision upheld already exists in federal law as if that is sufficient justification to roll over and play dead. What about working to change the law at the federal level? What about recognizing the immorality of the law itself? The commodification and dehumanization of people so that they are no more than “aliens”?  Where pundits claim the moral high ground of preserving rule of law, I see violation of human rights. The appeals to “protect our communities from illegals” as if immigrants are not part of our communities angers and saddens me.

At the same time, I look forward to the next steps. I have been a witness to the changes in Arizona, to the slow and steady encroachment of hate and hostility towards Latinos in general, and immigrants in particular. But alongside this, I have also witnessed the conscientización of a new generation of community-based activists. The chilly climate created by the passage of SB1070, the ban of ethnic studies, the expansion of the 287(g) program, etc. has been a catalyst for a Phoenix-based Latino grassroots protest to mature. In a future essay, I’ll write about the multiple ways resistance manifests here in the desert.

For now, quiero decir algo: 

MALCS participated in the Arizona boycott called two summers ago when Jan Brewer signed SB1070 into law. The politically correct thing to do then was to boycott Arizona, to refuse to spend money here and thus economically undermine the state, since tourism is one of Arizona’s major source of tax revenue. MALCS has always been dear to my heart – I credit MALCistas with getting me through graduate school – but to be honest, I felt abandoned when the national Summer Institute was cancelled. We were on the frontlines, and where was our support? How hard was it to refuse to come to a state where the thermometer hits 115? But I had no time to explore those feelings as we here in Arizona quickly re-organized the Institute into a State Conference, bringing together local activists and scholars, and growing in the process. This year, the theme of the Summer Institute in Santa Barbara is Todos somos Arizona. As we prepare to juntarnos once again, I ask you to reflect on what that means for your scholarship, your activism, and your corazón.

As new co-moderator of Mujeres Talk, this essay was written not as an intellectual exercise, but as a rumination entre hermanas. Responses welcome.

Seline Szkupinski Quiroga is a child of immigrants and a medical anthropologist living in Phoenix, Arizona.

 Comments:

  1. Theresa (Mujeres Talk Co-Moderator)  July 3, 2012 at 1:07 PM

    Seline,
    I appreciate your reflections at this moment because there has been little written about the decision that addresses the racial profiling it leaves in place — and in a way that reminds us that our communities are now all across the U.S. Thank you, too, for asking us to reflect on what we can and might do to further support our compañeras in Arizona.

  2. Marivel Danielson  July 11, 2012 at 12:38 AM

    Yes! Thank you Seline for vocalizing what many of us in Arizona feel on a daily basis–abandoned. The focus of the 2012 MALCS Summer Institute is a wonderful place to begin to discuss how each of us might transform our outrage and indignation into action and change in Arizona and other places around the country and the globe in dire need of intervention. As we head into Santa Barbara and this precious time of gathering, nurturing, personal and professional growth, I echo Seline’s prompt to all Institute attendees and MALCS members broadly to think about the ways your resistance to the hate and ignorance in Arizona can become and visible part of the powerful wave of activism, art, and scholarship we continue to engage with every day here in Arizona. Our presence and voice in Arizona are so much more valuable than absence or silence will ever be.