Reflections on Chican@ Studies

On August 28th, 2014, I taught my first Chican@ Studies class. Full of pure, rich joy, the first day was magical: if ever there could be a pure and transparent descriptive word that could describe the tenor that permeated the classroom from beginning-to-end. This is my attempt at describing a feeling that isn’t often felt in the classroom made up of cold, tall and stark white walls adorned with slits, switches and seconds that seem to pass ever-so-slowly. We made a connection that can only be made in a classroom where we are in close proximity and the lights are dim and the chairs are close. The connection was more than a simple human connection, it was a psychic, warm, rich and powerful connection. It was one that full of bliss and love. The students are so eager to learn about Chican@ history.

I wanted to share some parts of my next lecture. Sometimes notes can get lost and it is my desire to blog every-now-and-then during this most exciting, challenging and rewarding semester. I am usually a writing teacher. I teach a range of FYC courses, upper division Advanced Writing, and the Journal Production Class. I also serve on many committees at UC, Merced, so I can’t get to updating my blog as much as I like. Not to mention, this year, I will be blessed with two of my daughters graduating. One is graduating from University High School. Today, she found out that she won’t have to take any placement tests for college. That is very exciting for her! I was not so fortunate. She asked me about colleges and we decided she would stay in Cali! Yay! My other daughter will be graduating from CSU, Fresno with a double-major, one in Music (she plays the Cello) and another in Criminology (Behavioral Science). I’m so proud of both of them! She will take the LSAT and possibly go to Law School. I’m crossing my fingers for her!

Anyway, back to the lecture. It’s really, really exciting. I have put together this great, colorful PPT. It is something I’m really proud of. I’ll have to share it on a page later with my reflections on my lessons.

I have nicknamed my class, “The Politics of Identity and the Decolonial Shift”. I did this for a reason. Many 21st century scholars (I.E. Mignolo and Perez) are engaging with scholarship that explores what it means to be in a “decolonial” moment, mindset, consciousness and epistemology (though that last word is tricky, because it would be more correct to call it non-Western epistemologies). So, I was thinking about what this means for Chican@ Studies in the 21st century and there are actually a lot of connections to Chican@ Studies, because like a decolonial attempt to recover lost knowledges, Chican@ Studies seeks to reveal silences, blindspots and gaps in Western knowledge practices, scholarship and history. So, the teaching of Chican@ Studies as a decolonial experience which can be traced back all the way to the “Discovery of Americas” and even before then with previous migration in the Ice Age, is one that contributes to the decolonial shift to decolonize the mind from accepting only one version of truth, only one history, only one culture and only one language (English). We come to know, or at least I hope we do come to know, that the experiences of many Chican@s and Latin@s in the U.S. are bicultural, tricultural, hybrid, permeable, multiple, straddling borders, complex, contradicting and equally as rich because of all of this mestizaje (mixture to reflect new norms, forms and cultures). This knowledge contributes to decolonization of Chican@s and contributes to a personal and individual agency that is not supremacist or power-hungry. It is one that looks back at the colonizer with a gaze to understand that which was destroyed through the process of historical colonization.

So, I wanted to start off the historical journey back to 1500 BC with the Olmecs and the Colossal Head as their cultural semiotic with an intention to decolonize and to enliven a decolonial mindset. This phenomenon has always been part of the purpose of teaching Chican@ Studies, as was the purpose of the Walkouts in LA in the 1960’s: better education, more culturally relevant education, more resources for equal educational opportunities. So, I will start of my lecture with a discussion of Decolonial Theory (Fanon and Perez) and then move on to my PPT presentation of all of the different indigenous tribes dating back from 1500 BC to 1540’s CE (up to the moment right after the Spanish Conquest). Then I will go to an excerpt from _Occupied America_ and read “The Legacy of Hate” which will allow me to explore the 300 years after Spanish Colonization and the struggle for Mexican independence and ultimate colonization by the U.S. of TX, CA, NV, UT, CO, AZ, NM. I can then talk about the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848) and the dispossession of lands by squatters and the making of a Mexican/Hispanic underclass associated with the Spanish language a second-class status to the new English settlers.

The next 50-60 years will be the subject matter of my new lecture to be able to move up the timeline to 1968 (the moment of mass cultural shifts and newly approved courses and regard for Chican@ Studies and Chican@ Students).

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Villanueva, Victor “Memoria is a Friend of Ours: On the Discourse of Color”

This is an interesting excerpt about Victor Villanueva.

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In this essay, Villanueva interwines poetry, narrative, and memory to disrupt traditional academic conventions where memory  and emotion have no legitimate place.  Academic discourse, according to Villanueva, is too logocentric in its effort to “reach the Aristotelian ideal of being completely logocentric, though it cannot be freed of the ethical appeal to authority” (12).  Villanueva argues that we need to realize that “the personal” does not have to negate the academic desires to be rational and objective; instead the personal can complement the intellect by produting cognition and affect.  The personal, Villanueva says, is intellectual.  Villanueva also wants us to understand the role that narrative plays in the life of one of color to facilitate memory of possibility realized, processes discovered and openings found.  Memoria, which use to be one of the most important canons of rhetorics, has been relegated to the wayside—a prophecy…

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