Civility or Social Control

There has been a lot of talk as of late about “civility.” Indeed there are academicians who are doing a thriving business conducting workshops with the full support of administration and its cheerleaders who equate the lack of civility to school yard bullying, mixing the proverbial apples and oranges.

However, the meaning of civility is much deeper; it involves much more than politeness. The intent of the campaign is to silence dissent. The frivolous finger wagging distracts from the important role of power in bullying and trivializes its viciousness and seriousness.

Proponents rationalize that politeness is necessary for collegial communication and to lay down the ground rules for disagreeing in a civil matter. According to them, civility is essential to finding common ground. This sounds great but it assumes that both sides want to listen to each other as equals and that there is the possibility of common ground. The truth be told, the hierarchical nature of academe makes this sort of communication impossible.

After listening to the dialogue on civility at California State University Northridge, I have come to the conclusion that there is not very much analysis or thought on the topic and that the narrative is being spun by administrators and partisans who do not want to deal with criticism. A major issue at CSUN is a lack of racial diversity on the faculty.

It is a crude effort at social control – an attempt to regulate behavior and feed the ambitions of those at the top. At its most basic level culture controls us; in turn popular opinion defines what is right and wrong. The present campaign on civility is part of an effort to impose conformity and silence dissent.

In order for civility to exist it must begin from the bottom. If not the university becomes a caste system with students subservient to professors, professors to the dean and up the line to the president. At each step, power is controlled by those at the higher level with students and professors, according to their category, on the bottom.

From my perspective, an analysis of the term civility has to be examined in context. Like racism and sexism civility depends on power. Moreover, we are supposed to be scholars and the current debate ignores tons of literature on racism and sexism. Bandied around by pseudo scholars it diminishes the moral authority and meaning of the word civility.

Recently the issue surfaced at the National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies’ call for papers. The conference theme was “Exploring Civility within the Chicana & Chicano Studies Discipline.”  The pushback came as a surprise to many members since these conferences are usually innocuous.

Sandra K. Soto, an Associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Arizona wrote an open letter to the leadership of NACCS in which she recounted her twenty-five year involvement and attacked the theme of “Exploring Civility” –saying the call made “clear that the theme is not only promoting civility, but that it is blaming human suffering, greed, union busting, and other forms of oppression on a general sense of incivility, rather than say…capitalism, imperialism, colonialism, genocide… or say—in this historical moment—that ‘disrespect for authority has decreased the ability of individuals to follow laws’ is to verge into the terrain of anti-Blackness.’”

Professor Soto went on to re-call the history of the lack of civility in NACCS and how the militant conduct of the Lesbian contingent forced changes and the formation of the Lesbian Caucus in the 1980s. If “we had been ‘well-behaved, cultured, refined, enlightened, polite, and developed’ (ser educado)—we probably wouldn’t even have had the audacity to be out lesbians much less angry Chicana dykes demanding of space. Thankfully we didn’t give into that ideology then. And I certainly don’t want to now.”

The tempest sent some members back to redrafting their papers to include the lack of civility of the U.S.’s quest for global domination and the privatization of public institutions here and in Latin America. More important critics criticized the call’s distortion of civility by defining it as “ser educado” “[that] in Spanish means being well-behaved, cultured, refined, enlightened, polite, and developed” – which has always been definition of gente de razón.

What concerned me was not the tempest, but that an organization that was founded on the burning ashes of the 1960s would resurrect this Porfirian notion. As scholars, members have the responsibility of putting definitions into context. Language underlies socialization and it is rooted in culture, and based on our learned experiences that form our social and cultural identity.

As Michel Foucault wrote, “Neither power nor knowledge nor any other reality is anything but a mere linguistic construct.” In order to define civility Chicana/o scholars must deconstruct the academy and its motives when using those words. Like the old colonial Mexican casta system civility fixes everyone in their place.

In academe everything is advisory to the president – who for all intents and purposes owns the plantation. The overseer is the provost; he and his/her staff run the plantation often using pan or palo, but more often through benevolence. On Mexican haciendas the overseer became compadre to the peones establishing a fictional relationship with them. In academe control is based on this pecking order of associates, deans and lackeys. The lowest rung is occupied by students who don’t have anyone to peck down on.

Like on the plantation the illusion exists that everyone is part of a family or team. Their limited power is based on how many they can peck down on. Students have few illusions whereas professors are called “doctor”. They can grieve but they lack the deep pockets of an institutional remedy.

Even if you want a simple audience with those above you, access is limited by the one on the top. Nevertheless, faculty is under the illusion that they are part of a governance process. Similarly student government is controlled by the administration; only about 5 percent of the students vote in student government elections. They routinely vote for university projects rubber stamping the administration’s wishes.  The only hope of breaking this cycle is to be uncivil.

Wanting to maintain this control, administrators red-bait dissidents and shut them out. For over six months we have been trying to get our side of the UNAM argument in print only to be shut out of the student newspaper and faculty forums.

I have been in the Civil Rights Movement for some sixty years. The principle of civil disobedience is part of my vernacular.  For me, it is the cornerstone of democracy. Many faculty members and students went to jail resisting civility and those controlling the institution.  One of the lessons we learned was that the lack of communication produced frustration and forced dissidents to be uncivil. Our life experiences inform us that change cannot come about without vigorous dissent.

Like they say on the street “no justice no peace.” As long as there is injustice civil behavior will be impossible.  Civility only occurs when those on top listen to those with less power. The hyperbole of the administration hides the fact that there is already a procedure in place to deal with abusive conduct. However, charging someone with unprofessional conduct would require the accusers to give the dissident due process instead of slandering or red-baiting them.

– by Dr. R. Acuña

Posted in AmeriKKKa, Aztlan, Chicana/o, Chicana/o Activism, Chicana/o History, Chicana/o Identity, Chicana/o Ideology, Chicana/o Politics, Chicana/o Power, Chicana/o Studies, Chicana/o Youth, Chicano Movement, Community, CSUN, Decolonization, Education, History, Indigenous, Knowledge, Land, Language, Movimiento, MuXer, NACCS, Politics, Quotes, Resistance, Social justice, Solidarity, Unity | Leave a comment

UCLA Chicana/o Studies Fall 2014 Open House (October 1, 2014)

UCLA Chicana/o Studies Fall  2014 Open House

UCLA Chicana/o Studies Fall 2014 Open House

Posted in Aztlan, Chicana/o, Chicana/o History, Chicana/o Identity, Chicana/o Ideology, Chicana/o Power, Chicana/o Studies, Chicana/o Youth, Chicano Movement, Community, Decolonization, Education, Indigenous, Knowledge, Los Angeles, Mexican, Movimiento, Palabra, Resistance, Social justice, Solidarity, UCLA, Unity | Leave a comment

Objects of Devotion/Objetos de Devoción Conference at UC Riverside

Objects of Devotion/Objetos de Devoción

Objects of Devotion/Objetos de Devoción

Posted in Aztlan, California, Chicana/o, Chicana/o Activism, Chicana/o Art, Chicana/o Healing, Chicana/o History, Chicana/o Identity, Chicana/o Ideology, Chicana/o Studies, Community, Decolonization, Education, History, Indigenous, Knowledge, Language, Mexican, Mexico, Migrant, Movimiento, MuXer, Nahuatl, Nepantla, Palabra, Photography, Religion/Spirituality, Resistance, Social justice, Transnational | Leave a comment

The Internet: How it Has Affected My Career

The reason why I went on Facebook was the need to get instant feedback — to learn from sources other than the academy. However, I must admit that sometimes I get frustrated with FB by the lack of critical analysis.

I can labor on an article that may be too long – I always try to push the limits — and I get minimal comments whereas I’ll whip out a paragraph or some else’s  cartoon and the response is overwhelming. I have come to the conclusion that people want to engage but they are reluctant to push themselves beyond the entertainment mode.

I blame it on the Scranton generations of teachers who don’t really push themselves or their students beyond 8 AM to 3 PM schedules. The whole of society buys into these attitudes, and for the most part the family dinner has been replaced by television sets that are approaching movie screen proportions. The day when you did not get up from the table until excused has gone the way of the typewriter.

In all fairness I cannot blame television.

I began to think about how the internet changed my career recently when a FB friend posted the following question:

Elia Esparza: Prof. Rudy Acuña how would your career/life differ had the Internet and social media had existed during the beginning of your career? We’re blessed to have easy access to you today but I wonder how it would have been early on for you.

I had never really thought this question through and my first reaction was typical Facebook and I responded from the hip.

Rudy Acuña: ‘Good question. Without a doubt before the internet I was forced to focus on narrower topics.’[Throughout my career I have taken on a wide range of topics and disciplines such as migration, pedagogy and historical events that has in great part been as a result of the internet. Aside from publishing books I have written columns for major newspapers and currently have a blog site rudyacuna.netI continued, ‘Access to electronic material in libraries gave me more flexibility. I have been very fortunate and have 22 published books. My main obstacle has always been time; teaching four different classes a week cut into my time. The lack of research funds limited me. I also spent a lot of time working with community and activist organizations. So the internet definitely helped. I probably would have written more books and cut down my driving time to libraries. But at the same time I like teaching more than research. That would have remained the same. You know, there is nothing like a live audience. The singer Al Jolson would have the lights in the audience turned up so he could see the faces. Do doubt the internet has allowed me to read more from different venues and in that way has radicalized me. It makes me think of different possibilities.

Learning is life and the internet helps you to explain the whys. For instance, I doubt whether in my early career I would have gotten as much out of the Arizona experience. Arizona has always been a racist state with the white inhabitants resenting Mexicans feeling somehow that Mexicans were trespassing. There have always been a fair number of snowbirds who would come to Arizona to escape the harsh Midwest and East Coast winters and lacked a historical memory.

In 2010 the perfect storm occurred as xenophobes led an assault on Mexican Americans and immigrants. The suddenness and viciousness of this attack caught a lot of people off guard as extremists in form of the Tea Party and Minutemen captured the Republican Party and cowered Blue Dog Democrats.

Because I believed and believe that these wars have to be led by an organic leadership I was forced to form support groups from afar. The extremes of these xenophobic groups and their vulgar nationalism eventually played into our hands and recent events saw John Huppenthal and Tom Horne voted out of office.

Horne and Huppenthal were aligned with the extremists who passed SB 1070, the anti-immigrant bill and HB 2281 that outlawed ethnic studies and Mexican American studies in particular.  They pushed stupidity to the edge banning books which included Shakespeare and one of my titles, Occupied America.

Early in my career my explanations would have been more simplistic –“they were rednecks” (which itself is an offensive and stereotypical term).  My internet reading allowed me to break out of this one-dimensional mindset and explain the roles of the Koch brothers, ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) and the banks in this nativism.

Their motivation was privatization: the arrest of thousands of Mexican immigrants assured the prisons would be filled, the failure of the education system to insure future clients (prisoners), an uninformed electorate would let the banks make millions from laundering illegal money which was made from gun running, and lastly an uneducated electorate would insure low or no taxes for special interests. The Tea Party and the Minutemen and the other locos were a smokescreen.

Currently I am engaged in a fight against the privatization of higher education. I along with my cohorts have taken on California State University at Northridge where students are being systematically excluded and ripped off by high tuition. In many ways CSUN resembles Arizona with everyone getting their cut.

The internet has given me greater access to understanding what privatization and neo-liberalism are throughout the world, and it has allowed me to see Arizona globally. I can more effectively follow the money. I did not have this access to knowledge early on in my career. Only the rich had the privilege to be so briefed.

Presently I am struggling through why Europeans and Latin American students can recognize the threat of privatization and neo-liberalism so vividly and American students walk around in a trance. Why are Americans so civil (compliant)?  It is the system.

The key is in how Empires function. The Spaniards invaded and colonized Mexico. The name of the game was to control the native people. In order to do this it had to restructure Indian societies using race and patriarchy. Many of the Indians lived in clans that the Spaniards replaced by the nuclear family which was male dominated.  In the native society men and women were usually  the same age when they married. In the new society frequently males were in their 20s and females as young as 14.

With a greater information base you come to realize that American attitudes and values  enable the Arizona’s of this world.  Why else would Americans so readily take from the poor to give to the rich?

Individualism and a take care of our own mentality spawns a legion of phobias. Parts of Europe and the rest of the world are communitarians where public safety generally comes first. They find merits in cooperation and collective enterprises versus the U.S. model of individualism.

Communitarianism is a philosophy that emphasizes the connection between the individual and the community” that is understood in the wider sense of interactions between a community of people in a geographical location. Here in the United States people are obsessed with taxes and that the poor may benefit from them. In Europe many conservatives see it as a public health issue. Travelling through Spain and Germany I was struck that few people complained about paying 30/40 percent of their wages in taxes. In return they got free health care, good transportation, free university etc. Many viewed these as rights. In the U.S. it is a communist conspiracy or an immigrant scheme to rob Americans.

The present tension in Europe is between communitarianism and the American neo-liberal model. At the beginning of my career, my world was confined to one newspaper, the LA Times. The internet took me into a global society releasing me from my chains.

Yes, Elia Esparza my life would have been different if I had had the internet; I would have left my ranchito (academe) earlier and learned the meaning of Empire much earlier in my career.

– by Dr. R. Acuña

Posted in AmeriKKKa, Aztlan, California, Chicana/o Activism, Chicana/o History, Chicana/o Identity, Chicana/o Ideology, Chicana/o Politics, Chicana/o Power, Chicana/o Studies, Chicana/o Youth, Chicano Movement, Community, CSUN, Decolonization, History, Indigenous, Knowledge, Language, Law, Los Angeles, Mexican, Movimiento, MuXer, NACCS, Palabra, Politics, Quotes, Racism, Resistance, Social justice, Solidarity, Unity | 1 Comment

The Futility of Civility (Particularly for Women of Color)

Powerful image from the borderlands feminist blog of Risa Cantu C’DeBaca.

Powerful image from the borderlands feminist blog of Risa Cantu C’DeBaca.

September 10, 2014

A CFP that Makes You Wonder “WTF?”

That nationwide “¿Qué chingados es esto?” that you heard last week? That was hundreds of Chicana/o Studies scholars expressing communal dismay as they read the newly-issued call for papers (CFP) from NACCS, aka the National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies. A CFP provides the theme for an academic conference, and scholars are encouraged to present their latest research in a way that contributes to and explores the chosen theme. Many eagerly awaited this year’s NACCS theme, as the conference will be held in San Francisco, and there are a lot of us who don’t need much of an excuse to visit that fun and beautiful city.

So why were many upset and angered by a little ol’ academic CFP? Well, the first problem was the title: “Exploring Civility within the Chicana & Chicano Studies Discipline.” This is not the typical NACCS conference theme, which usually is along the lines of community empowerment, social justice, transnational scholarship, etc. You know, the kinds of things that led us into Chicana/o Studies in the first place. “Exploring Civility” left many of us scratching our heads.

The head scratch quickly turned to feelings of full-blown asco as one read the description of this theme. It read in part:

The contours of global order are being impacted by the increase of lack of civility at a global and local scale. We are living in a society which is imploding and disintegrating into an uncivil and divisive relationship in our politics and discourse at the community, state and national level. The scarcity of civility spells disaster and stifles growth as we increasingly devolve into a total lack of empathy—a trait that makes human beings unique from animals. . . .

The term “ser educado” in Spanish means being well-behaved, cultured, refined, enlightened, polite, and developed. Unfortunately, our political leadership and public behavior promotes the opposite of civility. As a result, this country is in a deep crisis at a social and economic level that reverses democracy which only works when there is compromise and a balance of power shared by the legislative, the judicial, and the executive branches. Inability to compromise has deadlocked our political system in a way to make it impossible for passage of key pieces of legislation and disables our democratic process altogether. A study entitled Civility in America reiterates the fact “that incivility is ubiquitous; no area of American society is untouched. Eroding civility is harmful to our country’s future and takes a toll on how we interact with the people and institutions around us.” Secondly, disrespect for authority has decreased the ability of individuals to follow laws. Thirdly, an overgrown sense of self-importance and blurring between actions and consequences further inculcate lack of civility and the breakup of any social order. All these sentiments are applicable to a sense of individuality and social consciousness in Chicanos/Latinos. [emphasis added]

Read in the most charitable way, the CFP is a poorly worded attempt to draw attention to how US politicians—and xenophobic, illiterate locals—have engaged in despicable fear-mongering and spiteful, inhumane treatment of the Central American women and children who desperately have sought refuge at our southern borders in recent months. Have you seen the heartbreaking photos of the hundreds of caged children, huddled on the floor, trying to find warmth under those foil blankets? Or the wide-eyed eight-year-old boy showing his documents to a Border Patrol agent?

We should definitely keep the asylum seekers in the national spotlight and not let President Obama and the Democratic Party get away with betraying our communities on the issue of immigration yet again. Yet, as fierce feminist scholar Sandra Soto explains, in an open letter to NACCS leadership, “the CFP makes it clear that the theme is not only promoting civility, but that it is blaming human suffering, greed, union busting, and other forms of oppression on a general sense of incvility, rather than say…capitalism, imperialism, colonialism, genocide.” In other words, the issue is not that our conservative congressional representatives lack a civil tone in how they discuss immigration issues and scapegoat immigrants. Rather, the issue is that from their racist perspective, asylum seekers—innocent women and children fleeing violence that is in part a result of American dominance and foreign intervention—are not “refined” and “developed” enough to be worthy of shelter in the US.

Mal educados”: Ferguson and Salaita

So even if NACCS leadership meant well by this theme, they unfortunately went about it in an astoundingly bone-headed way that engages in the long, ugly history around the word educado: a term long used by the upper class folks of Latin America to distinguish themselves from people who are considered mal educado: badly behaved, unrefined, uneducated, impolite, less developed . . . to be, in fact, como un indio. Throughout Latin American history, to be Indian meant that you are dark-skinned, indigenous, “uncivilized,” and unfit for citizenship—in short, not human and capable of reasoning, i.e. an “animal.” These long-held racist beliefs have worked their way in to the language we use; for example, “naco” is Mexican slang equivalent for “white trash.” Not surprisingly, it derives from Totonac, indigenous peoples from central Mexico. [Random note: I distinctly recall showing up to church one Sunday, around the age of ten, only to have my mom yell at me for not changing into nicer clothes and running a comb through my hair. Embarrassed by my appearance, she muttered, “Ugh, you look like a wild Indian!” Between the tone of her voice and her scornful face, I knew that I was supposed to feel ashamed of myself. Lesson learned: to be Indian is to be “bad.”]

Even worse, the NACCS’ CFP is woefully ill-timed and inexcusably oblivious to two major events that took place last month. First was the senseless execution of college-bound African American teen Michael Brown by the white police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri—an event that has sparked weeks of outraged protests by community members and their allies around the nation against this horrible injustice (catch up on helpful reads at the Atlantic). Another young, unarmed, innocent black man killed for no reason other than his race and the increasingly militarization of police officers who are all too eager to show off their power and use weapons meant not to protect communities, but instead to wage international wars. Ferguson protestors faced scathing criticism in the mainstream news outlets for their supposed lack of respect for authority during the initial days of protests . . . but how civil towards authority figures can one be while you are running away from tear gas, rubber bullets, and officers who look and act like the Terminator? Nevertheless, for news pundits, protestors clearly were not “well behaved” enough for to have their outrage taken seriously.

Second, the CFP is alarming tone-deaf to the unlawful firing of Professor Steven Salaita, a prolific scholar and respected educator actively recruited to the University of Illinois for a tenured appointment in the Native American Studies Department. Salaita’s innovative research compares the disenfranchisement and genocide of native peoples in the US with the treatment of Palestinians by the state of Israel. During Israel’s recent assault on Gaza, which killed 1500 Palestinian adults and 500 children, Salaita shared impassioned posts to his private (i.e. not university- or teaching-affiliated) Twitter account, calling out Israel’s barbarism and hypocrisy. Cowardly caving into pressure from outside groups, Chancellor Phyllis Wise terminated Salaita’s contract, citing concern about his “uncivil” tone. So much for the free speech promised in the First Amendment and the academic protections offered by tenure.

In light of these (and many similar events), one feels the urge to grab the NACCS board members by their collective lapels and shout, “What the f*ck are you thinking?!” Civility is an increasingly dangerous concept that is a weapon used to silence and discredit voices of dissent. Ideas that challenge the mainstream, that purposely unsettle our students so that they question the status quo, can now be dismissed as being “uncivil,” antithetical to “polite” conversation–and therefore not worthy of consideration. “Civility” is a term none too useful for Chicana/o Studies scholars who labor in a field that was established only when civil rights activists took it upon themselves to impolitely demand recognition and legitimacy as a field of scholarship. And Chicana/o Studies has only grown stronger and better thanks to those within our ranks who refuse to conform and behave “civilly.” Again, to draw from the powerful words of Soto,

Two years after my first NACCS conference, I worked alongside Deb Vargas, Emma Pérez, Deena González, and Rosalia Solorzano to co-found the Lesbian Caucus (now the Lesbian, Transgender and Bisexual Mujeres Caucus) at the Albuquerque meetings. If Deb, Emma, Deena, Rosalia and I had given in to the cult of true womanhood (a highly gendered and colonialist ideology promoting civility), then we would have never found the determination and strength to go up against the incredible machista homphobia and pushback we faced in Albuquerque. If we had been good girls, or—to use the language of the NACCS CFP—if we had been “well-behaved, cultured, refined, enlightened, polite, and developed” (ser educado)—we probably wouldn’t even have had the audacity to be out lesbians much less angry Chicana dykes demanding of space. Thankfully we didn’t give into that ideology then. And I certainly don’t want to now.

I read this and want to chant, Chicano style, “Soto sí, CFP no!” For like Professor Soto, I don’t care to abide by notions of “ser educado” and “civility” that were not meant to be attained by someone of my skin color, body type, and gender. By the very definition of mainstream “civility,” some of us will forever be perceived as uncivil, no matter how we conduct ourselves.

The Inherent “Incivility” of Women of Color

Case in point: Professor Ursula Ore, another professor, besides Salaita, who was treated unjustly this summer and who had her rights trampled. Ore is an African American tenure-track faculty member of the English department at Arizona State. Heading home after teaching an evening course, Ore was walking on a street just outside of campus, when she was stopped by a police officer on the pretext of jaywalking. The interesting thing is that not only was the street closed to through-traffic due to construction (so the cop car was the only one headed towards her), but there were many other pedestrians crossing, just as she was. The only difference? They were all white.

Ore gently—civilly—questioned the officer why she was the only person to be stopped. He didn’t like being questioned, and, raising his voice, impatiently demanded to see her ID. Ore calmly—politely—asked why he was using such a harsh tone with her. In response, the copy only grew increasingly abusive, and began threatening her with arrest. Over her plaintive protests, he slammed Ore against the hood of the police car and even threw her to the ground, causing her skirt to fly up. Agonizingly, she cried for help from the bystanders. As the cop and his partner lifted her back to her feet, she instinctively kicked away the hand she felt reaching for her skirt. For that, she was charged with resisting arrest, assaulting an officer and taken into custody. The audio and video of the incident was recorded on camera; Ore’s “civil” voice stands in stark contrast to the brusque voice of the cop. Adding further insult, Arizona State officials issued a knee-jerk statement saying that as far as they were concerned, the officer hadn’t done anything wrong.

But it wasn’t Ore’s fault. No matter how soft her voice, no matter her profession and level of education, the officer could not see a black woman as someone “well-behaved, polite, developed,” etc. Some of us will always be uncivil, no matter how politely we respond.

Ore’s case brought back vivid memories of the first time I was arrested, at the age of seventeen. I was a senior in high school, working on a research paper for my AP English class. The topic: Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. My dilemma was that neither my school nor town’s public library had the high-quality literary criticism I was looking for (I was already a highfalutin literature nerd, but my scholarly pretensions didn’t stop me from citing Cliff’s Notes as a source in the final draft). My friend Kathy and I decided to go to the library at a local community college, renowned for its wealth and quality resources. We each found two books we needed and talked a college student into checking them out on our behalf.

We returned to class, bragging to two other friends, Megan and Nicole, about how awesome our final essays were going to be. Intrigued, they begged us to take them to the library so they could access to better resources, too. During this second trip, Megan and Nicole selected some books, and I found another helpful Madame Bovary book, so again we found a college student who was willing to check them out for us.

As we left the library, one of the detectors went off. The man at the checkout desk asked us to go through one-by-one. Kathy, Megan, and Nicole each walked through with no problem. But when it was my turn, the alarm sounded again.

The man asked to see my books and student ID. I stammered, “I don’t have it with me.”

He told me he could look me up in the system via my social security number, and I truthfully replied, “I don’t know it.”

The man immediately narrowed his eyes. “Something’s going on here. I’m going to call the cops!” I broke into a sweat and asked, “How about if I just leave the books here and you never see me again?”

“You better stay right there!” he warned, picking up the phone. The knot in my stomach grew larger when, moments later, two white police officers came running into the library, demanding, “What’s going on here?”

The librarian dramatically pointed to me with one hand and held aloft three volumes of Madame Bovary literary criticism in the other. “She’s trying to steal these books!”

The cops grabbed my arms and led me to their station, located on another floor of the building, for questioning. My friends, stunned and assuming they were also in trouble, tagged along and were told to wait in the hallway. The female officer sat me down and said, “Okay, tell me everything.”

I calmly—and as politely as possible—told her “everything,” starting way back on the day my teacher distributed the essay assignment. I explained that two college students had checked out books for all of us. The cop remained expressionless as she listened, but when I concluded my story, she scornfully huffed, “Why are you lying to me?”

“I’m not lying to you,” I protested. “I have no reason to lie to you.”

“Well your story doesn’t make sense. We’re going to charge you with possession of stolen books.” And with that, she handcuffed me and led me into another room, where I had my mug shots and fingerprints taken.

As she rolled my index finger on the black ink pad, the officer looked me up and down, then spat, “Where are you from, anyway?” Clearly, she expected the reply to be a Speedy Gonzalez-accented, “Make-sick-oh.” I received her message loud and clear: You could not possibly be from here.

The ordeal finally ended when I was released with papers stating that I had stolen $1700 worth of books from the college library, as well as a bond stating that if I didn’t show up on my court date, I would be sent to prison. I assumed that, if my crime were having library books that I technically was not supposed to have, surely my three friends would be arrested next. But that didn’t happen. In fact, the two officers didn’t ask them a single question (i.e. “investigate” my story) or check whether they also were in possession of library books.

I’m sure that you don’t need me to tell you that Kathy, Megan, and Nicole were all white.

I never had felt so powerless in my life. Hadn’t I done everything right? Hadn’t I told the truth? Hadn’t I been respectful and polite towards the officers? Until that point, I had never been in trouble for anything in my life except for that one time in seventh grade when I was put in detention for chewing gum in gym class. I was a stellar student, beloved by teachers, in the top ten percent of my graduating class, enrolled in the honors program and AP classes, involved in many extracurricular activities, still celebrating my recent news that I’d been awarded a full ride scholarship to an elite university. I was preppy and never even had a sip of alcohol. I was an aspiring novelist and–based on the “A” I assumed I would earn on my English assignment–clearly an emerging expert on Madame Bovary.

I was all those things . . . but I was also a brown-skinned, black-haired Mexican American girl trying to navigate a predominantly white suburban context. Which sometimes, inevitably, automatically marked—and continues to mark—me as suspicious. Poorly behaved. Uncultured. Unrefined. Unenlightened. Impolite. Undeveloped.

Mal educada. “Where are you from, anyway?”

It Hurts When Your Own People Don’t Get It

Clearly, my experience is not unique. Many shared the same concerns, and the outcry against the NACCS CFP was swift. The organization’s leadership took down the description and promised to rethink the approach. Cries of “¡Órale!” we heard around the world (well, okay, around facebook).

However, something tells me that they just don’t get it. Here is what they have stated in the meantime:

The Board thanks the membership for the feedback of the recent CFP. After deliberation and feedback from Board Members, a CFP revision will be released on September 12, 2015. The Board feels that the idea of “civility” is important to engage in its different forms, in its various meanings, and in its numerous consequences. We look forward to the continued discussion of these ideas in our forthcoming conference.

So we come back to this question: What use is “civility” to people of color in general, and to Chicana/o Studies in particular? Just look at our long history of being marked with the label mal educados, of being placed outside eligibility for citizenship, of our struggles to find a place in academia for who we are and what and how we want to educate our youth.

If civility is going to be the principle for engagement, then I want out. It’s kind of a moot point, anyway. My brown-woman’s body and existence are uncivil enough as it is.

P.S. In case you were wondering, that stupid librarian looked up the history of the books I’d “stolen” and discovered that one simply had not been demagnetized. Also, the police discovered that they’re not supposed to arrest a minor without notifying the parents. The officers called my home later that day and said we could tear up the arrest papers and “all would be forgotten.” Instead, we showed up to their office with a lawyer (my cousin’s husband, who handles tax appeals . . . but a lawyer nonetheless). And that’s the only reason why I went on to college with a clean record. The whole incident was a buncha bullsh*t!

via Daily Chicana

Posted in AmeriKKKa, Aztlan, California, Chicana/o, Chicana/o Activism, Chicana/o History, Chicana/o Identity, Chicana/o Ideology, Chicana/o Politics, Chicana/o Power, Chicana/o Studies, Chicana/o Youth, Chicano Movement, Classism, Community, Decolonization, Education, History, Indigenous, Knowledge, Language, Mexican, Movimiento, MuXer, NACCS, Politics, Quotes, Racism, Resistance, Sexism, Social justice, Solidarity, Student Empowerment, Transnational, Unity, Vendido | Leave a comment

All Grown Up: The 20th Anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement

Call for Papers

All Grown Up:

The Twentieth Anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement

One Day Mini-Conference at California State University Channel Islands (Camarillo, CA)

October 24, 2014

The North American Free Trade Agreement was enacted twenty years ago in 1994. Advocates of NAFTA argued that this free trade bill would enrich the three nations involved: Canada, the US, and Mexico. Proponents argued that lifting government regulations and modifying existing labor and environmental laws would benefit all parties to the treaty. Proponents also argued that NAFTA would deter undocumented immigration. Yet from the beginning there has been wide opposition to the treaty. In Chiapas the Ejercito Zapatista Liberacion Nacional violently opposed the treaty and engaged in battle with the Mexican army. Peasant and labor organizations as well as journalists and academics have criticized aspects of the treaty, from the growth of maquiladoras to its environmental and labor provisions. NAFTA has also been the catalyst for the massive increase in undocumented immigration for the past two decades

This conference will assess the impact of NAFTA over the past twenty years.  Students and faculty are invited to submit proposals for individual papers or full panels on a variety of topics related to NAFTA, broadly understood.  More general research on migration, migration communities, labor laws, protest movements, and trade agreements are welcome.

Possible topics might include:

Labor laws under NAFTA

NAFTA and immigration

Maquiladoras

NAFTA and the environment

Zapatista guerrilla movement

Women and NAFTA

Indigenous issues

Impact on Canadian policies & culture

Creative forms of protest

NAFTA-inspired artistic expression

NAFTA’s impact on diplomacy

Privatization under NAFTA

Legal enforcement under NAFTA

Agrarian movements

Human rights and NAFTA

NAFTA and the drug trade

NAFTA and human trafficking
Food Justice and GMOs

Please submit a 500 maximum word abstract no later than September 30, 2014 to:

Dr. Mary McThomas

Department of Political Science

CSU Channel Islands

mary.mcthomas@csuci.edu

or

José M. Alamillo

Professor and Coordinator

Chicana/o Studies Program

California State University Channel Islands

Madera Hall 1366

One University Drive

Camarillo, CA 93012

Ph: (805)  437-2685

jose.alamillo@csuci.edu

Posted in AmeriKKKa, Aztlan, California, Chicana/o, Chicana/o Activism, Chicana/o History, Chicana/o Identity, Chicana/o Ideology, Chicana/o Politics, Chicana/o Power, Chicana/o Studies, Chicano Movement, Community, Education, History, Immigration, Indigenous, Knowledge, Language, Law, Mexican, Mexico, Migrant, Movimiento, MuXer, Politics, Racism, Resistance, Social justice, Solidarity, Transnational, Unity | Leave a comment

Ruben Salazar: Man in the Middle Documentary at Cal State Fullerton (10-6-14)

Ruben Salazar Flyer

Ruben Salazar Flyer

Posted in Aztlan, California, Chicana/o Community, Chicana/o Documentary, Chicana/o Film, Chicana/o History, Chicana/o Identity, Chicana/o Ideology, Chicana/o Power, Chicana/o Studies, Chicana/o Youth, Chicano Movement, Community, Decolonization, Documentary, Education, History, Knowledge, Los Angeles, Mexican, Movimiento, Palabra, Politics, Quotes, Racism, Resistance, Social justice, Solidarity, Unity | Leave a comment

Chronicles of Chicana/o Studies: Mario T. García, a Chicano Scholar

Mario T. García

Mario T. García

Biography

Mario T. García is a Professor of History and Chicano Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). He is the Director of the Latino Leadership Project and the Research Liaison between the Department of Chicano Studies and the Center for Chicano Studies.[1] As a 20th century historian, García has built a noteworthy legacy chronicling Mexican (im)migrant communities, such as in El Paso, Texas. His current research involves generational approaches, civil rights struggles, oral history, and even more recently Chicana/o Catholic history.

Mario T. Garcia received his B.A. and M.A. degrees in History from the University of Texas El Paso (UTEP) and his Ph.D. in History from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). During the academic 2009 school year, García was a Guggenheim Fellow and a Fulbright Scholar.[2] His current interests are in the fields of Chicana/o Studies, History of the United States, Religious Studies and Comparative Race and Ethnicity. García taught at Yale University before settling in at UCSB. In his research and teaching profession, García discusses the key figures, organizations, and issues of the Chicana/o community’s history while shedding new light on Chicana/o history and the history of American ethnicity and civil rights movements.

García has received several important book awards for his academic publications, including the 1981 Virginia McCormick Scully Literary Award and the 1981 Southwest Book Award given by the Border Regional Library Association for his critically acclaimed monograph that focused on the Mexican experience in El Paso during the late 1800s and early 1900s.[3] In addition, he was the winner of the 1990 Southwest Book Award of the Border Regional Library Association for writing and publication of outstanding literature of the Southwest

García has been critically acclaimed for his work by other Chicana/o historians, including Richard Griswold del Castillo who stated that García’s first monograph was a “book [that] succeeds in linking the local history to larger themes in American history and as such stands as an example to be emulated by other historians of the Southwest.”[4]

García has worked with graduate students at UCSB, helping to nurture a cadre of new scholars devoted to Chicana/o Studies. García has been an instrumental member of a scholarly community focused on recovering the historical legacy of the Chicana/o Movement.[5]

Major Themes/Issues

Mario T. García’s work largely concentrates on the historical experiences of the largest racial/ethnic group in the United States by incorporating the Mexican community into studies of American history.

In particular, García examines 20th century Chicana/o history specifically emphasizing the experiences of El Paso’s Mexican community, the “Mexican-American Generation” of the 1930s to the early 1960s using as its focal point the emergence of new leadership among U.S. born citizens of Mexican descent, as well as the Chicano Movement Generation of the late 1960s and early 1970s through an emerging autobiographical narrative.

García interrogates American history for its failure to incorporate the “immigrant” experience, namely Mexican migration, as “inextricably linked with the growth of American industrial capitalism.”[6] In Desert Immigrants: The Mexicans of El Paso, 1880-1920, García argues that Mexicans have long been neglected by traditional American historians adding that cultural change and continuity are deeply rooted in the Mexican community’s contributions to the industrial development of the country. As Mexicans became established throughout the American Southwest and other regions throughout the United States, García expanded the historical lens beyond the traditional “immigrant” historical narrative.

In Mexican Americans: Leadership, Ideology, and Identity, 1930-1960, García explores the rising political evolution of well-to-do Mexican Americans who were firmly entrenched in several Southwestern cities. García challenges conventional narratives that have viewed Mexicans as important only within traditional “immigrant” studies.

As García observes, the history of the Civil Rights Movement is viewed only through the narrow framework of the Black and White narrative, which omits Chicana/o participation. García constructs a narrative that firmly roots and reinserts Mexican Americans as part and parcel of the American Civil Rights movement. By looking at the early leadership within the well-to-do Mexican American community, García’s historical panorama deviates from the working-class narrative that centered early Chicana/o Studies monographs.

Most recently, García has probed Chicana/o Catholicism. As an institution, the Catholic Church has been central to the social, cultural, political, and economic development of the Mexican people since the arrival of the first Spanish missionaries. As such, García lends his analysis to Chicano Liberation Theology as it applies to the Chicana/o community.

As a professor of Religious Studies at UCSB, García has looked at the role popular religion has played in creating a unique political and cultural identity among Chicanas/os. In Católicos: Resistance and Affirmation in Chicano Catholic History, García examines the formation of spiritual acceptance of Catholicism within the Chicana/o community, while separately addressing his own upbringing as a Chicano Catholic during his days as a student at Texas Western University (now the University of Texas at El Paso).

In light of the fact that a majority of Chicana/o historical studies concentrate on Chicana/o and Anglo relations, there is an urgent need to critically analyze the systemic consequences of Spanish colonialism. Although the framework of Católicos: Resistance and Affirmation in Chicano Catholic History is epistemologically different than Ramón A. Gutiérrez’s When Jesus Came the Corn Mothers Went Away: Marriage, Sexuality, and Power in New Mexico, 1500-1846, Católicos does lend itself to centering the Chicana/o experience vis-à-vis the elephant in the room: Spanish Colonialism.

In perhaps one of the most important recent developments in Chicana/o Studies is García’s autobiographical approach to studying the history of Chicanas/os. In recent years, García has explored the writings, speeches, and documents of several Chicana/o figures within the sociopolitical development of racial/ethnic identity formation. García has published several works wherein Chicana/o historical figures use their agency to speak through their own words. García has compiled the following autobiographical narratives: Bert Corona, Rúben Salázar, Raymond L. Telles, Luis Leal, Dolores Huerta, Richard Cruz, César Chávez, Father Virgil Cordano, and Sal Castro.

Memories of Chicano History: The Life and Narrative of Bert Corona, Border Correspondent: Selected Writings, 1955-1970, The Gospel of César Chávez: My Faith in Action, Padre: The Spiritual Journey of Father Virgil Cordano, Chicano Liberation Theology: The Writings and Documents of Richard Cruz and Católicos Por La Raza, A Dolores Huerta Reader, Luis Leal: An Auto/Biography, and Blowout: Sal Castro and the Chicano Struggle for Educational Justice all speak to the vibrant direction that Chicana/o Studies is forging ahead as it extends the narrative from community studies to those that explore the dimensions of the individual through the testimonio. As these testimonios demonstrate, Chicana/o Studies is fashioning a (re)turn to oral history projects that chronicle an ancestral memory.

García helps us to better understand the sociopolitical dynamics by inserting the role of the communal experience while integrating the individual into the narrative of not only Chicana/o Studies, but also into the framework of American history that looks down upon Chicana/o Studies as a legitimate field of inquiry.

Analysis/Criticism

Mario T. García situates the Chicana/o experience within the larger context of American history by framing the voice of the subaltern as critical to the overall development of the evolution of racial/ethnic identity within the American industrial narrative. That Chicana/o Studies is framed as insurgent resistance, García’s work helps us to better understand why his most recent focus on the autobiographical and/or testimonio narrative might frame a clearer understanding of sociopolitical experiences.

García provides agency to the collective and individual Chicana/o experience by covering the individual historical narrative, for instance, extending the analysis of Chicana/o history begun by Rodolfo Acuña’s Occupied America. In Occupied America, Acuña established a theoretical framework that focused on thematic forms of historical analysis that located Chicanas/os as an internal colony.

García prominently utilizes a thematic approach for studying events by (re)shaping the communal voice down to the individual voice. In other words, García seems more concerned with the experiences of individuals, rather than in the larger subtext of the political or communal event.

In Blowout: Sal Castro and the Chicano Struggle for Educational Justice, for instance, García grounds the 1968 East Los Angeles High School Walkouts through the experiences of Sal Castro whose leadership role helped foment a Chicana/o struggle of educational resistance during the 1960s that continues to this day.

Although the “Great Man” framework seems out of place in Chicana/o Studies for it recalls an elitist analysis that marginalizes a community and a people, what García does is begin a new framework for the studying of epic moments in Chicana/o history. Largely due to his extensive background in studying the Mexican migrant experience in El Paso during the late 1800s, García gives the impression that failure to chronicle the individual historical memory, Chicanas/os will lose an important opportunity to contribute to the larger understanding of American ethnographic history.

In essence, García’s current emphasis on the testimonio centers on returning Chicana/o Studies to its roots. Because the early Mexican experience was largely ignored and rarely documented, García understands that to excavate history, one must go to the source, and as such, he is unlocking the parameters of memory by selecting central Chicana/o characters so that future historians will have a foundation from which to begin more extensive analysis of the Chicana/o community. Indeed, Alma Garcia has edited a compilation of Chicana feminist writings entitled, Chicana Feminist Thought: The Basic Historical Writings, which captures Chicana/o agency and resistance against patriarchal structures during the Chicano Movement.

By providing an insiders peek into the philosophical mindset of central figures of Chicana/o history, García forces us to reconsider the historical events that are central to the understanding of race, class, and gender dynamics within American society. As such, history is viewed from the lens of the central actors in the interplay of history. History does not happen in a vacuum rather it occurs because communities and individuals are in a constant state of negotiating their place in society.

There are very few, if any, Chicana/o historians who are doing exclusive critical autobiographical and/or testimonio work. However, more recent Chicana/o Studies scholarship is beginning to focus on the actors that have made resistance possible against social injustice. It makes sense for Chicana/o Studies to (re)emerge as a space for empowering those who are often excluded in American history. Mary Pardo, for instance, in Mexican American Women Activists looks at two organizations that have worked towards social justice during the 1980s and 1990s. Decade of Betrayal by Francisco Balderrama and Raymond Rodriguez who have documented the 1930s Mexican repatriation as a case study of individual and community experiences. As such, history is not detached from the individual experience.

Although the approaches to studying Chicana/o history are epistemologically different, oral history projects lend themselves for a far more engaging way to address conceptual theoretical frameworks that will challenge American history’s hegemonic attempts to silence the Other.

One of the limitations of García’s scholarship, it might be argued, is that García is not critical of the subjects he is documenting in the autobiographical approach. Although he allows his Subjects to speak, is it potentially possible for García to objectively detach himself from the individuals he is studying? This is, indeed, a tricky proposition for it speaks volumes as to what is the role of the racial/ethnic historian. It can be surmised, then, that García is only providing the means for which future historians will provide a deeper analysis of contextualizing those individuals whom he has chosen to study.

In the final analysis, then, García has proposed important frameworks for which to study Chicana/o history especially since the late 1960s, where much of his recent work is grounded. By collecting important documentation relating to the Chicana/o Movement, García has done future historians a favor by providing us with a critical lens into sociopolitical movements. After all, one must remember that García’s early scholarship is grounded in the sociopolitical movements of the Mexican American Generation. As such, García’s overall focus is on documenting Chicana/o resistance as an affirmation of their place to effect societal change in American society. We must continue this work.

Bibliography

  • Desert Immigrants: The Mexicans of El Paso, 1880-1920. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981.
  • Mexican Americans: Leadership, Ideology, and Identity, 1930-1960. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989.
  • Memories of Chicano History: The Life and Narrative of Bert Corona. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994.
  • Border Correspondent: Selected Writings, 1955-1970. Edited. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995.
  • The Making of a Mexican American Mayor: Raymond L. Telles of El Paso. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1999
  • Migrant Daughter: Coming of Age as a Mexican American Woman. Co-Authored with Frances Esquibel Tywoniak. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000.
  • Luis Leal: An Auto/Biography. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000.
  • Bridging Culture: An Introduction to Chicano/Latino Studies. Edited. Dubuque: Kendall Hunt, 2003
  • Padre: The Spiritual Journey of Father Virgil Cordano. Capra Press, 2005.
  • The Gospel of César Chávez: My Faith in Action. Edited. Landham: Sheed & Ward, 2007.
  • Católicos: Resistance and Affirmation in Chicano Catholic History. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2008.
  • Mexican American Religions: Spirituality, Activism, and Culture. Co-Authored With Gaston Espinoza. Durham: University of Duke Press, 2008.
  • A Dolores Huerta Reader. Edited. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2008.
  • Chicano Liberation Theology: The Writings and Documents of Richard Cruz and Católicos Por La Raza. Dubuque: Kendall Hunt, 2010. Revised Printing.
  • Blowout: Sal Castro and the Chicano Struggle for Educational Justice. Co-Authored with Sal Castro. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011.

[1] “Mario T. García,” 2007. University of California, Santa Barbara. 31 May 2011. <http://www.chicst.ucsb.edu/faculty/staff/garcia.shtml>

[2] Garcia, Mario T. Chicano Liberation Theology: The Writings and Documents of Richard Cruz and Católicos Por La Raza. Dubuque: Kendall Hunt, 2010.

[3] Yale University Press. 31 May 2011 <http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=9780300028836>

[4] Richard Griswold del Castillo in the Journal of American History.

[5] Chicano Education Research Project at UCLA <http://www.chicano.ucla.edu/research/ResearchProject.html>

[6] Garcia, Mario T. Desert Immigrants: The Mexicans of El Paso, 1880-1920. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981. Pp.1.

c/s

Cultural Sovereignty

David

Posted in Aztlan, California, Chicana/o Community, Chicana/o History, Chicana/o Identity, Chicana/o Ideology, Chicana/o Studies, Chicana/o Youth, Chicano Movement, Community, Cultura, Decolonization, Education, History, Knowledge, Language, Mexican, Movimiento, MuXer, NACCS, Palabra, Quotes, Resistance, Social justice, UCSB, Unity | Leave a comment

Brown Beret Proclamation at Isla Santa Catalina – September 16, 1972

The Brown Berets placed Catalina Island under observation for two years beginning in 1970 in preparation to reclaim stolen lands. Through intense study, the Brown Berets had discovered that the nine channel islands off the coast of California had not been included in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and thus were not subject to American laws or boundaries and therefore remained Mexican lands.

Initially, the Brown Berets wanted to begin the invasion on August 29 to mark the assassination of Ruben Salazar, Lyn Ward, and Angel Gilberto Diáz at the Chicano Moratorium in 1970 but were forced to postpone because last minute information did not arrive on time.

In Expedition Through Aztlán, Brown Beret Prime Minister David Sánchez wrote: “Our mission will be to land and occupy this area as a symbol of the Chicano movement. Our forces will represent the mounting strength of la Raza. The worst consequence that may happen is arrest – or at least the most probable. But regardless of what happens, it will be a victory in the hearts of all Mexicans. We cannot wait for next year to make the invasion; by next year it will be too late. Already, the momentum of the Chicano Movement is on the decline. We cannot delay. The winter is coming, and we must move now!

The proclamation below was read on the anniversary of Mexican Independence Day (September 16, 1972). Later that evening, Sheriffs disrupted a celebration organized by allies of the Brown Berets who had brought supplies to the group. The Sheriffs pushed the allies around and beat some of them to the ground.

——-

Brown Berets at Catalina Island

Brown Berets at Catalina Island

September 16, 1972

Año de Juarez

Isla Santa Catalina

Proclamation

Article A

For Historical Record

We, the people of Mexican descent living in the United States, as well as the people of Mexican citizenship, and the people of Indian descent, do proclaim the Channel Islands as sacred lands. Governments, through their implementation of laws of changing boundaries, have suppressed these people and threatened their very survival. These people are left with but one desire; to find a place where they may live in freedom. Because Mexico is tied to domestic and foreign affairs and is unable to assist, we, the original inhabitants of these lands, protest the further taking of lands from Mexico. The islands belong to us! Chicanos living in the United States, as well as the people of Mexican citizenship, and all of the people of Indian descent are united in this belief. We proclaim the right of survival by native right. The need to occupy space in which to live is our inevitable destiny.

(This statement was made during the Brown Beret occupation of Isla Santa Catalina in 1972)

c/s

cultural sovereignty 

Posted in AmeriKKKa, Aztlan, California, Chicana/o, Chicana/o Activism, Chicana/o History, Chicana/o Identity, Chicana/o Ideology, Chicana/o Politics, Chicana/o Power, Chicana/o Studies, Chicana/o Youth, Chicano Movement, Community, Education, History, Indigenous, Knowledge, Land, Language, Los Angeles, Mexican, Mexico, Movimiento, MuXer, Palabra, Politics, Quotes, Resistance, Social justice, Unity | Leave a comment

An Open Letter to the Leadership of the National Association of Chicana & Chicano Studies

Editor’s Note: On September 4, 2014, NACCS leadership sent this brief memo to its membership: “The NACCS Board appreciates the comments expressed on the 2015 theme. At this time the description has been removed and the Board will be discussing these concerns.

Editor’s note: On September 7, 2014, NACCS leadership sent this brief memo to its membership: “The Board thanks the membership for the feedback of the recent CFP. After deliberation and feedback from Board Members, a CFP revision will be released on September 12, 2015. The Board feels that the idea of “civility” is important to engage in its different forms, in its various meanings, and in its numerous consequences. We look forward to the continued discussion of these ideas in our forthcoming conference.

Editor’s note: On September 12, 2014, NACCS leadership updated its Call for Papers:

NACCS XLII

April 16-18, 2015
PARC 55 Wyndham Hotel
San Francisco, CA 

Chicana/o In/Civilities
Contestation y Lucha: Cornerstones of Chicana & Chicano Studies

The NACCS 2015 conference theme critically explores concepts of civility and incivility within and outside of Chicana/o Studies as a crucial aspect of our historical and political development, to locate ruptures, and to examine ways to comprehend and address the use of and challenges to civility.  This needs to be explored both in how dominant society deploys the concept as a mode of social and political control, as well as how it is perceived as an academic, professional, and political discourse(s) amongst and between Chicana/o Studies practitioners.  Communications and dialogue with the NACCS membership have critically highlighted the coercive uses of the term of “civility” and prompted a vigorous dialogue and debate about the meanings of the term and how it relates to contemporary society. We recognize colonial histories in which the term civility has been and continues to be misused to silence and control us and to perpetuate a climate of distrust, fear, brutality, superiority, racism, and discrimination.  These reasons, among others, we believe merit close and critical scrutiny.  

“Civility” is a complex yet essential concept for social interaction and communication. Change agents such as Emma Tenayuca, Ernesto Galarza, Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, Corky Gonzalez, Gloria Anzaldúa, and many current leaders of different social movements have struggled to strategically find the balance between “civility and “incivility” in order to achieve cultural, political, and economic transformation at both the individual and social level. 

Human societies lie within a fluid context that is constantly re-defining ‘civil’ and ‘uncivil’ behavior. Chicana/o Studies does not stand outside of this fluidity of definition. We wish to use the theme of this year’s conference to explore themes of civility and incivility in Chicana/o Studies across a broad range of topics and areas of interest, including but not limited to how the theme relates to: 

  • Chicana/o Studies discourse(s), including holy and unholy texts, utopian contestations, political and tactical disagreements within Chicana/o Studies, and the continual struggle and disagreement over the legacy and meaning of the Chicana/o Movement
  • Chicana/o Studies on campus, including interpersonal politics, peer review, networks and cliques, and processes of hiring, tenure, and promotion 
  • Chicana/o self-determination and self-definition
  • The theme within/between Chicano radicalism and Mexican American assimilationism
  • A new, emergent, and maturing electronic media
  • Socio-political resistance and refusal
  • Decolonial practices and critiques
  • Academic freedom and institutional discourses of civility
  • Knowledge production, the politics of research and collective work
  • Contemporary and historic civil disobedience(s)
  • Globalization and neoliberalism

Submissions due by October 15, 2014.

—-

Dear Professor Olivencia and Members of the National Board,

I’m writing to express my concerns about the 2015 NACCS conference theme, “Exploring Civility within the Chicana & Chicano Studies Discipline,” and the related call for papers which has been circulating via email and social media with a great deal of commentary over the past two days. I write as someone with deep regard for NACCS, having been involved with the organization since 1988, when I attended my first conference in Boulder as an undergraduate Mechista. And even now, 25+ years later as an Associate Professor, I look to NACCS as a place of intimacy, fierceness, social movement work, and radical politics.

I was looking forward to the prospect of the upcoming conference in San Francisco…until I read the CFP. Even though the title of the conference is “Exploring Civility,” which would seem to leave a bit of space for critiquing the discourse of civility, the CFP makes it clear that the theme is not only promoting civility, but that it is blaming human suffering, greed, union busting, and other forms of oppression on a general sense of incvility, rather than say…capitalism, imperialism, colonialism, genocide. I think I have read the CFP a dozen times by now, carefully trying to understand the work it is trying to do and trying to have a reparative reading (as Eve Sedgwick might encourage). But I am honestly at a loss.

To say—in this historical moment—that “disrespect for authority has decreased the ability of individuals to follow laws” is to verge into the terrain of anti-Blackness. Even if it’s the case that the CFP was written before broken-hearted protestors in Ferguson were labed “lawbreaking, uncivil looters”…and even if it’s the case that the CFP was written before UIUC reneged on Professor Salaita’s job offer based on charges of incivility, there is still abundant evidence predating those cases of how the discourse of civility is deployed by the powerful to regulate speech, to quash dissent, to justify colonialism and genocide. It is unimaginable to me that NACCS would want such bedfellows.

Two years after my first NACCS conference, I worked alongside Deb Vargas, Emma Pérez, Deena González, and Rosalia Solorzano to co-found the Lesbian Caucus (now the Lesbian, Transgender and Bisexual Mujeres Caucus) at the Albuquerque meetings. If Deb, Emma, Deena, Rosalia and I had given in to the cult of true womanhood (a highly gendered and colonialist ideology promoting civility), then we would have never found the determination and strength to go up against the incredible machista homphobia and pushback we faced in Albuquerque. If we had been good girls, or—to use the language of the NACCS CFP—if we had been “well-behaved, cultured, refined, enlightened, polite, and developed” (ser educado)—we probably wouldn’t even have had the audacity to be out lesbians much less angry Chicana dykes demanding of space. Thankfully we didn’t give into that ideology then. And I certainly don’t want to now.

I hope that the NACCS leadership will scrap the CFP and start a fresh one. I truly believe that it’s worth the hassle.

Sincerely,

Sandra K. Soto

——

Call for Papers – Exploring Civility within the Chicana & Chicano Studies Discipline

The contours of global order are being impacted by the increase of lack of civility at a global and local scale. We are living in a society which is imploding and disintegrating into an uncivil and divisive relationship in our politics and discourse at the community, state and national level. The scarcity of civility spells disaster and stifles growth as we increasingly devolve into a total lack of empathy—a trait that makes human beings unique from animals. Empathy is the ability, moreover, to communicate in a compassionate, dispassionate, and courteous manner. At the individual level, the lack of civility creates disrespect, disparagement, and contempt for other individuals; at the political level individuals become social pawns of a government of oppression and despotism by those who rule through incivility and undemocratic processes.

The term “ser educado” in Spanish means being well-behaved, cultured, refined, enlightened, polite, and developed. Unfortunately, our political leadership and public behavior promotes the opposite of civility. As a result, this country is in a deep crisis at a social and economic level that reverses democracy which only works when there is compromise and a balance of power shared by the legislative, the judicial, and the executive branches. Inability to compromise has deadlocked our political system in a way to make it impossible for passage of key pieces of legislation and disables our democratic process altogether. A study entitled Civility in America reiterates the fact “that incivility is ubiquitous; no area of American society is untouched. Eroding civility is harmful to our country’s future and takes a toll on how we interact with the people and institutions around us.” Secondly, disrespect for authority has decreased the ability of individuals to follow laws. Thirdly, an overgrown sense of self-importance and blurring between actions and consequences further inculcate lack of civility and the breakup of any social order. All these sentiments are applicable to a sense of individuality and social consciousness in Chicanos/Latinos.

We encourage you to explore what civility means in different Chicana/Chicano Studies areas and how its lack damages and creates havoc within our political world (partisanship is at a new extreme), our economy (the destruction of unions and collective bargaining—increasing the gap between the rich and poor) and society. Some themes to consider within Chicana/Chicano Studies are:

Civility and Cultural Competence

Politics, Religion and Civility

Civility and Discourse

Civility and the Individual

The Impact of Technology on Civility

Civility and Media

The Arts as an Expression of a Civilized Society

The Global Economy and Civility and Its Impact on the Chicana/Chicano World

Civility and Its Significance in Chicana/Chicano Society

How Civility is Communicated in Different Cultures

Civility in Our Indigenous Cultures

Art Forms and Their Ability to Create Empathy, Civility and Humanity

NACCS welcome submissions of papers and panels to present at the conference.

Nelia Olivencia, Chair-Elect, nelia@ naccs.org

National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies

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