I woke up shaken from the election results. Although I have cried, especially when faced with any kindness today, I mostly feel and have felt hollowed out. As I’ve spent the day in meetings at CSU Dominguez Hills surrounded by people of color, mainly African Americans and Latina/x/os, I’ve wondered if everyone was feeling what I am. More people that usual said “how are you today?” (one said “How about those Yankees?” but meant the same thing) to each other, with each of us replying “I’m okay.” I said I was okay too because what else can I say? I’m not. This reality is about as far from okay as anything I can imagine.
Tonight is my evening class, an interdisciplinary study course on American society. This semester it’s a class on food and culture. Although the semester is in full swing (maybe even winding down) this class only started three weeks ago. It’s a hybrid course, meeting online and in person for eight weeks. My students are only just beginning to know each other. Last week we celebrated Día de Los Muertos together at Self HelP Graphics. It was a wonderful event I loved sharing with them. This week we are scheduled to talk about The Hunger Games, share food and learn a bit about WordPress.
But this morning I sent an email to my class letting them know we are meeting, that I understood if they couldn’t come but that if they did, we would have space to talk about what’s happened and to try and understand what it means. What I’m not going to ask them to do is to pretend nothing has happened. This is not just another Wednesday. My politics and pedagogy do not allow me to pretend that it is.
So in forty-five minutes I’ll go and teach a class unlike one I’ve taught before. I’ll be glad to see my students. I only hope I can keep my throat from closing up as we talk.
I’ve spent the past week at the University of Mary Washington as a fellow at the Digital Pedagogy Lab Summer Institute. There were wonderful keynote speakers — the amazing Tressie McMillan Cottom and Cathy Davidson and great “tracks” to choose from. I spent about a month trying to decide which track would be right and decided to choose Intro, not so much because I consider myself new to digital pedagogy but because I wanted a chance to have a sense of the foundations of why we do what we do in our physical and virtual classrooms.
Although the institute is about digital pedagogy, one of the most valuable things I’ve taken from it has been asking ourselves not simply what technology we use with our students but what the implications are of that technology. One of the powerful exercises we did was to break into groups and look behind the apps. Looking at their founders, their boards, where their capital came and is coming from and, most telling, their Terms of Service left me unsettled about the technology, including learning management software and companies like TurnItIn, that my students are using for their classes. Too many of these companies see their users as products to produce content for their platform and sources to harvest data from.
After several days of talking about pedagogy, mostly through discussions of writings by Paulo Freire, bell hooks and Seymour Papert, Sean Michael Morris led us in a series of timed writing exercises to get at what we thought about ourselves as teachers and our own pedagogy. (I didn’t write down the prompts so I’m guessing at them based on memory.) This is what I produced:
First exercise prompt: When did you first think of teaching, of yourself as a teacher? Start with “What I want to say” and write for 7 minutes without stopping, circling back to “what I want to say” if you get stuck.
What I want to say is that throughout most of my education I saw myself as a student. Even in grad school, even finishing my Ph.D., even in the classroom, I saw myself as trying to be a student with all the insecurity about whether I was good enough, real enough to be wherever I was. I have that same insecurity now. I teach from a place of insecurity, of instability, wondering almost constantly whether what I’m doing or having my students do is the right thing, if they’re getting anything out of what we’re doing.What I want to say is when I feel like a teacher, when I see my pedagogy is when I see / listen to / look at what my students are making, writing, saying. And I can see the texts we’ve read or watched together in their work, how they’ve thought about them, how they’ve been, in some way, influenced by them.Where I teach from, what I feel confident in is my activism. It’s not hard for me to take a stand, to have a position. I do adhere to the Chicano studies philosophy that Rudolfo Acuña wrote that sometimes there is no other side. That there is a moral or just position, a good fight to fight as it were. So when I teach Chicana/o studies I teach activism, art and justice. I sometimes argue my position with my own thoughts, but mostly my students are getting my ideas from the readings, art and writing we do. I wonder sometimes why I don’t get more push back, something that friends and colleague in the field do get. Perhaps I’m good at using humor to defuse or lighten tension. Perhaps (though I hope not) it’s that my students see my passion and feel overwhelmed by it, are afraid to push against it. I really hope that isn’t the case. And I don’t think I have anything more to say here and am just waiting for this last minute to stop.
— Annemarie Perez (@anneperez) August 10, 2016
There are not enough voices engaged in Chicana/o studies in this university, in this state, in this country, in this world. Our artists, our people are under attack and it has pretty much ever been so. Yet there is so much that is significant in Chicana/o thought, in literature, art and in our own lives. I teach what I do the way I do because I want us to see it and talk about it together. I want my classes to add to and be part of this collection, to hear the voices from our past and amplify them. I want your voices to be amplified, your word to be read, your art seen. And so there is a lot of for us to look at, to read, to watch, to uncover. It is work and it is amazing.
Most important, we should ask ourselves whether what we are teaching is worth learning.
As I finish up my summer gigs: online course for interdisciplinary studies at CSUDH, a two week program on Chicana/o art for elementary school teachers at LMU and third year of work as a editor and writing coach for USC’s Global Ed.D., program, I had some news. I got the job of Coordinator of Humanities at California State University, Dominguez Hills with a two year appointment.
What does this mean? In terms of work it means I’ll be coordinating (sort of but not quite functioning a chair) for the undergraduate humanities courses, the on-campus MA program and the (coming soon) the HUX program, an all online humanities MA. I get two course releases for this work and another course release for my work as Academic Senate Parliamentarian. These, combined with the two classes I’m already teaching each semester means I’m full time at CSUDH (while not being classed as “full time” but that’s the way the system works).
Which means something else. For the past four years I’ve taught at three different places. It wasn’t bad. My iPhone, Dropbox and Evernote saved me, as did having different bags for each campus. But being able to be one place, in my own office, with a Mac desktop no one else uses sounds great. Being at a majority minority campus, a Hispanic serving institution and a state university where I’m represented by a union, better and better.
Life is good.
Take aways from online course.
- I felt closer to my students than I imagined could happen in a five week course. The combination of them being online and their blogging about subjects that were important to them gave me a greater window on their lives than I had in a conventional classroom.
- Time creep. Teaching online left me surprised by how much time teaching seemed to be taking. On the one hand, there was no assigned classroom time. But on the other, online teaching happened all the time. My students were working different schedules, working on the class at all hours. This was the first time I’d taught the course (either on or offline) and my students had questions about readings and assignments I hadn’t anticipated and which needed to be answered. I hadn’t realized how much conventional class times and office hours define and confine class work.
- I do like Canvas better than Blackboard. (Shh, don’t tell.)
- I liked having a group with my students on Facebook.
- Five weeks goes by very fast!
This was written as a position paper for MLA16’s roundtable Disrupting DH.
Note: The title of this piece is shamelessly borrowed from Barbara Noda’s “Lowriding Through the Women’s Movement,” a piece which creatively addresses the power a group made up of women of color could have on individuals during the women’s movement. It was published in the classic, This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color.
There has been wonderful work recently on #TransformDH by the TransformDH collective discussing how racial / gender / sexual / disabled bodies in the academy are and always have been doing digital humanities work. Nevertheless, because hegemony constantly replicates the dominant discourse, there needs to be a consistent and constant engagement with issues of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class and able-bodiedness as its counter. To discuss this hegemony, I’m going to fall back on Chicana feminist praxis, which means locating myself and speaking from that position, with the hope that from that self-situated ethnography some insight into my concerns may come. This piece uses autoethnography to specifically discuss issues and effects of racial absence in the digital humanities community and what the costs of that may be. It begins to discuss how the discourse surrounding racial bodies and there absence in DH spaces replicates the discourse surrounding the invisibility / absence of women of color from second wave feminism.
Those who think Twitter is a waste of time, as opposed to it being a time-waster, are failing to see its potential. Or maybe they’re not following the right people. Twitter is the main way I keep up on what’s going on in two areas: digital humanities and ethnic studies, especially Chicana/o and Latina/o studies. My point of entry into both of these online communities is through Twitter, though in the case of ethnic studies, it also reflects my disciplinary background and my areas of research. Both Twitter streams are very active, some days more than others, but even so, more than I can read most days. Both use hashtags to discuss important issues, though Chicana/o studies somewhat less often than DH.
In 2011, as I struggled with the final revisions of my dissertation between adjuncting gigs, feeling the absence of intellectual community, I found academic Twitter. Although I had been active in online communities going back to Usenet alt.* groups in the mid-late 1990, except for a little work on a department lists erve, my online communities never intersected with my academic ones. Questions of why should probably be reserved for the digital equivalent of psychoanalysis (would that be blogging?). By the end 2011 however, I’d been online as a Chicana doctoral student / recent Ph.D. for more than a year. I had engaged with an online community of Chicanos, of other academics, of Doctor Who fans (communities that frequently overlapped). And I’d participated in having a hashtag (#AztlanReads — a response to the general lack of knowledge about Chicana/o authors and books) become a small but vocal movement as a website and then an anthology. Being part of this made me imagine how the fields of digital humanities and digital pedagogy was intersecting with Chicana/o studies specifically and ethnic studies / critical race theory more generally.
Because of this experience engaging with and in technology with my digital community, I attended the 2012 MLA convention in Seattle with plans of branching out from attending mainly Chicana/o panels and into this DH community I’d grown to (virtually) know through social media. I’m taking a long time telling this. It is because the memory is painful. The panels and workshops I attended were a shock. Not only because the work was so exciting, especially, for me, the pedagogy, the mapping and time lining and other amazing projects. But because even at MLA, even at a literature conference, I had never experienced a stronger sense of being racially / ethnically other. The rooms, crowded to bursting were visibly, notably white spaces. This was a bit jarring, but what was even more so was that no one was taking about this. No one was asking where the brown people were. The absence of racialized bodies was un-noted.
The degree to which I was unnerved is hard to overstate. On the one hand, here were all these wonderful ideas, ways of thinking about literature and community and its intersection — merger even– with the digital that I had never considered. On the other there was a seemingly lack of awareness of the hegemonic replication of whiteness. I left with nothing to say, something that’s unusual as I’m generally a loud mouthed sort of woman. Yet I was unnerved and had felt a fear of participating. Most people, understand that it’s hard being the only woman in a room of 50 to 100 men. For people of color most of us know, it’s just as hard to be the lonely only. That’s how I felt. Alone and painfully self-conscious. When I’m one of the onlys, however kind and welcoming the environment, I experience stress. There’s a fear of asking questions lest I be seen as speaking for my race / culture and somehow reinforcing biases. I left those DH sessions with the thought of attending the Chicana/o Latina/o / Asian American / African American literature sessions.
On the way, I went and found coffee, sat in the hotel lobby and tried to sort out my thoughts and emotions. On a personal level the moment was hard. After enduring the alienating damage of being one of a very few graduate students of color in my Ph.D. program, I had been enfolded, and to an extent, healed by MALCS, a Chicana / Latina community of scholars and community activists. Did I want to leap back into the world of unthinking micro and macro racial aggressions? As a scholar of color, there are few things as rare and wonderful as getting to be in a room with a multitude of scholars of color. For me, there’s a feeling of intellectual safety, of being able to take risks without risking being found intellectually naive, or worse still, reflecting badly on all Chicana/os. I feel I can be wrong, that we can build theoretical castles in the air, find their flaws, send them crashing down.
Alexis Lothian, someone I knew from graduate school, came into view and kindly came over. I poured out what I had seen and felt at my somewhat limited exposure to the digital humanities at MLA. She affirmed what I’d seen and felt and we began discussing issues of racial, gender and sexuality hegemony within the DH community. It seems this feeling was something of the zeitgeist of the moment and soon tweets began to appear with the #TransformDH hashtag.
There was and continues to be pushback, a sense that DH is welcoming to all and has no need to transform itself or to be transformed. In the four years since the Seattle MLA, I have witnessed the hostility and impatience that seems to greet discussions of how DH could / should imbue itself with critical race theory and feminist praxis. Enumerating DH projects by or about communities of color or women seems to substitute for engaging with the white male hegemony being reproduced from our academic institutions into DH structures and communities, for me, reproducing the experience of women of color with second wave feminism. Yet at the same time, the potential for change, the excitement for the field continues. If DH can learn from cultural studies and feminism to recognize and unsettle its privilege, to demand diversity of itself and its communities, that would go a long way in bridging these discourses. It means not waiting for scholars of color to find DH and ask us about it, but going to them, understanding and listening to their theories and practices and discussing with them how the digital works in connection with the work they’re already doing. We need to understand what it costs for a scholar of color to admit to not knowing or “getting” something and don’t take it lightly. Meanwhile, I know I speak English only. My code is as stumbling and ungraceful as my Spanish. I feel like Cherrie Moraga, trying to find a way to be a bridge and not being adequate to the task.
Late to the party…
November is Digital Writing Month, which you can read all about at the website. Lots of great people are doing lots of amazing and innovative things. However, this people (me!) is going to work on updating this blog with a few goals.
Run all the updates needed on WordPress for the sites’ themesDONE!
- (possibly) Move my site over to my new domain, annemarieperez.com at ReclaimHosting.
- Update site information.
- Redecorate here — the place is looking kinda dated
- Blog some content
I’d say “watch this space,” but honestly you’d need to be pretty bored.
I was talking on Facebook today about this assignment, one I use across courses, but especially at the start of courses where we as a class are trying to define contested terms. The term “Chicana/o,” for example, has been defined a number of ways without having any one definitive meaning.
Here’s an example of it in action. Last Spring, when I taught a course on the Chicana/o Gothic, I asked my students to crowdsource definitions of Chicana/o and gothic the first week of classes. To do this, the students can search any sources, on or offline, to come up with the definition, citing their source. The catch is that each source can appear only once. If a previous student has used a source, they have to find another one. When we meet in class, these definitions become the basis for discussion and understanding how these terms are contested and what definitions would be most useful for us individually and collectively.
Image Credit: David Ludwig
This morning on yet another one of my social media spaces, a friend commented that as much as Facebook is creepy, LinkedIn is even creepier in its suggestions of people users may know or want to comment on. Her comments reminded me how annoying I find that that LinkedIn is always trying to get into my address books, making it much harder to say no than yes.
Then I started wondering, why do I even have LinkedIn?
Basically I have it because LinkedIn tricked my mother. One day I opened an email that said “Rita Perez wants to connect with you on LinkedIn.” This seemed possible or even probable. My mother works in the business community so her using LinkedIn seemed reasonable. I pictured her at her desk using the business acceptable social media time waster. It could be fun, thought me and so I opened an account.
Once I did, I realized my mother did have a LinkedIn profile, but that she didn’t use it, that it had harvested her Gmail account and emailed (or emauled) everyone in her address book. We never exchanged a word on LinkedIn, though I think we endorsed each other.
But now my account was set up. Trickles of notifications started coming in from former editing clients and students wanting to connect. I was pleased — I’m always pleased to see my former students and their endorsements were like little pats on the back, especially when they endorsed me for skills I didn’t know I had. Too, it was great to see what they were doing in their own careers.
Mostly though, I ignored it in favor of my other networks, especially Twitter. Except as LinkedIn kept trying to get into my address book. No means no means let me ask you again. And again.
As of today, LinkedIn has asked me questions for the last time. That account is closed. My address book is safe.
This was a good morning. I was surprised and very pleased to find out that my paper for MLA14, “Our Kind of People: Textual Community and the Latina Edited Anthology” was accepted for inclusion in the Chicana and Chicano Literature Division ¿Anthologizing Latinidad? panel and that the roundtable special- session “Back Up Your Work: Conceptualizing Writing Support for Graduate Students,” which I’m on with Liana Silva, Abigail Scheg, Lee Ann Glowsenski and Tara Betts, was also accepted.
The abstract for my talk:
“Our Kind of People: Textual Community and the Latina Edited Anthology”
Readers see the authorial decisions as definitive while editorship remains invisible. Within a text, editors are seen, to the extent they are seen at all, as serving a generally administrative or organizational role. Yet in reality editors act as facilitators, filters and / or gatekeepers — albeit sometimes uncomfortable ones — deciding who and what is included and excluded, encouraging writing that otherwise might never be published or even written. By making these decisions, they decide whose thoughts merit inclusion, which ones belong and which do not, controlling how and if a subject or author will be presented. Still further, editors decide through which point of view or lens an artistic, social or political movement will be viewed. Discussing the role of editor, Norton editor Alane Salierno Mason, wrote “[e]diting a literary anthology is like forming a social club — you get to decide who are ‘your’ kind of people.” This paper focuses on anthologies as textual communities made up by women of color — especially Latinas. Although Latinas contributed to anthologies of Latino and feminist writings in the 1970s, beginning (largely) in the 1980s, Latinas became anthology editors. In their editorial role they facilitated other Latinas and women of color as writers to engage in intellectual discourse and be distributed on a larger scale than permitted by earlier underground newspapers and journals.
The two anthologies I focus on are Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa’s edited anthology, This Bridge Called My Back (1981) and the Chicana studies anthology Chicana Voices: Intersections of Class, Race and Gender, (1986) edited by Teresa Córdova, Norma Cantú, Gilberto Cardenas, Juan García and Christine M. Sierra. Both books have publication histories that are themselves acts of resistance, reflecting how the books were constructed as well as how each has been presented, received and used. Though examining these anthologies, a sense of the construction of textual communities and the creation of anthologies as acts of resistance is discussed.
When our roundtable proposal is put online I’ll put a link to it here.