The MALCS 2018 Summer Institute at the University of Texas El Paso is over. I’m sitting in the lobby of the Hilton next to the campus waiting in the blissful air conditioning for my shuttle to the airport. I’m tired and will be glad to be home. But I also am so sorry this year’s institute is over.
Most years I attend 4-5 conferences and/or institutes. In 2018 I will have attended MLA (Modern Language Association), NACCS (National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies), MALCS (Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social), Ford Fellow Conference, and ASA (American Studies Association). All of them are important to me and I attended or tried to attend as an adjunct faculty member, despite having to pay all costs myself. Now that I’m tenure-track my university will pay travel and hotel for two conferences a year where I’m giving a paper. Of all of them though, the one I look forward to most is MALCS. This year since the conference was in Texas and I wasn’t giving a paper, I was happy to self-fund.
MALCS is different from the other conferences in several ways. It’s held on a different or college university campus each year. It’s for community activists as well as academics. And it’s by and for Chicana, Latina, and Indigenous women and gender non-binary people. If you haven’t experienced it, I can’t fully explain what it’s like to walk into a space and see rooms full of women who look like me. Representation isn’t everything and it isn’t utopia. But on the other hand, roughly 1% of college and university faculty are Latina. Fewer still are Native or Indigenous women. MALCS turns this around. We make the space in these universities our own. This was all the more powerful in that we were hosted by UT El Paso and El Paso Community College, both Hispanic Serving Institutions.
I won’t be able to give a complete sense of Institute, but here are a few moments that felt especially :
Session 1 – Language, Identity, and Culture in the US-Mexico Border
Presenters: Sonia Aleman, Mari Castaneda
This session used Latina/o critical communication theory to look at how chants of “Build that wall, “Make America great again,” and even “Trump, Trump” are being deployed as hate speech as expressions of white supremacy.
Session 3 – Counter-Narratives of Digital Archives and (HER)stories
“Decentering Digital Humanities: Creating the First Digital Humanities Research Center for US Latinx Studies” Gabriela Baeza Ventura (U of Houston)
This session was important not only because of the significant work being discussed, but because a digital humanities session at MALCS had an almost full room. Seeing DH work being done by Chicana, Latina and Native women was exciting and fills me with joy. I couldn’t help but think back to MALCS 2012 in Santa Barbara where Linda Garcia and I led an impromptu discussion on using Twitter in the Chicana studies classroom as expressions of digital humanities. I think there were four of us in the room. It was exciting to see how many MALCS graduate students are interested in DH.