Recent events:


“Teaching and Learning Citizenship and Dignidad Across the Latino Diaspora”

Dr. Sofia Villenas
Director of Latino Studies
Associate Professor at Cornell University
March 27, 2014

On March 27, 2014 Dr. Sofia Villenas came to visit Indiana University through an invitation from Professor Bradley Levinson from the School of Education. The Minority Languages and Cultures Project, along with other departments and programs, co-sponsored this event.

Dr. VillenCoffee Houras began her presentation by focusing on an image of her grandfather and grandmother in Ecuador. She explained that family member who do not migrate also have a transmigration/transborder experience.

She then went on to show an image of herself as a little girl, standing between her parents, holding up a plaque. Dr. Villenas explained that in middle school she entered an essay contest with the essay prompt “What does your community mean to you?” Villenas won the essay contest by focusing on role fire-fighters, police officers, and librarians play in the community. She did not write about her family’s economic struggles and the fear she had that her father would be deported during an immigration raid. She omitted this because she wanted to be part of a “universal human.” In other words, she wanted to be part of the “normalized” white culture.
Through this essay contest,

Villenas expressed her civic identity. Although she had a distinct experience in terms of race, culture, language, and citizenship, she did not have the language to talk about it. Instead she wanted to feel a sense of belonging in the middle-class neighborhood she was growing up in.

She then went on to explain two important aspects of her presentation: “citizenship” and “public pedagogies.” Citizenship has to do with who belongs. Cultural citizenship can also be a verb. It is a broad range of social practices, spaces and claims on the rights of Latinos. “Public Pedagogies” have to do with the various forms, processes and sites of education and learning occurring beyond formal schooling. Public pedagogies shape us as individuals and teach us exclusions and identities as consumers.

Villenas then spoke about the new Latino Diaspora –new geographies of Latino settlements. The reason for this Diaspora is a combination of cause of political and economic factors. On a political level, the 1980s iVillenas Presentation, talking (2)mmigration reform allowed 2.7 million people to adjust their immigration status. Thus these individuals were free to move as legal residents. In terms of economic factors, economic transformation in the south provided opportunities for Latinos. At that same moment, Mexico was going through economic crises, which created a push factor to immigrate to the U.S.
Villenas then explored citizenship learning and public pedagogies by exploring three different Latino communities throughout the United States. In the first case study, Villenas spoke about a Latino community in a rural town in North Carolina. Currently the Latino community is very visible in this small town, with 70% Latino students enrolled in elementary school and 33% enrolled in high school. Although the town has the local narrative of positive race relations, Latinos still do not have political power. Despite their lack of political voice, Latinos still establish their cultural presence and cultural citizenship through the establishment of tienditas  and churches.

In the second case study, Villenas spoke about a Latino/a farmworker community in rural upstate New York. Within this town, many Latinos live in fear of being deported. At the time Villenas was working in this town, 23 children were abandoned when 19 adults were arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcements (ICE). That same year (2011), 397,000 people were deported. Many of these deportees are parents of U.S. citizens. In these circumstances, the children of the deported are often-times placed in the foster-care system.
Within this town, Latinos attended work-shops where the farm-workers learned about their rights. These work-shops also served as sites of public pedagogies in which the undocumented constructed their notion of citizenship.
In the third case study, Villenas focused on a small city in Central New York. Many Latinos in this town had a professional background and focused on “Fiesta, Food, and Fun.” That is, they organized “fun” events around culture. At first, Villenas was wary of these events because they seemed to lack any political component. However over time, she has come to understand how these events claim a space within in an area that lacks space for Latinidad.
Her presentation was then followed by a lively question and answer.


Graduate Student Round Table

Alexandra Toledo/MA in CLACS & MPA in SPEA
Denisa Jashari/ PhD in History
March 26, 2014

Denisa MLCP pose

On Wednesday March 26, 2014 the Minority Languages and Cultures Project held its spring 2014 Graduate Student Round Table. The roundtable featured Denisa Jashari, a PhD student from the History Department and Alexandra Toledo, a dual Masters student pursuing a MA in CLACS and a MPA at SPEA.  The purpose of this roundtable is to introduce students to the process of conducting research in Latin America.

Denisa Jashari discussed her preliminary research experience during summer 2013 in Santiago, Chile. Denisa’s research focuses on the experiences of radicalizing shantytown youth during the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship. Her research grapples with several questions, including the forms of political organizing in the context of neoliberal authoritarianism, the relationship between shantytown youth groups and the established Chilean Left, and political subjectivity of marginalized groups.

Denisa spent most of her time consulting different archival centers in Chile’s capital, Santiago. Her presentation was a reflection on how historians reconcile a research idea with the concrete historical record. Specifically, she identified limitations in some of the sources she encountered and wondered about the implications of their potential use. She gave an overview of the centers she visited, such as the National Library, the Social Aid Foundation of Christian Churches, the Museum of Memory, and the Judicial Archive. She spoke about the importance of understanding the timing and the purpose of the production of certain historical documents. She pushed for an understanding of the broader context under which historical documents are produced and urged caution in seeing archives only as a site where documents rest.

To conclude, Denisa gave her fellow researchers a few tips: 1. Contact the research archives/institutions beforehand. 2. Have connections with academics in the country where you’re conducting research 3. Have a system to organize your findings. 4. Record all your observations. 5. Become familiar with technological options for organizing and keeping track of research materials, such as Evernote.

Alexandra Toledo presented her fieldwork conducted this past summer 2013 in Peru. Her research focused on food sovereignty and food security policy. After researching her topic, she traveled to Peru and identified stakeholders in the policy-making process for her interview.
Her second step was to contact these individuals for potential interviews. After she finished conducting each of her hour-long interviews, she would ask her interviewees, “Do you know of someone else I can talk to? Can you give me their phone number?” Thus Alexandra mentioAlex Posingned the importance of networking and being persistent in order to gain access to more contacts.

Alexandra then concluded her presentation by explaining the lessons she learned by conducting her research. First, she encouraged her peers to read everything they could on their topic before going to the field. This provides a solid background on the topic so that the researcher can be prepared for all different angles that the interviewees may take in their responses and prevent the need to overhaul an entire project when presented with an unexpected reality. Also, Alexandra suggested that when calling to ask for an interview, students should be ready at all moments to conduct these interviews. Unlike the U.S. where meetings are often scheduled weeks in advance, in Peru often times, she would call to ask for an interview and would be given an appointment immediately, so would then have to rush over at that exact moment for the interview. Alexandra also mentioned the importance of being aware of the diverse epistemologies of each interviewee. For instance, when she interviewed some of the politicians, they tended to use technical and academic jargon. Yet while talking to a Congresswoman trained as a peasant activist leader, Claudia Coari, about the same issues, she expressed herself in a different manner by emphasizing the reality of the rural regions in Peru like the hunger children experience and the importance of having pasture for the cows. Thus the researcher should try to understand the epistemological lens of their interviewee.

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