Indiana University Indiana University College of Arts and Sciences

This year’s events:


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

Dr. Sofia Villenas
Director of Latino Studie
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.

“Indians, Coyotes, and Human Rights on the Mexican Border”

Dr. Victor Clark-Alfaro
Lecturer at San Diego State University
Director of Bi-national Center for Human Rights in Tijuana Mexico
November 05, 2013


On November 05, 2013 Dr. Victor Clark-Alfaro visited Indiana University through an invitation from the Minority Languages and Cultures Project (MLCP) to give a presentation entitled “Indians, Coyotes, and Human Rights on the Mexican

Border.” His talk was attended by numerous faculty, graduate, and undergraduate students and was followed by a lively question and answer session. Dr. Clark-Alfaro is currently a lecturer at San Diego State University and Director of the Bi-National Center for Human Rights in Tijuana Mexico. He received his PhD in Anthropology from the University of California San Diego. His research interests revolve around border issues. He is also currently working on a book which discusses issues sex workers face on the Tijuana border.

Dr. Clark-Alfaro began his talk by discussing Tijuana’s economy. There are four economic forces that contribute to the local economy:
1.    Manufacture/factory positions
2.    Local commercephoto 3
3.    Tourism
4.    Organized crime
He then explained that many indigenous communities arrive to Tijuana in search of a better life. Yet to be indigenous in Tijuana means to carry a stigma.
He then went on to explain the different types of coyotes. The first are indigenous coyotes, which are known for three characteristics:
1. They are safe and trustworthy (They often times take people across the border from their own pueblos)
2. They charge in payments (There is a sense of trust between the coyotes and their clients)
3. They are also known to respect women

Other coyotes are classified according to their generation. At this moment, there are three generations of coyotes. The first generation began to work after the Bracero Program ended in 1979. According to Dr. Clark-Alfaro, the third generation of coyotes, the youngest, are known to be irresponsible. They tend to view their clients as mercancia, goods to be bought, sold, or exchanged.

Victor then focused his talk on deported immigrants. He explained that while the undocumented experience discrimination in the United States, they are also criminalized when deported to Mexico. Many Mexicans view the deported as being responsible for the violence and unemployment rates in Tijuana. Also, because many of the deported do not have the documents needed to work in Mexico; it becomes extremely difficult to find jobs. Thus often times these individuals become homeless or begin working with the cartels.

Graduate Student Round Table

Kathryn Lehman/MA in Latin American Studies
Sarah Foss/ PhD in History
October 24, 2013




On Wednesday October 24, 2013 the Minority Languages and Cultures Program held its Fall 2013 Graduate Student Round table. The roundtable featured Kathryn Lehman, an MA in Latin American Studies and Sarah Foss, a PhD in History. Through this roundtable, the audience was able to learn about the research process and ask questions concerning the students’ research.

Kathryn Lehman presented on field work conducted in the Summer of 2013 in Bolivia. Kathryn’s research centers on indigenous identity before and after the rubber boom.  She specifically focuses on how the rubber boom created a shared experience among indigenous and non-indigenous workers. During her time in Bolivia, Kathryn conducted research in the Archivo Hictorico, Casa Suarez and explained the dilapidated condition the IMG_2813documents were found in. Despite the archives condition, she was still able to find a plethora of information.

Sarah Foss’ research focuses on the expression of indigeniety, specifically through clothing. She conducted her Summer 2013 research in Guatemala, where she spent the majority of her time visiting different archives such as Cirma and the Archivo General de Centro America. Through this experience, Sarah became aware of the importance of networking and reciprocity in order to gain access to certain forms of information. This became evident when she went to El Municipal de Solola where she had to explain to the municipal how her research was good for the community.  Sarah also explained how her research has evolved and narrowed throughout time.

Click here for past events