- The Latinx, Indigenous, and the Americas Graduate Class: Geography, Pedagogy, and Power1
The idea for the Latinx, Indigenous, and the Americas (LIA) graduate class roundtable emerged specifically from the renaming of the Latina/Latino focus group and its implications for the intellectual contours of the field—that is, the ways in which these contours are made legible, reimagined, and shifted.
What’s in a name? A claim; a definitional marker; a writing of geography, social and literal; constellations of inclusion and exclusion; a thinking of possibilities.
We are in a cultural moment where conversations around the operations of power shift into the legitimacy of government authority and the question of action and its appropriate place and time. With heightened attention to immigration issues and increasingly brutal forms of questioning the social and cultural status of undocumented immigrants, legal residents, and even naturalized citizens comes outrage at changing practices and attitudes that shift without careful reflection or attention to consequences, intended or otherwise. I would suggest that one gesture we can make is to think carefully and critically about the spaces of engagement that we curate, foster, and participate in, specifically within spaces of training and scholarship in graduate programs in theatre and performance. Can we create environments in which careful and critical reflection is not merely a value within the relatively protected spaces of graduate study, but also something that matters in a larger world? Or, can we at least begin to enact the conditions for creating a time and space for real growth and thinking?
In thinking about a graduate class as one of the crucial paths of transmission of shared aesthetics, politics, and methodologies (maybe it should not be?), consider changes in content (deepening our attention to specific areas, while simultaneously reflecting on our accountability to other spaces and places within the configuration) and form (inviting reflection on teaching philosophy, individual knowledge and expertise, and presumptions and convictions about what a graduate seminar is and does). Does a name acknowledge existing relations or does it generate new linkages, new articulations, new possibilities? What does naming LIA do, and how do we share this doing? What kinds of behaviors and thinking emerge in a reconfiguration? How do we prioritize need and structure time? Who is responsible to whom, and for what?
Latinx is the simplest change: a nonbinary identification in a singular word replacing the previous politics of masculine and feminine gender markers. The addition of [End Page 443] Indigenous provides different institutional visibility, but also demands renewed attention to colonization, conquest, and imperialism, in addition to questions of marginalization and structural racism. Americas is a continuing challenge both because of the tendency to reduce hemispheric study to region or nation, and, frankly, the small number of scholars and practitioners who have a meaningfully hemispheric practice. Other issues of scope and scale remain: from “Latin America” in all of its problematic constructs to a focus on global Indigenous practices.
Questions of identity, geography, and subject position intensify in precarious pockets of progressive transformation in higher education and in negotiating the various threads that we might think about decolonization. While it is relatively easy to think decolonization as metaphor, the effort to enact it is something else.
As an opening gesture, which may already be trapped in metaphor, I would suggest that exploring organizational structures as intellectual maps demands further reflection on the responsibility of graduate instructors to not only to curate content, but also to model forms of knowledge practice, community building, ethical engagement, and horizontal or democratic practices of reading and speaking. What is the connection between our ethical responsibility toward a field of knowledge (always under construction) and practical, tangible concerns of preparation for gainful employment? How does the goal of the graduate seminar need to be rethought in order to shift toward more intersectional or collaborative forms of reading, thinking, speaking, moving, action, and writing? Do we need to create new environments, new goals, and new starting places? A different kind of sharing? A different kind of conversation? Are we changing the stakes? When and how? What part of the human can and should be present in the space of graduate training...