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  • Imaginemos Cosas Chingonas:On Becoming Undisciplined in Nuestro South
  • Laura Barbas-Rhoden (bio), Araceli Hernández-Laroche (bio), and Natalia Valenzuela Swanson (bio)

The space where we belong does not exist; it is created.

Becoming undisciplined, for us, in one of the largest cities in South Carolina, in landscapes we inhabit differentially, means responding here to the draw we feel to "become mindful and effective weavers and repairers of the mesh of life."1 Being undisciplined in the South—in polyglot, multiethnic lands of racialized labor and exclusions from public life—means calling this place, and the new worlds emergent in it and from it, nuestro South, too. It means holding space for who we are, for stories and selves that predate and coexist alongside our institutionalized selves, in a place built from the displacement of multitudes, and in which our own lives are now enmeshed. It means a dance of languages, code-switching, register-changing, and also the work of being honest and true to ourselves.

We have co-labored, together and with others, to cultivate creative and defiantly hopeful [End Page 52] spaces like Alianza Spartanburg, a social impact network that works "to facilitate, encourage, and promote the inclusion of members of the Latinx community in improving quality of life in Spartanburg County."2 We first dared to imagine spaces and roles that exceeded our institutional ones in the academy and philanthropy because we sensed a gap in the mesh. The gap called to us, and we looked and saw that we held thread and implements. We realized then that we were weavers, and all around us were weavers, threading in different colors "brillantes y finos." Our disciplines and lives gave us implements: languages, stories, theory; an understanding of displacement, migration, and inhabitation of space; examples of "gente que sabe de la libertad."3 But directing implements solely to disciplinary work means ignoring the call of the gap, and that would not be true to ourselves. So we imagine a weaving, from coast to coast and around the world, pulling together lives, lands, and labors for flourishing, somehow, together.

We'll share a story of undisciplined co-creation. It is a victory and also a story-yet-in-the-making. Some years ago, in the northern part of our county, a woman labored in her role, listening to those who shared hopes and struggles in a language they held in common. She sensed a gap in the mesh. To the west, other women labored, across disciplines, institutions, and languages. They perceived the gap, and they, too, spoke of the gap. In the center of town, the gap made itself present again, this time to a funder. The weavers came together. They drew their threads toward the gap, and PASOs Spartanburg took on life and gave life.4 We became further enmeshed in myriad, lively, colorful labors.

Becoming undisciplined, though, is a genre of labor that requires absorbing into our beings the jostling and exclusions of institutionalized spaces. There are spaces, we know, in which we have been, are, and will be perceived as Others. We grapple with the words we need to make ourselves heard, managing in our minds and days the tensions of "being included" and being-becoming in a world that is still emergent.5 We speak of our work, and our visions, our cri de cœur, which do not fit neatly in a language. So we mesh languages and cultures together into a new imaginary, one that surpasses the worlds each language holds.

We embrace assemblages, found objects, rasquachismo: we make of what we have, borrow, salvage, repurpose.6 We engage with power, hold it sometimes, and challenge ourselves to give it away and embrace, instead, radical collaboration. Like others before us, "sabemos sobre el no decir," but together, también sabemos decir que no.7 We say no to the constraints of academic disciplines, their cumulative acts of surveillance and punishment. We say no to the exclusions of voices and lives and life-ways that affirm an ethics of care. We say no to our own complicity. Weaving a mesh of life is antithetical to the practice of extracting each color and thread...

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