Note on Classroom Use

Instructors who use Keywords for Latina/o Studies have employed it in multiple ways. Some use it to enhance required readings, others have structured assignments around individual keywords, and still others have used them to prompt discussions and complicate ideas. Utilizing keywords to enrich readings is the most common tool. They are often used to expand points and arguments. Terms such as “Borderlands,” “Citizenship,” “Latinidad,” “Mestizaje,” “Rasquachismo,” and “Raza,” and so forth, either directly correlate or are born out of the various fields that constitute Latina/o/x theories and methodologies. In this case, the different submissions assist in not only explaining the term, but also highlighting their epistemology and how they have influenced the field and beyond. For instance, questions concerning citizenship and illegality cannot be divorced from a long, problematic, and violent history of Latina/o/x migration to the United States. Terms like “Latinidad,” “Mestizaje,” “Rasquachismo,” and “Raza,” necessitate a deeper conversation concerning identity, art, and third-world political movements (i.e. Chicano Movement, Brown Berets).

By the same token, terms such as “Capitalism,” “Culture,” “Film,” “Food,” “Housing,” “Literature” and “Sexuality” have been written by scholars in the field of Latina/o/x Studies to illuminate how the field has reinterpreted these terms to not only include Latina/o/x, but to center them. Juana Maria Rodriguez’s rendering of sexuality is a perfect example. “The characterization of Latinx culture as sexually deviant and dangerous that emerged as a result of immigration, forced annexation, and colonial occupation have remained central to depictions of Latinx within popular culture” (197). Rodriguez’s succinctly connects sexuality with immigration, annexation and colonialism leading to a rich and deep conversations of links that are rarely made, but must be considered.

In regards to assignments, there are several innovative and exciting ways that keywords can be used in a classroom.

  1. Ask students to write their own version of a keyword and share it with class. This provides students with the opportunity to discuss their renderings of a particular keyword; including the similarities and differences. How would they approach a keyword such as “Brown,” “Incarceration,” and “Maquiladoras?”
  2. Ask students to come up with keywords not included in the volume. They are then asked to justify these keywords and write a brief definition and analysis, and if interested, compare their keywords with the ones in the volume.
  3. Ask students to debate Have students come up with their list of keywords, including those in the volume and debate their relevance, importance, and future role in Latina/o/x Studies.
  4. Ask students to take one keyword in the volume and use it to articulate a larger theoretical method or thinking. For instance, how does the keyword “Capitalism” inform your thinking of production and labor? How does “Illegality” affect your thoughts concerning current migration policies? How does “Militarism” inform your ideas around the state and coloniality?

Such assignments allow students to use keywords as a departure for thinking through ideas, thoughts, and omissions. It is an exciting strategy for getting them to not only analyze a particular keyword, but to put it to use. At the same time, it teaches students that keywords can change and evolve depending on the circumstances and conditions.

For these assignments to be successful, instructors needed to discuss the individual keywords in Keywords for Latina/o Studies thoroughly and unpack their various meanings. For instance, what makes certain keywords relevant to Latina/o/x Studies? This is particularly effective with keywords such as “Literature,” “Music,” “Philosophy,” and “Theater” where the connections to Latina/o/x theory and methodology is vague and not necessarily linked to the field of Latina/o/x Studies. For other terms such as “Afro-Latina/os,” “Indigeneity,” “Sovereignty,” and “White,” expand, problematize, and challenge our understanding of Latinidad?


A central aim of Keywords for Latina/o Studies is to build an archive of meaning; one that is in continual dialogue with community. It is our goal to expand the understanding of this field and discipline, and to both complicate and make legible the myriad populations, histories, experiences, cultural expressions and intellectual thought that constitutes field and the Latina/o/x community.

Deborah Vargas

Nancy Raquel Mirabal

Lawrence LaFountain-Stokes