Diaspora

The following discussion tests out the viability and even pliability of “diaspora” as both critical concept and descriptive category for a decidedly varied set of historical formations, especially as they appear at this moment in the material and intellectual unfolding of the field of U.S. Latina/o studies, a field that appears finally to be experiencing a kind of institutional consolidation and stabilization.  The fluid volatility of economic, political, and social conditions in the inter-American scene in the middle of the second decade of the twenty-first century both complicates and challenges the efforts of the field of U.S. Latina/o studies to make coherent historical and cultural sense of all of the processes of mass movement and settlement from Latin America and the Caribbean to the United States since the nineteenth century, and in whatever collections of formations the field takes to be its primary object(s) of knowledge. From its early history …

Education

Because of its generally positive impact on the life chances of individuals, and because it engenders greater social equality, education in the United States is more frequently characterized by what it accomplishes (outcomes) than by the knowledge that is actually taught in schools (content) or by the way it is delivered (process). Hence, education as a means to socially desired ends is a focus herein, although the content and process—frequently cast as policy alternatives  in the education of Latinas/os—are also addressed. The growing demand for ethnic studies by the Latina/o community across the country is a testament to the currency that debates over content and process have. A shift from outcome to content and process draws on a civil rights frame that positions the Latina/o not as an object of study, but rather as a subject of personal and social transformation. Accordingly, this shift permits greater understanding of relation of …

Empire

It is a commonplace in American studies to consider the nation’s founders as progenitors of the conception of the United States as an “exceptional” empire such that Thomas Paine’s oft-cited aphorism “We have it in our power to begin the world all over again” begets Thomas Jefferson’s call for an “Empire of Liberty,” which, in turn, would spread freedom across the globe in the name of the equally pithy and consecrated Declaration of Independence’s “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” What then is particular and theoretically constitutive of the keyword “empire” for the field of Latina/o studies? “Empire” is the keyword that frames both the field of Latina/o studies and what Latina/o studies projects interrogate in order to make visible how empire’s scattered remains throughout the Americas cross national borders as well as affective states of being. In so doing, Latina/o studies’ methodological recourse to and critique of empire …

Family

If one were to identify the single attribute most politicians incessantly assign Latinas/os—and assume and emphasize as a  point of  solidarity for  the sake  of vote procurement for their campaigns—it would indisputably be the salutary possession of “family values.” Although what counts as “values” in the electoral context tends to rely on ethnic and religious typecasting and ideological  supposition,  the family is nonetheless crucial for Latinas/os as it has long functioned as a “crucial symbol and organizing principle” for collective mobilization and quotidian affairs (R. T. Rodríguez 2009). Indeed, as politicians and others are astutely aware, the family is almost impossible to disentangle from how we understand Latina/o cultures, histories, and politics.

Notwithstanding the intermittent praiseworthy family qualities granted to them, the “problems” ailing Latina/o communities are routinely held responsible for maladjusted relations. Contrasting with a family values ideal that conforms to a nuclear kinship network— one that …

Gender

“Gender” is difficult. Like the terms with which it most often  travels  (“race,”  “sex,”  and  “sexuality”),  gender is a complex and contested concept that,  although used quite widely and more and more  frequently  in both academic and nonacademic contexts, means significantly different things to different people and across different  institutional  locations.  Does  it  name an essential part of what it means to be a (particular) human being, a fundamental attribute that directs our sense of self and our outward presentation of that self, and that guides our interactions with others, especially our sexual attractions, encounters, and relationships? Does that description underestimate our agency, failing to allow for the possibility that we direct, guide, and perform gender, or that at the very least gender is malleable and fluid enough that our presentation of “it” is a combination of willfulness and inheritance (whether from  the  biological  or  the  social/cultural or …

Labor

Latina/o studies scholars have looked to “labor” as a central theme for theorizing class inequality, spurring questions about exploitation, alienation, and potential for solidarity (Smith 2013). Operationalizing labor, however, is a complicated matter. Official estimates of the labor force include those who are either “available to work,” looking for paid labor, employed, or waiting to be called back to their job (Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014). As such, Latina/o workers (referred to as “Hispanic” by the U.S. government), constitute over 15 percent of  the labor force in the United States, and nearly half of the immigrant workforce (U.S. Department of Labor 2012). They are over-represented in traditionally low-wage occupations such as food preparation, building maintenance, farming, and construction. In 2011, Latina/o immigrant workers earned only 77 percent of what their  native-born  counterparts  earned  (Bureau of Labor Statistics 2012). These inequities are in …

Race

The term “race” as used in contemporary discourse, whether academic or demotic, purportedly refers to the distinct ancestry of a differentiated human population. Exactly what specific collection of features in a person’s ancestry determines his or her race seems less easy to discern from current usage. Nor can we always tell whether the elements involved in assigning a racial label to one group will correspond identically to the characteristics used in classifying another group under a different racial category. For instance, on May 12, 1977, the Office of Budget Statistics issued “Directive 15: Race and Ethnicity Standards for Federal Statistics and Administrative Reporting,” which classifies the U.S. population into five segments according to origins. Unlike the Asian, Black, Native American, and White subdivisions, when it came to the “Hispanic” segment, which encompassed people of “Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American or other Spanish culture or origin,” the classification …

Religion

As numerous scholars have noted, there is long-standing resistance in Latina/o and Chicana/o studies, in particular, to writing about religion (Espinosa and García 2008). Some of this resistance derives from the origins of Chicana/o and Boricua studies, which were deeply imbued with Marxist trends and influences, but it also has to do with the historical stigmatization  of Indigenous and African traditions in the Americas. Further, the association between Christianity and colonialism leads some scholars to regard Catholicism as a tool  for  the oppression  of  Latina/o  communities by colonial forces. Such perspectives minimize the contemporary centrality of religion to Latina/o populations, as well as the ways Latinas/os have used religion to resist oppression in a variety of settings.

The majority of Latinas/os in the United States are Catholic (55 percent), often with an infusion of Indigenous and African practices and devotions. However, the Catholic share of the Latina/o population …

Sexuality

Generally imagined as referring to who you are or what you do sexually, the word “sexuality” is used to name a wide range of social identifications predicated on sexual object choice, romantic desires, political identifications, social affinities, and/or erotic proclivities. Discursively linked to activities of procreation, reproduction, and social organization, sexuality also functions to name nonreproductive sensory pleasures and modes of erotic and amorous  expression  that  exceed  gender or genitals and are not reducible to sexual identities such as heterosexual, bisexual, lesbian, or gay. Formed through its relationship to other categories of social difference and forms of embodiments, Latinx sexuality is best understood by probing the ways it is mobilized, encountered, and sensed in the body and in the world. Rather than a precise codification of sexual practices, communities, or forms of erotic expression, the histories, politics, and scholarship that surround Latinx sexuality register the ongoing exchanges of power that …

Pages ·