Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Controversia: Subaltern Studies Pt. 2

Is there a Subaltern pedagogy & how does the field influence the instruction?

Borderlands & Subaltern rhetorician/scholar Damian Baca, author of Mestiz@ Scripts, Digital Migrations, and the Territories of Writing (New Concepts in Latino American Cultures) (summary & review) took some time to provide me with his perspective on pedagogy.

Having had a distinct interest in post-colonial literature & criticism, I am curious about the field of how Subaltern studies would influence the pedagogical practices of those in the field.

CM: I was wondering if there's a particular pedagogy that goes along with Subaltern Studies. Do you find yourself using a particular lens through which you approach teaching?

DB: My own interpretation is an epistemological shift of placing the "subaltern" at the very center of intellectual and creative thought. Unlike others in rhet/comp, I apply this to both teaching *and* scholarly inquiry. Rhet/comp "writes about" the disenfranchised within U.S. borders, but they do not "think and write from" subaltern and hemispheric perspectives... Another reason has to do with the dominant Eurocentric pedagogy and history of the field... The field turns to "whitened" Greeks and Anglo-Saxon thinkers and Western European philosophers and Euro-American pedagogues. What if we flipped the script? What if we learned nothing at all about Western-Anglo civilization other than the literacy of poor white folks in Appalachian countrysides? And then spent the rest of our studies learning about Maya writing and Aztec philosophy and Chicano rhetorics and AfroCuban anthropology? This would require an epistemological shift of global proportions.

CM:I spoke with other Borderlands rhetoricians who finds a feminist lens reoccurs in her different pedagogical practices.

DB: For me, questions of classroom pedagogy are always linked to political commitment, ethical practice, and intellectual investment. In other words, pedagogy goes far deeper than "how do I teach my first-year students of color?" inquiries that dominate the field. Notice how nobody asks about a third-year pedagogy for students of color, or a pedagogy for first-year graduate students, or a "minority" graduate student's right to their own pedagogy?

There's something empowering about the term 'minority grad student', no? This makes me wonder if there have been courses that I responded with more interest to given the teaching style of the professor. More later...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Controversia: Subaltern Studies

Is there a Subaltern Pedagogy & would it lend itself to a Latin Lens?

When comparing pedagogical approaches, it's easy to become caught in a negative capability of differences and similarities within Western philosophy & application that the perspective of the subaltern is ignored. Is it a splitting of pedagogical hairs if the comparisons vary in slight degrees of Critical, Latino, Chicano & LatCrit categories? Is there a way to come at teaching from the literacies of the under-represented and speak from a classical education/codex literacy that privileges the marginalized who are almost never heard from?

Some Latino pedagogies emphasize what can be called funds of knowledge, or the literacies that students learn outside the classroom, like corridos & traditional wisdoms that are passed down through informal-mama-in-the-kitchen-wrapping-tamales-as-she-tells-it-how-it-is. From what I understand of Subaltern Studies, it seems as though these funds of knowledge are followed back to the classical roots of indigenous knowledge & wisdom that was oppressed during colonization.

Subaltern is defined as:

Subaltern Studies seeks to engage the subaltern as an ally and participant in the academic process through modified research methodologies that describe the subject on its own terms, instead of recasting it as the “other” of the dominant culture. This means that academics must both modify their own methodologies and perspective to allow for the differences between their hegemonically centered view and that of their subjects and seek to establish new relationships between themselves and the subaltern populations that they are studying (Latin American Subaltern Studies Group 121).

A colleague and Subaltern scholar at U of A referred me to this extremely informative Subaltern site at OSU.

Unlike critical pedagogies that challenge the dominant/hegemonic beliefs, a Subaltern approach to pedagogical practices seems to draw attention to pictographic texts that require different kinds of literacy that simultaneously possess deeper wells of knowledge than generally celebrated when the literature of people of color is the focus.

More later...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Controversia: Tex[t]-Mex

Is There a Tex[t]-Mex Pedagogy?
I hardly think it's possible to speak about Bill "Memo" Nericcio without stealing some of the artwork from his website to give my humble blog some sabor.

I not only enjoyed Nericcio's book, but I took it a step further & wrote a review that I'm sure I'll add at a later date. Right now, I'm still hot on the trail of a tride, true & tested Latino pedagogy. For all of the Chicano Arellano dispenses, he was wise enough to refer me to Nericcio because education isn't his forte.

Writing from deep in the borderlands, I communicated with Nericcio visavi e-mail, to which Nericcio was more than generous with his response. Without further adieu, Nericcio's pedagogical perspective:

CM: My name is Cruz Medina, a first year PhD student at the University of Arizona. A
few months back, I spoke with Gustavo Arellano at one of his readings, and he recommended *Tex[t]-Mex* to me when I told him that I was going to begin earning my PhD in Rhet/Comp. I'm actually writing though because I had a few pedagogical questions that I hoped to hear your perspective on because of your experience as a Mexican-American having taught in different English departments.

Dr. William Nericcio: i am honored!

CM: In the field of English, where teaching writing can go along with the teaching of close reading practices, is there a way to apply a pedagogical Latino lens that may be critical of canonical texts while avoiding the controversy of teetering into cultural studies that some departments try to distance themselves from?

WN:yes, it can be done--look at my "mainstream" intro
to lit class i am teaching... it feature 6 or 7 chicano texts,
but by stressing the theme of NAKEDICITY, i sidestep
the whole canon issue..... but we are doing cultural studies,
i have to confess.... you could do my same class and kill
the movies and artbooks i imagine.....

look at some of my other classes here:
babel, worked as well.... american lit survey with healthy dose of latino magic

CM: Is there an alternative pedagogical standpoint that you have taken which allows
you to teach subversive/controversial/critical material to audiences of predominantly Caucasian students who may be resistant?

WN:stress psychoanalysis and sexuality.... throw in canonical with raza, have fun.... it seems to work for me....

CM: Is there a simple answer? like humor??

WN: yes! humor works! comedy..... always a better way to go than righteousness!

CM: Or is the answer a much less static stance that maintains some fluidity that allows for greater adaptation?

WN: call to chat sometime... the number's below....

As you can see, I have some websites to check out. But I do feel a bit more grounded. With an
undergraduate degree in German, I have to admit that psychoanalysis comes as something of a second nature & sexuality provides an approach to notions of identity that arise in 'raza' texts. I'm planning on teaching the film Amores Perros in my next unit & there's a noteworthy relationship forged between the subaltern hero & the homosexual head of an underground
dog-fighting circuit. The film takes place in 'DF,' Mexico City, where machismo and the staggering economic divide position both characters as 'others.'

Nericcio suggests Babel, which is the most recent film by the same director of Amores Perros, which makes me feel like I'm on the right path. Babel deals with more obvious issues of disconnectedness of language, save for the humanistic bond between people, in addition to excellent issues of border politics.

More to report after I check out Nericcio's sites...

Update 27 Oct: What Nericcio refers to as Babel is the overarching theme that he uses to teach a lit course with an amazing mix of Kerouac, Cisnero & other influential writers.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Controversia: ¿Que es?

An Introduction

So I've been teaching first year composition, and I've become curious about the pedagogical practices of Latin-American, more specifically Mexican-American educators. As educators, we all possess a lens through which we view culture, and this lens influences our decisions on a subconscious level.

Some 'cultural studies' educators practice critical pedagogies that challenge the hegemonic culture in the study of literature, pointing out the marginalization of the minority 'other.'

As we move further and further away from the 70s, more institutions have moved away from the subversive counterculture-influenced critical pedagogy. Some have adopted Western literary philosophies that focus on what non-European/American texts are doing, and the appreciation of these texts as art.

So I'm caught in the mestizo paradigm of academic cultural identity crisis.
Having read a LatCrit article discussing the trenza y mestizaje approach of braiding theories, I've become more curious of how interdisciplinary theories might be applied in the classroom. With this question in mind, I assembled a growing list of academic educators, and educators in the public forum, who I have chosen to inquire about their pedagogical perspectives.


Controversia: Ask a Mexican

Is There a Latino Pedagogy That Works in the Public Form?

Strangely enough, one of the first people I decided to contact was Gustavo Arrellano, syndicated columnist for the OCWeekly and most well-known for his "Ask a Mexican" column, in which he dispels, de-mystifies and often-time simply educates non-Latinos about Mexican/Mexican-American (Chicano) culture. Below is a picture of the both of us from a book signing (note: He's the gentleman doing a great promotional job of his book.)
I think I oddly enough started with Gustavo because he was the first person to turn me onto William "Memo" Nericcio's book Tex[t]-Mex: Seductive Hallucinations of the "Mexican" in America.

In e-mail correspondence, Gustavo advocated that I check out Tex[t]-Mex, by William Nericcio, in addition to his blog:

One more time in hyperlink, here's the blog for "Memo," but after you see it, you may never want to return to my humble blog:

When I got back to Gustavo, asking him for his perspective on education, given his role as educator of Mexican-American culture in a public form, his response reflected his un-biased position as someone in the field of journalism.

He said that much of what happens in the field of education is special to education, and that he doesn't consider "Ask a Mexican" to reflect 'a Mexican sensibility' despite his graduate degree in Latin American Studies.

His most helpful advice was to consider my audience, because each one is different, and my teaching should reflect that.

This advice reminded me of his reading at Martinez bookstore when he asked the large crowd the parts of Mexico where our families were from, and made a joke about how you can easily end up with a small town with five names.

It makes sense that even within the five different names that the sensibilities would change.

Update 11/03: I found this great interview with Stephen Colbert

Welcome & ¡Bienvenidos!

My name is Cruz Medina. I am a PhD candidate at the University of Arizona in Rhetoric, Composition and the Teaching of English.

This blog is dedicated to my scholarly, professional & writerly interests.

I will be highlighting my on-going correspondence with Latino scholars regarding their pedagogical approaches, as well as contributions from the Latino community outside of academia.

My research interests include, but are not limited to, borderlands rhetoric, and new media, as well as the intersections of the two.

Before beginning the RCTE program at the University of Arizona, I earned an MFA in creative writing, as well as an MA in Literature. This blog will also highlight those experiences I've had as a creative writer, as well as a published journalist.

Be sure to check back for updates.