The Making of Chicana/o Studies: In the Trenches of Academe

The Making of Chicana/o Studies: In the Trenches of Academe

The Making of Chicana/o Studies: In the Trenches of Academe

The Making of Chicana/o Studies: In the Trenches of Academe


The Making of Chicana/o Studies traces the philosophy and historical development of the field of Chicana/o studies from precursor movements to the Civil Rights era to today, focusing its lens on the political machinations in higher education that sought to destroy the discipline. As a renowned leader, activist, scholar, and founding member of the movement to establish this curriculum in the California State University system, which serves as a model for the rest of the country, Rodolfo F. Acuña has, for more than forty years, battled the trend in academia to deprive this group of its academic presence.

The book assesses the development of Chicana/o studies (an area of studies that has even more value today than at its inception)--myths about its epistemological foundations have remained uncontested. Acuña sets the record straight, challenging those in the academy who would fold the discipline into Latino studies, shadow it under the dubious umbrella of ethnic studies, or eliminate it altogether.

Building the largest Chicana/o studies program in the nation was no easy feat, especially in an atmosphere of academic contention. In this remarkable account, Acuña reveals how California State University, Northridge, was instrumental in developing an area of study that offers more than 166 sections per semester, taught by 26 tenured and 45 part-time instructors. He provides vignettes of successful programs across the country and offers contemporary educators and students a game plan--the mechanics for creating a successful Chicana/o studies discipline--and a comprehensive index of current Chicana/o studies programs nationwide.

Latinas/os, of which Mexican Americans are nearly seventy percent, comprise a complex sector of society projected to be just shy of thirty percent of the nation's population by 2050. The Making of Chicana/o Studies identifies what went wrong in the history of Chicana/o studies and offers tangible solutions for the future.


For over forty years I have been part of the building of Chicana/o Studies. Aside from the fact that Chicana/o Studies did not evolve from a traditional field of study and had no precedent, the major stumbling block has been the ethnocentrism of the institution that looks at the area of Chicana/o Studies through biases and even antipathy toward the study of minorities in general. The result is a distortion of what Chicana/o Studies are. A lack of literacy on the subject exists, with politicos and public alike attempting to impose their definitions on the developing programs and courses.

As I write this, a battle is raging in the state of Arizona that will make all Mexican-looking people suspects of being undocumented workers and will ban La Raza Studies at the K–12 levels. The end is the censoring of books and screening teachers. Amidst this hysteria, a constructive dialogue is impossible, which is tragic, since it runs against the purpose of education. Chicana/o Studies, like other courses of study, has as its mission the production of knowledge that fosters the appreciation of other people and cultures, as well as knowledge that helps members of society solve and correct systemic problems and conflicts. Chicana/o Studies promotes what should be the goal of every modern and progressive state, which is to work toward the equality of its citizens, a goal that can only be accomplished by making corrections.

Data is produced and tested in order to learn the truth. For instance, recent Federal Bureau of Investigation statistics show the border is relatively safe and that crime has actually declined. However, driven by opportunistic Arizona politicos and a gaggle of extremists, the media is being pressured to send the message that Arizona is losing control of the border. Groups such as the Tea Partiers are pressuring state and federal authorities to get tough on “illegals.” The loser is rational discourse, with many nativists accusing the FBI of lying. If the objective is to learn, should not the question be who is telling the truth? Is the FBI data flawed? Or, are politicians distorting the facts? The truth should matter, and it is the objective of Chicana/o Studies to learn the truth.

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