Epistemologies of the Wound: Anzalduan Theories and Sociological Research on Incest in Mexican Society

Article excerpt

The healing of our wounds results in transformation and transformation results in the healing of our wounds.

--Gloria E. Anzaldua, "Let Us Be the Healing of the Wound," 2002

I am a sociologist, and also a couple and family therapist by training who used to conduct clinical work with Latin American immigrant families and women with histories of all forms of violence and abuse. As an academic, I specialize in sexuality and gender studies with populations of Mexican origin. The honest voices of Mexicans surviving on the edges of marginality and inequality in the city of Los Angeles have offered me generous amounts of ethnographic data that I have used to write a book, articles, book chapters, and encyclopedia entries about gender, Mexican immigrants, and their sex lives. As I have immersed myself in this demanding academic journey, Gloria Anzaldua's work has always been by my side but never included. I developed a relationship with her work but always in silence.

Anzaldua's writings were briefly incorporated in my academic training and when I discovered her work, it became my cup of tea, my "don't-read-after-you're-done-with-your-truly-academic" reading. Her intellectual contributions gave so much joy to my heart. Her ideas organized and explained my life as a human being, an immigrant, and a graduate student. Her words became the work that I would read for pleasure, not as an obligation like those books by Durkheim, Weber, Habermas, or Lacan.

As a highly motivated graduate student, I became an active listener in class. I always had many ideas in my mind, but I also felt intimidated and lonely. I was afraid of my Mexican-accented and mispronounced English; I had to engage in exhausting emotional and intellectual labor in my mind before I opened my mouth in class discussions. I was fearful of my immigrant tongue, I was afraid it would betray me. I became a wounded observer of academic conversations and institutions. Many times, I just wanted to quit. Alone in my small apartment in Los Angeles, I would grab La Frontera and hold it close to my heart, but I would put it back in the borderlands of my own bookshelves.

I learned to survive but I was not alone. From my few mentors and other students-in-struggle, I gradually learned to explore ways to decipher and challenge mainstream academia. And while back in my own marginality, I developed insight and strength. I was subversively happy in my own silence; in my loneliness, I enjoyed thinking about how to resist. Anzaldua's words best capture my experience, "Aqui en la soledad prospera su rebeldia. En la soledad Ella prospera. (Here in solitude her rebellion grows. In solitude She prospers (or grows)." (1)

In my silent rebellion, however, I was always afraid of even thinking about incorporating Anzaldua's theorizing in my papers and potential publications. I feared the endless questions I would have to decipher and try to answer: "Is Gloria Anzaldua a sociologist? Is she a theorist? Isn't that the Chicana lesbian who does poetry? Oh, no, no, that is not truly academic, you don't want to cite her." Afraid of being further marginalized, I have kept her academic contributions out of my own intellectual work. I was also trying to decipher my personal and professional future. I was undecided and confused. I did not know if I wanted to become a licensed therapist or an assistant professor surviving new battles.

I had a green card before I migrated from Mexico to this country 20 years ago. However, I was always hiding. And even though my Texas-born and raised mother made my legal status possible back then, in graduate school I always felt like some kind of undocumented "intellectual wannabe" who enjoyed and felt validated by the Anzalduan knowledge generated in the margins of la academia. But this knowledge was experienced and read inside a safe and warm space. I enjoyed getting lost in my own closet del conocimiento--paradoxically, the closet hiding my own desconocimiento, my ignored knowledge, always mixed with fear and apprehension. …

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