Academic journal article Educational Foundations

Before the Tenure Track: Graduate School Testimonios and Their Importance in Our Profesora-Ship Today

Academic journal article Educational Foundations

Before the Tenure Track: Graduate School Testimonios and Their Importance in Our Profesora-Ship Today

Article excerpt

So I had a dream. Two other female graduate students of color and were imprisoned in a dark, subterranean facility where all inmates were people of color. We were given an escape map that involved driving a white golf cart out of the light-less prison onto the ground level, which was the Berkeley campus. The three of us steered through Cal's grounds with success because of this inherited map; we reached the south side of campus and were 'free."

The above description really is a dream experienced by one of us authors (Sanchez) during first-semester doctoral studies in northern California. In many ways, dreams like these are symbolic and representative of what it is like to be an underrepresented "minority" in "Whitestream" institutions or organizations (Urrieta, 2009). Metaphorically, the "escape" mentioned above, as well as the maneuvering through a public institution of higher learning, parallels the journey many of us women of color have traveled to find educational success in the US. We have emerged from a "prison" that represents the structure of White-male-dominant social-cultural reproduction processes. However, the "maps" we have inherited as members of communities of color have often not been as explicit or direct--or as dangerous--as the physical maps used to route, for example, the Underground Railroad led by Harriet Tubman or the paths to El Norte by coyotes.

Instead, the "maps" we use today to navigate such places like graduate school or the tenure-track system form part of an entire repertoire of resistive arts. Members of our communities have carved out paths of resistance and provided us with tools for navigating these paths in the forms of "hidden transcripts" (Scott, 1990). But regarding these "maps," two important questions come to mind: How have some of these hidden "maps" developed? And how have they been passed on from person to person, from one community to another, from one generation to the next, from one woman of color scholar to another?

In an attempt to address these questions, we argue that resistance remains to a large extent a conscious effort, though it may take shape as an unconscious act, and that oppositional behavior or agency serves as a potential foundation for future (hidden) maps of resistance. Social reproduction processes by definition create an oppressive and hegemonic structure that cannot help but produce acts of opposition and resistance. According to Henry Giroux (1983) in his analysis of neo-Marxist resistance studies, "mechanisms of social and cultural reproduction are never complete and are always faced with partially realized elements of opposition" (p. 100). James Scott (1990), too, describes several examples of African Americans resisting the slave-master structure through "discourse that takes place 'offstage,' beyond direct observation by powerholders" (p. 4). And in yet another example, Devon Pena (1997) documents maquiladora workers' opposition to the Fordist structure and pace of assembly-line work through the use of tortuguismo or "work at the pace of a turtle" inside maquiladoras (p. 112).

All of the above examples demonstrate the agency humans draw upon to counter processes of social reproduction. The power of our humanity rests in our ability to see these openings and sites of contradiction within structures of reproduction. There is ultimately no structure too strong or too contrived to not allow an opening of some size for human opposition to exist. Whether this opposition qualifies as strictly "resistance" or not is also another important factor in jarring social reproduction processes.

In his piece, "Reproduction, Resistance, and Accommodation in the Schooling Process," Giroux (1983) emphasizes that in order for human opposition to qualify as resistance, it must possess emancipatory qualities. Like Giroux, Solorzano and Bernal (2001) assert that "resistance is motivated by a desire to create more just and equitable learning environments" (p. …

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