Academic journal article Bilingual Review

The Legacy of Gloria Anzaldua: Finding a Place for Women of Color in Academia

Academic journal article Bilingual Review

The Legacy of Gloria Anzaldua: Finding a Place for Women of Color in Academia

Article excerpt

Although this was not always the case, Gloria Anzaldua is a US woman of color who has found a place in the academy and the English canon. As Debra Castillo describes in her article "Chicana Feminist Criticism" (1-19), "until astonishingly recently, Anglophone Chicana literature has been institutionally homeless, perceived as marginal, or second rate, thus not respected within English Department circles," yet critics have also "made Anzaldua 'the representative' of 'the border'" (Baca 21). While Anzaldua is a wonderful representative of Chicana literature and scholarship and despite the inclusion of her work in many university syllabi and editions such as the Norton anthology, I think she would agree that there are still many issues with the exclusion of our literature and theorizing in academia. As Cynthia Franklin points out in her article "Recollecting This Bridge in an Anti-Affirmative Action Era," published in This Bridge We Call Home, even the inclusion of "Tlilli, Tlapalli: The Path of the Red and Black Ink" in the Norton anthology instead of one of Anzaldua's more activist pieces that challenge what constitutes literature and theory is problematic (418). Laura Harris adds, "Across the board, where efforts are made to diversify departments, curricula, and other academic structures, it is not the systematic foundation of the particular department, curriculum, or academic structure that itself is altered. Instead, existing conditions are augmented by adding token diversity.... Tokenism functions only to validate large-scale exclusion by providing a misleading veneer of diversity and transformation" (376).

As Anzaldua wrote, "I got tired of hearing students say that Bridge was required in two or three of their women's studies courses; tired of being a resource for teachers and students who asked me what texts by women of color they should read or teach and where they could get these writings. I had grown frustrated that the same few women-of-color were asked to read or lecture in universities and classrooms, or to submit work to anthologies and quarterlies. Why weren't other women-of-color being asked?" (Making Face xvi). Similarly, while at Arizona State University, I found that I was unable to move forward in my study of Latino literature at the graduate level within the English department because any classes that included a Latino author were writers I had already read and discussed in another class, often more than once. By revisiting Gloria Anzaldua's groundbreaking works, Borderlands/La Frontera: La Nueva Mestiza, This Bridge Called My Back: Writings of Radical Women of Color, and Making Face, Making Soul/Haciendo Caras: Creative and Critical Perspectives by Feminists of Color, using Chela Sandoval's "methodology of emancipation," new answers and strategies to the marginalization of Chicana theory in academia can be found--strategies that take full advantage of the legacy left by a thinker of such wide-ranging reach.

In Methodology of the Oppressed, Chela Sandoval maps out a proposal theorizing for US peoples of color who have long acted, spoken, and intellectualized, "from the halls of the academy where it has been intercepted and domesticated" (7). This "methodology of emancipation" functions "to develop the kinds of oppositional powers that are analogous to but at the same time homeopathically resistant to postmodern transnationalization, along with peoples who are skilled enough to wield those powers," she writes. "Like US third world feminists, practitioners of this methodology act as interventionists, negotiators, assimilationists, radical transformers, separatists, and so on" (26). Chela Sandoval's "methodology of emancipation" is fourfold:

1. To develop sign-reading skills, reading power everywhere and always.

2. To engage interventionary tactics that are designed to shift the powers that operate inside any sign system: The choices on the level of the sign are (a) to deconstruct, or (b) to meta-ideologize. …

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