Academic journal article Ethnic Studies Review

Perspectivist Chicano Studies, 1970-1985

Academic journal article Ethnic Studies Review

Perspectivist Chicano Studies, 1970-1985

Article excerpt

Michael Soldatenko^1 Santa Monica College

This essay examine the development and failure of Perspectivist Chicano Studies. By the late 1960s Chicano(a) academics constructed several views of Chicano Studies. Not all Chicanos(as) followed El Plan de Santa Barbara nor interpreted it in the same manner; several expressions of Chicano Studies existed. This essay traces one such articulation through the writings of Romano and Carranza who develop perspectivism. In the academy the writings of Rodriguez and Rocco manifest Perspectivist Chicano Studies. Moreover in the writings of Atencio and the activists of Hijos del sol we encounter a non-academic expression of this view of Chicano Studies. The essay ends with the failure of Perspectivist Chicano Studies to challenge the rise of an empirical driven Chicano Studies.

The on-campus activism by Chicano and Chicana studies produced a plethora of intellectual styles of knowing in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The Chicano(a) student movements, together with the boom in Chicano Studies^2 programs, led to an explosion of academic production. While many intellectuals followed the political and intellectual agenda established by El Plan de Santa Barbara, El Plan was not the only possible option for Chicanos(as) in the academy. The activism that led to the formulation of El Plan also brought to life other configurations of Chicano intellectual work. There was a time, in other words, when multiple Chicano Studies coexisted with several possible options of bridging Chicano Studies and the academy. This chaotic and complex period witnessed the construction of many styles of Chicano Studies that expressed distinct intellectual approaches and programs--formulated in a hostile, aggressive, and turbulent environment. In this essay I will trace one such tradition: "Perspectivist Chicano Studies."^3

It is difficult to define Perspectivist Chicano Studies. This vision lost the struggle to present itself as the legitimate interpretation of Chicano Studies. By the late 1970s and early 1980s, Perspectivist Chicano Studies became an increasingly peripheral and fragmented intellectual agenda surviving in corners of some non-research teaching institutions, alternative educational institutions, the arts, and certain community organizations. As victorious "Empirical Chicano Studies" settled in the prestigious institutions and its works were transformed into the canon of Chicano Studies, the perspectivist writers were progressively pushed toward peripheral journals or self-publication. As the "empirics" further disciplined the field, they apprehended Perspectivist Chicano Studies as at best a quaint romantic vision and at worst as irrational and apolitical. Because of the success of the empirics, Perspectivist Chicano Studies never had the opportunity to mature into a concise intellectual style, its practitioners often being isolated. This lack of success allowed enormous variation among perspectivist writing as well as off key, if not contradictory, expressions of this style.

Given these caveats, nevertheless, I believe I can still provide a working definition for this intellectual style. Perspectivists centered their work on formulating a Chicano standpoint that arose from their experience in the US. Critical of social science research and skeptical of academic work, these scholars sought to establish an oppositional epistemology rooted in the process of Chicano(a) identity formation.

To understand this perspectivist position, we need to turn to Chicano(a) early endeavors to understand Mexican thought. In looking over early syllabi in Chicano Studies courses (1968-1975) one can see the influence of Patrick Romanell's Making of the Mexican Mind, Samuel Ramos' Profile of Man and Culture in Mexico, and Octavio Paz's The Labyrinth of Solitude. These texts provided Chicanos(as) with a particular interpretation of the "Mexican character" and, more importantly, with a theoretical/philosophical vision. …

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