Monthly Archives: June 2012

Politics of Fear

June 25, 2012

Photo credit: Stuart Anthony/stuant63 from Flickr.

Photo credit: Stuart Anthony/stuant63 from Flickr.

By Marie “Keta” Miranda

These remarks were delivered at the 2012 NACCS Conference Panel titled “Callin’ It Like It Is: Transforming Gendered, Sexual and Heteropatriarchal Violence in Chicana/o Studies and Academic Institutions”


Fear cannot simply be created from thin air.

There have been quite a few feature stories lately about the culture of fear, especially as journalists have reflected on U.S. culture since 9/11.[i] However, I want to introduce the idea of a politics of fear into our discussion of Institutional Violence. As Antonia has stated, Institutional violence consists of the practices that violate personhood.

Anna NietoGomez helped to clarify that Institutional Violence is:

 … when authorities of institutions, and organizations both formal and informal know or should have known that members or participants are bullied, harassed, and or are subject to physical and sexual violence, but do not believe they should be held accountable to institute deterrents and consequences to prevent, investigate and rectify the problem to protect the interests of the institution or organization and instead ignore, deny, shun, blame and or intimidate those who report incidents and protect the victimizer and thereby directly or indirectly encourage the repetition of hostile and violent behavior, sanction and perpetuate a hostile and unsafe environment.

Therefore, I think that as we address practices, we also need to address the politics and other activities associated with Institutional Violence.

Fear is usually expressed in a personalized and privatized way. For example, fear resonates as “what happened to a friend or a neighbor might also happen to me.” Fear as a problem is understood in an abstract sense and is generally diffused. For example, ‘I am frightened’ is rarely focused on something specific but it does express a sense of powerlessness. Institutional Violence, I believe, is about fear that is diffused and that enables a sense of powerlessness, a diminished sense of agency that leads people to turn themselves into passive subjects. Institutional violence is about pressure groups that make us scared about the people we love and about the experiences that we cherish.

When an organization is not motivated by inclusion, the more likely it is to rely on fear — particularly the fear of being an outcast from the group’s circle or society —as a means of control over its members. In many ways this shifts the arrangements, the affection and affiliation within the group, as more individuals are prepared to sacrifice their individuality in exchange for the comfortable sense of belonging to a more powerful group. Creativity is stifled and the evolution of plans, aims and missions are frustrated. Thus the monolithic group asserts itself, “to protect the interests of the institution or organization and instead ignores, denies, shuns, blames and or intimidates those who report incidents,” and a minority of individuals—courageous enough to rebel against group constraints and diktats—are cast out. And FEAR operates. Fear as a basic survival mechanism, becomes a controlling factor in people’s lives and a controlling mechanism of the present and of the future. Discussing the use of fear in politics, Niccolo Machiavelli’s 1513 handbook, Il Principe, notes: Create a fear scenario. The aim of fear is power.

Cheri Moraga, in her “Introduction” to This Bridge Called My Back speaks about knowledge, offering a shift from a binary opposition of mind/body.

Theory of the flesh means one where the physical realities of our lives—our skin color, the land or concrete we grew up on, our sexual longings—all fuse to create a politic born out of necessity.” (23)

Moraga’s intervention sets up the bodily experiences–the personal, flesh, the private, the intimate–how these experiences inform new knowledge. While a theory of the flesh is about knowledge creation, it is also a tool of political resistance. Moraga’s theory of the flesh is tied to the experience of being excluded, and provides a call for new sites of solidarity, particularly as theories of the flesh. Fear attacks the body, where the body freezes in a paralysis. Where escape or avoidance are the behavioral acts—looking for safety.

When we look at Institutional Violence, and the politics of fear, then a Theory of the Flesh can be an action—the other response to fear—not of flight but to confront, to encourage, to act.

I think that Moraga provides a way to using the body as a way to get outside traps –regulation, law, policy, procedure—ways of doing things—that trap us, immobilize us—to finding ways of addressing how we can address Institutional Violence—so that [paraphrasing Anna’s definition] we can be accountable to institute deterrents, to find ways of prevention and remedies to enhance our organizations and institutions.

[i] Culture of Fear: Risk Taking and the Morality of Low Expectation by Frank Furedi

Professor Marie “Keta” Miranda is on the faculty at the University of Texas, San Antonio.


Theresa (Mujeres Talk Co-Moderator)  July 3, 2012 at 1:12 PM
Your essay prompts me to consider how we might enact this attention to caring for our bodies in our gatherings. Thank you for taking up how fear works on the body.

Tucson’s Save Ethnic Studies Event Featuring Ana Castillo

June 11, 2012

By Yovani Flores and Las Pilonas Productions

Yovani Flores participated in Tucson’s Save Ethnic Studies Cinco de Mayo event featuring with Dr. Ana Castillo to support students, attend the public readings of two of Castillo’s banned books and learn from the Saturday writing workshop led by Dr. Castillo. Flores reports, “After two days of student and community discussions, I had the privilege of attending the writing workshop with a group of powerful mujeres, teachers and students from the Mexican American Studies Program. Maestra Castillo invited me to document the events and ‘tell a story.’” Below is Yovani Flores’s photo essay of these events, which is a Las Pilonas Production, © copyright by Las Pilonas Productions.

Yovani Flores is a Puerto Rican published writer, poeta, filmmaker and Chicago native. Flores has lived in Phoenix, Arizona for over twenty years. Her award-winning story “El Llorón,” has been published by Chicana/Latina Studies: The Journal of Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social, Curbside Splendor Publishing and has been featured on NPR’s All Things Considered  

Las Pilonas Productions is a Phoenix-based collective of three mujeres launched in 2011 during the filming of their award-winning, debut film Thresholds. The collective includes Linda Garcia Merchant, Director, Writer and Founder of Voces Primeras, LLC; Yovani Flores, Poeta, Writer and Producer; Evon Flores Barrera, Visual Artist, SpokenWord Performer and Writer.


  1. Mujeres Talk Moderator   June 11, 2012 at 7:13 AM

    Yovani, this is great! Thank you for sharing your digital story and keeping us all informed about local events. I like the soundtrack! Theresa

  2. Dear Colleagues,

    This film was excellent. I attended the first part of Dr. Castillo’s event in Tucson with my high school baby sister. We are both natives of Arizona
    pero we live in the north. Dr. Castillo’s dedication, passion, and commitment was so inspiring to me. I am moving to Tucson as we read/speak.
    She is awesome and I hope to one day be half as cool.

    Abrazos mujeres,

    Juliette Maiorana

Gender Que(e)ries

June 4, 2012

By Anita Revilla

Anita Revilla is an Associate Professor at the University of Nevada where she serves as Director of Women’s Studies.


Mujeres Talk Moderator  June 4, 2012 at 10:32 AM

Thanks Anita for sharing this! We will all be voting on updating our bylaws this year at 2012 Summer Institute.

Petition in Support of Ethnic Studies in AZ

June 4, 2012

A Message from MALCS Member Alvina Quintana:

Subject: Superintendent Huppenthal, Stop attacking Mexican American
Studies & reinstate TUSD’s MAS program

Hello MALCS Members and Friends,

Huppenthal has eliminated a successful Mexican American Studies in
Tucson Unified School District, and is now calling for a ban on
Mexican American Studies in AZ’s public universities. The state should
not be telling students what they cannot read and professors what they
cannot teach.

We provide asylum to students and professors in whose countries books,
curriculum, and ideas are banned.  Huppenthal’s actions violate the
most basic spirit of our country’s founding principles.

That’s why I signed a petition to John Huppenthal, AZ State
Superintendent of Public Instruction and TUSD Board of Education.

Will you sign this petition? Click here:


Alvina Quintana is on the faculty at the University of Delaware where she is an Associate Professor of Women’s Studies. Her web page is:


Mujeres Talk Moderator    June 4, 2012 at 10:33 AM

Thanks Alvina! I signed.