Tag Archives: Ella Diaz

Renewal at Mujeres Talk

September 30, 2013

We have news of departures and changes at MT to share with our readers today. We hope you will join us in thanking Sara A. Ramírez, Elena Gutiérrez and Ella Díaz for their service!

Our extremely talented Co-Editor/Moderator from 2012-2013 Sara A. Ramírez is stepping down from this role. A graduate student in Ethnic Studies at UC-Berkeley, Sara will be devoting her time and energy this academic year to work on her dissertation, which promises to be a smart, ambitious, and innovative contribution to Ethnic and Gender Studies. While we will all dearly miss working with Sara, we are excited for her that she has reached this stage in her work and wish her wonderful and inspired writing days ahead. If we were thinking only of ourselves, we might be tempted to say that her departure is not good news, but knowing how long and hard Sara has worked to make it to dissertation stage we share her joy in taking this next step. We hope she knows that she can continue to rely on all of us for support in her journey.

Since joining the Mujeres Talk Editorial Collective last year, Sara A. Ramírez has been a phenomenal contributor and collaborator. As both a lead editor and a second reader, she has corresponded with authors and solicited and/or reviewed no less than eight essays during this past year. Her commitment, dedication and collaborative skills impressed us all as exceptional, especially for a young scholar. We know that these will serve her well in her future career in academia. Sara always brought new ideas to our editorial discussions and successfully followed through on them. She was responsible and forthright in consulting with colleagues on the Collective when thorny issues surfaced. She deftly managed to incorporate varied feedback into editing suggestions to authors. Sara is a terrific editor, both careful and caring in her comments to authors. Most importantly, in her every action Sara conveyed her strong feminist ethics to build, contribute, and deepen opportunities for Chicana, Latina, and Native American women, queer and transgender folks in the academy. For these reasons, we want to take this moment to publicly thank Sara A. Ramírez for her exceptional service to Mujeres Talk and MALCS.

A second member of our Editorial Collective is also moving on to an exciting new project. Associate Professor Elena Gutiérrez is leaving Mujeres Talk to take on leadership responsibilities on another digital project: the Reproductive Justice Virtual Library. On the Mujeres Talk Editorial Collective, Elena reviewed submissions, contributed to discussions about our editorial guidelines, solicited essays for the site, and wrote an excellent essay for Mujeres Talk on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade earlier this year. Elena will be curating the Reproductive Justice Virtual Library site with movement activists and scholars across the nation. We have no doubt that Elena’s many talents in editing and writing will make RJVL a great site. We are excited about this new site, which expands the digital and online presence of women of color even further, so we wish Elena Gutiérrez every success in this exciting new endeavor!

Ella Díaz, who has contributed several excellent essays to Mujeres Talk on adjunct faculty, Latina art, sexuality and politics, mentoring, and the importance of digital publication for women of color, and who has also been a careful, generous, and keen reviewer of submissions to Mujeres Talk, will return to her earlier role as an occasional contributor to Mujeres Talk rather than a regular member of the Editorial Collective. Readers may remember that Ella joined the Collective earlier this year and contributed to the further development of editorial policy guidelines for this unique format. Ella’s enthusiasm and energy as well as her expertise in art and performance and excellent collaborative and critical skills will continue to make a valuable contribution to Mujeres Talk in this more limited role. We also wish her every success in her continued role on the MALCS Coordinating Committee and in her academic career — students at Cornell are lucky to have Ella as a professor!

Finally, we’d like to announce that Mujeres Talk will become an independent website as of October 2013! Look for an announcement of our new site soon! We plan to be up and running later this month and will be returning to our previous biweekly publication on Mondays. We developed Mujeres Talk as a project within MALCS to serve the mission and goals of the organization in an online format. In any growth process there are transitions and transformations. We have determined that continuing to grow and evolve Mujeres Talk and its capabilities will be best accomplished as a site independent of MALCS. We support the principles and goals of MALCS as we continue to build space for Chicanas, Latinas, and Native American women in the academy. We have put forward a proposal for preserving a digital archive of our site from its inception in January 2011 through today, September 2013, to the MALCS national leadership. We hope that our regular readers will continue to contribute to and follow the site. We are excited to embark on this new journey with you and your support!

Theresa Delgadillo
Inés Hernandez-Avila
Felicity Amaya Schaeffer
Elena Gutiérrez
Lucila Ek
Lourdes Alberto
Ella Díaz


  1. Anonymous    October 8, 2013 at 7:17 PM

    Dr. Diaz’ article both impressed me and saddened me, as I remember well my first three years as Lecturer(hired in a tenure-track position), 5 years as Assistant Prof, 21 years as a Lecturer(with employment security). People gave me much advice, but I could not lfollow it. I had a destiny to fulfill. Me and a large number of other people, faculty, staff, and students,working in UC System set out to transform it. Were we demented? Did we make a difference? I have no answers, but would do it all over again if I could. In the academic world, everything is negotiable. ASR

  2. Sara A. Ramírez    October 11, 2013 at 1:57 PM

    Thank you to the MT Collective for being such fantastic mujeres with whom to work. My experience with MT–especially under the guidance of Theresa Delgadillo and Seline Szkupinski Quiroga–has helped me to understand the complexities of feminist editorial work. Many thanks for this wonderful opportunity.

  3. Theresa Delgadillo, Co-Editor/Moderator    October 12, 2013 at 11:54 AM

    Many thanks to the many who have emailed us personally to express your continued support for Mujeres Talk as an independent site — we’re looking forward to continuing to hear from and work with all!

From Adjunct to Tenure Track: Reflections and Advice on Navigating an Academic Career in the 21st Century

July 8, 2013

Credit: "Adjunct Instructor" by pixelsrzen on Creative Commons/Flickr.

Credit: “Adjunct Instructor” by pixelsrzen on Creative Commons/Flickr.

By Ella Díaz

The academic career has changed dramatically over the last two decades. Some would even argue that things started to change long before the twenty-first century and for various reasons. However, it is now indisputable that junior colleagues and graduate students feel deep anxieties and pressure about their futures in the university. Finding a tenure-track job in the year that one completes her doctorate is unlikely, especially in arts and humanities fields.  The alternative to the tenure-track or multi-year postdoc is to work as an adjunct instructor, which typically means to “teach on a contract basis, often booked one semester at a time” (Bradbury 2013). Making up 75% of higher ed faculty, adjuncts are the new majority in academia, but this predominance is not beneficial. This certainly was the case for me when I completed my Ph.D. in American Studies in 2010. I had been an adjunct lecturer for four years prior to completing my degree, and would continue as contingent faculty until 2012, when I accepted a tenure-track position, after two years of rigorously applying for lectureships, assistant professorships and postdoctoral fellowships.

In January 2012, MLA president Michael Bérubé reported that “adjunct, contingent faculty make up 1.5 million people teaching in American colleges and universities. Many of them working at or under the poverty line, without health insurance; they have no academic freedom worthy of the name,  because they can be fired at will” (Bérubé 2012). A bleak outlook, Bérubé sums up the spiritual and psychological crises for recently graduated and unemployed or underemployed educators—who find their ideological and political commitments to research, teaching, and service, overshadowed by their need for health care, income to pay back student loans, and the intellectual resources that can only be guaranteed by a tenure-track position (library privileges, research funds, an office, etc.).  Furthermore, Bérubé’s point on the lack of academic freedom for adjunct faculty has ripple effects. Adjunct instructors can feel an indescribable alienation from their labor and personal integrity because they are overburdened with the fear of unexpected dismissal and not knowing semester–to-semester if they will be employed. Subsequently, they self-censor in the classroom, avoid interpersonal relationships with students who seek mentorship, and withdrawal from the larger community of the university (O’Shaughnessy 2012). Aptly entitled Ghosts in the Classroom,Michael Dubson’s 2001 examination of the plight of contingent faculty elaborates on the dilemma of being expected to perform at a professional level while not being treated professionally.

I also can’t help but consider the scarcity of tenure-track jobs at present in the context of other changes and shifts that create greater precarity in our communities—from draconian immigration laws and enforcement, to the banning of books and dismantling of programs in U.S. Latino/a Studies. The point I hope to make by spelling out the individual impact and collective toll of an adjunct faculty majority is that the stakes are higher for those of us who work in Chicana/o-Latina/o Studies at the university level than for scholars in different fields. If we are not present in the university in viable and sustainable ways, we are not able to create, shape, and put forth the knowledge that heals and advances our communities. I have in mind Jason Richwine’s 2009 dissertation which contends that low IQs among “Hispanics” in the U.S. are a genetic failure and contribute to the intellectual deterioration of the nation. His manuscript has been mentioned recently in the press and factors in political discourse on immigration reform, reminding us that knowledge is always constructed, and we have to make sure that we are part of its production.

In what follows, I offer several insights into my transition from an adjunct lecturer of six years to a tenure-track assistant professor. I am aware that every situation is different, including mine. Nevertheless, I believe some of my experiences may offer a perspective to recent graduate students and adjunct faculty that can facilitate professionalization, whether or not one is on a tenure-track.

One of the most important insights I can offer adjunct lecturers and recent graduates is to think strategically about your labor. Sure, you are teaching classes—from writing lesson plans and assignments, to grading student work and holding office hours (at cafes, coffee shops, and the other meeting places of the adjunct lecturer with no office.) But look more closely at what you are doing. Are you conversing in multiple languages? Are you participating in reading or writing groups with other colleagues or graduate students? Are you discussing curriculum for the upcoming semester? I ask because I have recently realized that part of the problem of contingent labor in academia is the alienation one feels through the denial of professionalization, a process that is largely made up of vocabulary and official terms. Of course, the process of professionalization in academia isn’t only linguistic; it also includes levels of access that facilitate research and ultimately, scholarship, through funding, institutional privileges, and a sense of job security. But on the average day, reading and writing groups, bilingual networks, classroom instruction, and student tutorials, are the ways you labor, whether you refer to them as such. Each of these activities are essentially what tenure-track colleagues are doing; they are simply told what to call such activities: a writing group, a language enrichment meeting, a student research group, a curriculum committee and other academic service and research.

In my first year as a tenure-track assistant professor I have had several trainings in which I have been introduced to professionalizing vocabularies. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I have been using concepts of “universal design” in my classroom and “service-learning” components in my syllabi; I have also been a longtime contributor to undergraduate curriculum planning, but now I am on an official committee with senior colleagues. In other words, I have literally been taught how to talk about what I am doing when I am lesson-planning, writing course descriptions, instructing, researching and writing. As an adjunct instructor, your reading or writing group may not be funded by your university, but the work is the same and it is important to know how you have labored when conversing with tenured faculty, interviewing for positions and networking.

In the process of identifying your labor, it is imperative to value everything you do—be it a lecture at a local history society, a public library or a community center. I didn’t realize all of my labor value until my new senior colleagues commented on how many times I popped up on Google for 2011-2012. As an adjunct lecturer, I had to hustle for venues and invitations to present my work. I inquired with galleries, community centers and public history groups for lectures and events. In doing so, I increased my public profile in ways I did not expect because most of these organizations have websites and advertise events and programming. During my job interview and campus visit, I heard several tenured faculty remark on my community activism and creative projects. Moreover, my work outside the university also inspired new academic research and took me in directions I would have never gone if I had stayed safe and entrenched in the university. But many MALCSistas already know the value of community-based work because you’re active in local organizations and causes as part of research, service-learning, civic duty or spiritual care. It’s time to merge these activities (at least on paper) with your professional profile.

Also, how are you accounting for all of your writing? For many of us in humanities fields, we must publish a book and peer-reviewed articles to achieve tenure. But, in the twenty-first-century, other genres and outlets for writing are imperative, and many of you are blogging on your own websites, or on sites like The Huffington PostVice, and our fledgling Mujeres Talk. While blogging is not weighted on the level that the aforementioned publications are for tenure, it offers a particular visibility that can enhance your public profile. So, if you blog, you should make note of it in a professional way, including on your CV, school profile or even business cards. Are you linking your blogs to other known sites? Are you tracking your hits? You never know who’s reading your posts. Recently a tenure-track colleague of mine sent me an email exclaiming that she was thrilled by a blog on the very topic of obtaining a Ph.D. in a humanities field, despite the shrinking pool of tenure-track opportunities. The blog she was so excited about was written by an adjunct instructor. There are two points I hope to make with my example. The first one is that name recognition is incredibly helpful for contingent faculty. If you’re writing blogs or other online commentary, you are building a reputation that may be helpful to you down the road for getting an interview, or even while on an interview, because you never know who is a fan.

The second point I want to make with this particular example is that despite our titles, we are all colleagues, whether one is an adjunct lecturer, professor, instructor, practitioner, artist, etc. It is a system of power (that grows more corporate in structure every day), which categorizes us into different positions; it is not our degrees, nor our scholarship or very persons that have done so. Remember:numerous framers of our fields, including Gloria Anzaldúa, were contingent faculty.

Bérubé touches on the issue of collegiality in his report. He comments that after referring to an adjunct instructor as his colleague, the person thanked him because it was rare when she was referred to as such by her own tenured colleagues. While I don’t want to overemphasize Bérubé’s anecdote or suggest that it is a cure-all to the hardships faced by contingent faculty, the sentiment is not lost on me because, in my six years as an adjunct lecturer, when I was treated by tenured colleagues as, well, a colleague, it made an impact on my teaching and my occupational identity. Moreover, for colleagues who are already tenured, I suggest you reach out to your adjunct colleagues. Mentoring junior colleagues who are in departments as adjuncts can be disconcerting for tenured faculty because they are sometimes unsure how to advise them on advancing. But advice is always welcome and so is friendship.

It is important to remember that the culture of silence that surrounds the changes to the academic career is not our culture. And if the changes that are happening are not ours by desire or design, our responses to them should not perpetuate the problem by not talking about them, whether we are tenured or not. In fact, our culture offers a powerful alternative to the status quo, as lecturer and blogger Annemarie Perez recently wrote in response to the flurry of online articles on the dismal state of the academic job market: “Yes, part of me reads these articles and understands. The job market / adjunct situation is bad. Rejection sucks. Uncertainty is hard. But nothing is ever certain. My family is proud of the adjuncting work I do, proud of the editing work I do, proud of me. They wouldn’t understand (or care) about the difference between a tenured and untenured position. To them all employment is uncertain, all work has dignity” (April 16, 2013Perez’s statement is powerful for all of us to remember. It definitely reminds me of who I am on a daily basis and motivates me to speak with undergraduate and graduate students about why I wanted a Ph.D. in the first place. Ironically, the reasons that I wanted to be a professor are the very same ones for the Chicana undergraduate, who came to my office last May to ask me to be her advisor. Her reasons for wanting to become a Ph.D. aren’t innocent, naïve or overly idealistic. They are time-tested, honorable and based on tradition. With this blog, I hope more of you will weigh in and offer advice and testimony on your experiences.

Ella Diaz is an Assistant Professor of English at Cornell University. Her research is on the interdependence of Chicana/o and Latina/o literary and visual cultures.


  1. Ella Diaz    July 10, 2013 at 10:55 AM

    I have also had time to catch up on some of my journal reading and I recommend that folks check out George Lipsitz and Barbara Tomlinson’s brilliant essay on accompaniment in this last spring’s AMST Quarterly. My thoughts in the above blog fit nicely into this larger perspective of the stakes of our work as academics: https://muse.jhu.edu/login?auth=0&type=summary&url=/journals/american_quarterly/v065/65.1.tomlinson.pdf

  2. Theresa Delgadillo    July 14, 2013 at 9:46 AM


    Thanks for this blog essay offering both advice and perspective on the adjunct situation. Readers might also be interested in a recent blog on this topic in the Chronicle of Higher Education titled “I’m an Adjunct, Not a Volunteer.”

    A colleague recently asked me for advice about an adjunct offer she received and it occurred to me that we know much more about advising someone in negotiations for tenure-track jobs than we do about advising them on adjunct work. For example, must one accept the teaching load and salary that is offered or is there any room for negotiation? Where are better places for adjunct work? Should you try to do service as an adjunct to prove that you would make a good tenure track hire or do you stick just to your work? What can we do to diminish the reliance on adjunct faculty? I appreciate how your essay calls us to discuss these topics more openly.

  3. CR    September 24, 2013 at 7:22 AM

    I believe this is another reason why the US can’t compete in the global marketplace– an education system can hardly thrive and remain worldclass when educators have to struggle and new talent isn’t incentivized to enter and stay in academia.

A Visit From Artist Ana Teresa Fernandez

November 26, 2012

by Ella Diaz

Photo by Rio Yañez

Photo by Rio Yañez

            Ana Teresa Fernandez is a visual artist, sculptor, and performance artist based in San Francisco, CA. Originally from Tampico, Mexico, Ana moved in 1991 with her family to San Diego, California. In the early 2000s, Ana earned her MFA at the San Francisco Art Institute [SFAI], and began teaching drawing and painting around the time I began teaching in the humanities at the SFAI. But before I actually met her, I first encountered Ana Teresa Fernandez through her 2008 exhibition, “Ecdisis: Juarez, Mexico” at the Galería de la raza in San Francisco, California. See http://www.galeriadelaraza.org/eng/events/index.php?op=view&id=1244 

            This exhibit featured Ana’s oversized ex-votos, better known as milagros, which are the diminutive metal fetishes of hands, hearts, arms, and other sacred body parts often used in syncretic and hybrid spiritual rituals in Mexico and Central America. Ana’s replicas of Milagros were “life-size” and hung on a red velvet wall. By isolating these representations of body parts and contextualizing them within a well-known spiritual practice for many Mexicanas and Latinas, Ana reframed the recovery of the mutilated and desecrated bodies of women murdered in Juarez. This show stayed with me for many years as I tried to find ways to talk and teach about Ciudad Juarez and representations of female sexuality and gender in the neoliberal state. See http://anateresafernandez.com/ecdisis/af_111708_prs_001/  

            Another component of the exhibit featured Ana’s creation of glass sculptures of several children, orphaned by the femicide in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, as well as children left parentless through sexual and labor exploitation in Bangladesh and Vietnam. Ana began the process of creating the sculptures first by taking molds of the children in various poses. She then took the molds and covered them with broken glass from beer bottles. Her choice of material was based on her travels through Haiti and Ciudad Juarez where she noticed that broken glass was often as a type of home security system, placed at the tops of walls as a defense against robbery and other crimes. The broken glass sculptures were illuminated during the 2008 exhibit and positioned against walls of the Galería; one of the sculpture-children was placed on a bench. The figures were at once beautiful, haunting, and lonely. Ana wanted viewers to think about the multi-generational repercussions of the ongoing femicide in Ciudad Juarez, as well as the fallout of other epicenters of violence against women. Ultimately, the broken glass sculptures visually conveyed Ana’s and our inability to protect these children from the crimes against their mothers and the traumas imposed upon them as a consequence and in the future without the protective presence and defense of their mothers.           

Photo by Rio Yañez

Photo by Rio Yañez

            Returning to her recent lecture at my campus on November 8, Ana centered her presentation around her 2010 work, “Borranda la barda/Erasing the border.” (http://anateresafernandez.com/borrando-la-barda-tijuana-mexico/) In 2010, Ana “set an enormous ladder against the border wall separating Playas de Tijuana from San Diego’s Border Field State park, and using a generator and a spray gun, she started painting the bars a pale powdery blue. While wearing a little black cocktail dress. And black pumps” (Jill Holslin, 2010). Writer Jill Holslin concludes that “Erasing the border, then, reminds us of the power of utopian visions, of dreams and the imagination.” Utopian visions are not uncommon in narrative, and Ana works across many mediums, from visual art, to performance and social sculpture, to tell the stories that shape our cultural experiences. For those of you who may not be familiar with social sculpture, it’s an idea put forth by Joseph Beuys in the 1960s and 1970s that proposes sculpture as a potential for and an act of societal transformation. 

            One aspect of “Borranda la barda” that I had difficulty reconciling is Ana’s selected wardrobe for painting the border fence: a little black dress and black high heels. As a Chicana who has witnessed many offensive perceptions of overtly sexual apparel, I didn’t know how to read this component of her performance and intervention on the border. During her lecture, however, Ana explained that the “little black dress” is a loaded symbol—even a kind of capital—in the western imagination. By placing it out of its expected context—the nightclub, the lounge, etc.—Ana is able to channel its co-opted power, or objectifying gaze and turn it back on her viewer. 

            Also, while in the midst of painting the border that perfect shade of sky blue, she was detained by to policemen on the Mexican side, while helicopters hovered above her on the U.S. side. Her negotiation with the police went on for 45 minutes. Ana contends that her little black dress had everything to do with her ability to finish painting the piece. 

            Earlier this year, Ana learned that “Borranda la barda” had been destroyed—repainted the black color of the fence. Prior to arriving at Cornell to give her lecture, Ana returned to the fence and repainted “Borranda la barda” that perfect shade of sky blue that, at a certain distance, restores the horizon to an unbroken, unblocked natural divide, where the ocean meets the land.

Ella Diaz is an Assistant Professor of English at Cornell University. Her research is on the interdependence of Chican@ and Latin@ literary and visual cultures.


  1. Anonymous November 29, 2012 at 7:53 AM

    I had the pleasure of seeing Ana Teresa Fernandez’s work when she came to Cornell University and presented “Blurring Borders: Redefining Truths, Fables, and Folklores”. I was familiar with a few of her works before the presentation, but the highlight of the presentation for me was hearing about how Ana utilized local materials (garbage in Haiti, glass in Mexico) within her art and performance. The lack of accessible “traditional” art materials (paint, paper, brushes, etc.) was incredibly striking when we see the incredible work Ana has done in engaging local materials within a community consciousness in Haiti. Her representation of the children of Mexico orphaned by the Femicides in Ciudad Juarez was a striking portrayal of the multi-generational impact of violence and the inability to protect children from this trauma.

    In her performance of “Borranda la barda”, Ana addressed the binaries of female identity (perceived and performed) along a heavy politicalized border state. Her performance of both female identity and nationalism was particularly striking in the U.S./Mexico borderlands, specifically when looking at the Femicides of Ciudad Juarez.
    I look forward to researching Ana’s work in the future and am extremely thankful I was given the opportunity to hear her present her work at Cornell University.
    -Sarah Anderson

  2. Ester December 3, 2012 at 8:17 AM

    What a courageous artistic intervention into difficult subjects. Thank you Ella, for providing the context of these creations. It makes me appreciate her sensibility to address literal dismemberment, carnage if you will, without producing more injury.

  3. Theresa Delgadillo December 3, 2012 at 8:18 AM

    Dear Ella, Thanks for sharing the pictures and discussion of Ana Teresa Fernandez’s work. The casts of children covered in broken glass are quite moving, and ask us to reflect on violence against children on many levels in new global economies. How wonderful for your students as well that they heard her and had the opportunity to learn about violence at the U.S.-Mexico border through an artist’s engagement with the topic that foregrounds critical discussion. Theresa Delgadillo, Co-Moderator of Mujeres Talk

  4. Ella Diaz December 3, 2012 at 2:22 PM

    “without producing more injury.” What a beautiful response, Ester, to Ana’s work in the Ecdysis show on the murdered women of Juarez.

  5. GGuerra91 December 4, 2012 at 11:34 AM

    I also had the opportunity to attend her lecture and the lunch with her.
    The choice to bring ATF to Cornell, especially given the timing with our class was great. It allowed us to be exposed to a new kind of artist, one that is raising awareness about most of the issues discussed in class.

    She is resourceful and works with her environment, this is very important because it teaches people, specially the natives of the area, that they can use anything to beautify and create art. This was evident in her work in Haiti and in South Africa. In the latter country, she was able to show that artists have the duty to report the beauties of everyday life instead of reporting/focusing on the negative like the news do.
    Overall, it was a great experience being able to meet her and understand the thought process and goals of her art.
    -Gloria Guerra

  6. GGuerra91 December 4, 2012 at 11:34 AM

    I also had the opportunity to attend her lecture and the lunch with her.
    The choice to bring ATF to Cornell, especially given the timing with our class was great. It allowed us to be exposed to a new kind of artist, one that is raising awareness about most of the issues discussed in class.

    She is resourceful and works with her environment, this is very important because it teaches people, specially the natives of the area, that they can use anything to beautify and create art. This was evident in her work in Haiti and in South Africa. In the latter country, she was able to show that artists have the duty to report the beauties of everyday life instead of reporting/focusing on the negative like the news do.
    Overall, it was a great experience being able to meet her and understand the thought process and goals of her art.
    -Gloria Guerra

  7. Sophie Loren December 10, 2012 at 6:03 PM

    Though I know this blog talks about Ana Teresa Fernadez’s work, I really enjoyed the altar of photographs that Maria Teresa Fernandez, who happens to be Ana Teresa’s mother, created and left on display for at the Latino Studies Program here at Cornell University until late November. It was a way of humanizing the border when so many times it is militarized especially by the responses the United States has taken in the past years (because the U.S. must “secure” the border). I was able to actually take an instructor and another peer of mine who would have never stumbled upon this type of work and show them the exhibit. This was a way for me to raise consciousness in others (esp. since that one peer came from a privileged background).

    Moving back to the work that Ana Teresa Fernandez did on the border really struck me. She stated in her lecture that her work was about “transcending the given, by changing the context” and she gave them example of the broom and how it wasn’t dirty on the floor but was dirty when left on a pillow. She does the same with her little black dress and she places it out of context and calls attention to what she is doing but more importantly to the border and how she is erasing it as she paints it blue.

    I could continue to go on but all I can say is that I was taken aback by both Ana Teresa and Maria Teresa’s ingenuity and how they use art to speak and give voice to those who are voiceless in our world.

  8. Vanesa L. December 13, 2012 at 8:43 PM

    Attending Ana Teresa Fernandez’s lecture at Cornell University was a great experience . There were two exhibits that struck me the most. The first one was NanMitaNan: Haiti. I thought it was amazing that Ana Teresa was able to make sculptures out of plastic bottles she found. More importantly, the clear plastic material against the backdrop of oil lamps not only showed Ana’s ability to use the resources around her, it reflected the ghost of the beautiful architectural structures in Haiti, the lack of resources and the invisibility of Haitian people to the rest of the world. I believe that Haiti is stuck “nan mitana” or in the middle between their historic accomplishments of gaining independence in 1804 and the potential of what nation could be. Her Ecdisis:Juarez, Mexico exhibit was also very memorable . The glass figures of the children were beautiful but it made me realize the generational effects that femicides have on these children. The children are fragile but defensive just like the jagged pieces of glass that make up the sculptures. To have their mothers taken way from them without justice being served is devastating. Thus, the femicides in Juarez has serious implications for the future of Juarez.

    I thought Ana Teresa’s work was fantastic. I hope she continues to do more work involving different human rights issues around the world.


October 8, 2012

Forever 22




By Ella Diaz

I deliberated over the topic of my first blog for Mujeres Talk this fall 2012. I wanted to pick something big—both central to the upcoming election and to our lives as Chicanas and Latinas. After hearing and reading about rumors of a Monica Lewinsky tell-all book, I realized that a critique of Clinton at this moment in the election season is not only the political maneuver of one party over another. It also yields big insights into how women continue to be perceived in American culture.

There are conflicting reports as to whether or not Lewinsky will write a tell-all memoir of her affair with President Clinton between 1995 and 1997. She is going to: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/she-the-people/post/monica-lewinskys-steamy-account-of-clinton-affair-could-get-12-million-advance-report-says/2012/09/20/43736520-035a-11e2-9132-f2750cd65f97_blog.html  She is not going to: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/20/monica-lewinsky-book_n1900960.html)

Many of you may be indifferent to whether she tells or doesn’t tell; others may be screaming “Ella! Who cares?” These points of view represent the majority of reactions on blogs, such as The Huffington Post, which also reported this September that Lewinsky is not planning on writing the book. Some more suspicious commentators also add that, given the election season, Lewinsky could be cashing in on an “expensive rumor.” (See the comments in Huffing Post blog link) Nevertheless, news stories and blogs continue to announce that Lewinsky’s book is on. So why does this story matter?

Hearing about Lewinsky again, and the idea of her telling all, takes me back to my undergraduate days at UC Santa Cruz. I was 20 and a sophomore when the news story broke. I had a friend who met Lewinsky while she was in the U.C. – D.C. program, a pipeline for political science majors to intern at the capitol and other government entities. I remember staring at that famous cover of Time and thinking, “Why and how could you want to do it with an old guy?” I purposely write my reaction to the news story in this way to capture my mindset at 20, someone close to Monica’s age. I didn’t understand attractions to power and I was fairly innocent about sex. Wait, am I suggesting Monica did understand and wasn’t innocent?

So here is why her story continues to matter. Monica Lewinsky is a national (read: white) measure by which I (and numerous women) silently and implicitly judge the sexual propriety of young women and champion personal accountability as equality of the sexes, a big term and idea in the 2012 election. Why—16 years later—do we not remember President Clinton as the source of the scandal or hold him personally accountable? We misuse ‘personal accountability’ with Monica because she is not the one who represents power in the paradigm of President of the United States and intern.

How many of you remember who you were at 22? How many of you are 22? I never attempted to understand Monica, walk in her shoes, or consider her point of view. From the outset, I internalized the mainstream media’s framing of her in the 1990s.

Holding Lewinsky personally accountable for two people’s unethical actions hijacked her life in long-term ways. I remember years after the scandal, I saw her on T.V. attempting to launch a handbag line. I thought it was strange, and I felt sorry for her. It never occurred to me that employment must have been scarce and that she was attempting to harness her unwanted celebrity in a profitable way. Lewinsky did work with author Andrew Morton on a story about the affair and, according to sources, she made about a million dollars. Overall, many news stories on her indicate that finding work is not easy. But I guess we think we’ve come a long way from pinning scarlet letters on women who have sex with men that they shouldn’t.

Interestingly, I revisited some old interviews with Lewinsky (see the Barbara Walters special from 1999 here: http://youtu.be/fpCv-UT2yCU. Lewinsky grew up affluent, white, and had an affair with another married man while in high school. I forgot about that. Walters asks Lewinsky, “Why do you keep having affairs with married men?” Lewinsky claims she didn’t have feelings of self-worth and felt unworthy of being with a man. One wonders if we will ever critically assess these responses. What if we read Lewinsky’s answers to this question through Aida Hurtado’s The Color of Privilege? Hurtado claims that, in many ways, white women and women of color’s interactions and alliances continue to be structured along heteronormative hierarchies of desire. Drawing on Hurtado’s framework, let me be blasphemous: 

Why shouldn’t Lewinsky make money off having sex with Clinton? I can’t help but recall an article by Tiffany Ana López—“Emotional Contraband: Prison as Metaphor and Meaning in U.S. Latina Drama” (2003)—in which she quotes Ashe Bandele’s experience of bodily searches before conjugal visits with her incarcerated husband: “The first two or three times that happened to me, I felt immodest. I felt shame and embarrassment. Now I feel camaraderie with women who work the peep shows or who lap dance for a living. Except, of course, I don’t get paid. But you know I think I should. Every glance that gets held too long, for each time one of those police runs his fingers across my underwear, those motherfuckers owe me, in the very least, cash money.”[i]

In payment for all of our disapproving eyes that lingered a bit too long, I hope Lewinsky gets paid cash money for telling.

Ella Diaz is an Assistant Professor of English at Cornell University. Her research is on the interdependence of Chican@ and Latin@ literary and visual cultures.

[i] Bandele, The Prisoner’s Wife: A Memoir, 1999: 47.

  1. Sara Ramirez  October 9, 2012 at 5:18 PM

    I was in middle school when the name “Monica Lewinsky” became synonymous with “vieja cochina” at my parents’ house. I didn’t think about Lewinsky’s age though; I just thought about the attention she was getting. Sure, it was negative attention, but, hey, I thought, she didn’t have just *any* affair: it was an affair with the *President of the United States.*

    I was not able to articulate it at age 12, but I knew Lewinsky’s fame had something to do with attaining the kind of power women rappers like MC Luscious (“Boom, I Got Your Boyfriend”) and Salt-N-Pepa (“None of Your Business”) were describing in the early ’90s. I sensed this power came with breaking rules, crossing boundaries.

    Of course, today I know that power is a relative dynamic. While Lewinsky may have learned to be “comfortable with [her] sensuality,” as she explains in the Walters interview, her self-empowerment seems to have been co-opted by a media that caters to an audience inculcated with heteropatriarchal notions of intimacy. Both Lewinsky and Walters repeat the word “sensuality” throughout the first part of the interview, and I can’t help but think how this story would be different if we considered Lewinsky’s energy connection to Oshun, the Yoruba goddess who rules over positive interconnections, including sensuality.

    This was a really provocative and fierce essay, Ella. Thanks for posting!

  2. Theresa Delgadillo  October 10, 2012 at 9:42 AM

    Ella, I want to read your essay as a “hands-off-using-women’s-bodies-to-advance-your-political-agenda” statement, but the possible tell-all book strikes an odd note for me. The Huffington Post article about this possibility cites a 1999 interview as a source (!). While I appreciate your consideration of power differentials, who or what benefited from making a spectacle of one woman’s body seems relevant.

  3. Ella Diaz  October 10, 2012 at 3:17 PM

    Both smart responses. I think that the media and personalities that are the media find Lewinsky an old news story (pun intended) when called on their reposting of an interview that is over a decade old. Using the story as a reminder of the immorality of a president (meaning party) over another is why the story recirculates right now. I wonder if Lewinsky watches the interview with Walters now and just fricking cringes… A story that served as a headliner now careens as a reminder. So, yes, in both contexts female body serving meaning and agendas other than her own.

Thoughts on Limbaugh, Sex for Pleasure and Birth Control

March 26, 2012

By Ella Diaz

"Prevention" by brains the head

“Prevention” by brains the head

The recent radio blast by Rush Limbaugh regarding 3rd year law school student, Sandra Fluke, and her advocacy for female student rights to contraception at Georgetown University was jarring for this MALCS blogger. Sandra Fluke was verbally attacked by Rush Limbaugh and I was shocked by the hatred for a particular type of woman in this country. This particular type of woman is like me and you: she is well-educated, articulate, progressive in her politics, and feminist in her worldview and praxis. This particular type of woman is definitely a symbolic threat in our high-security-times in the U.S., a period in which our law enforcement seeks control and surveillance at all levels of society. While many may write off Limbaugh’s attack of Fluke as belligerent, or out of touch, the fact is that global misogyny and feminicide is exploding and undeniable. Left unchecked for so long, it is now rearing its head more visibly in the affluent and privileged classes. In other words, it is of no concern to Fluke’s detractors if she is white, married, a mother, or culturally conservative as she definitely demonstrated in her interview with journalist Amy Goodman on February 17, 2012, which you can watch at: http://www.democracynow.org/2012/2/17/where_are_the_women_lawmakers_walk

Fluke was barred from testifying in front of a Congressional panel considering contraception coverage by religious institutions. (Let’s bear in mind that religious institutions are completely entitled to their points of view on the topic, but health care providers are not.) In her interview, Goodman asked Fluke to respond to the charge that the government should not be involved in women’s reproductive choices; Fluke replied that the issue was actually about women’s health. She gave an example of a colleague who suffers from polycystic ovarian syndrome and is under-going premature menopause because she doesn’t have access to birth control at Georgetown, proving her point that doctors prescribe birth control for women’s health issues; it is not merely a family planning tool or a way to avoid having babies. Fluke also made sure to qualify herself as a married (a.k.a. monogamous) woman in her interview with Goodman. Verbal attacks and cultural campaigns against professional women who speak publicly about their bodies will only increase in the coming months leading up to the election.

While I applaud Fluke’s smart strategy for countering mainstream presumptions about why women use birth control, I wonder if it only maintains patriarchal standards for women? I mean, I’m not married, I don’t have or desire any kids, and I am sexually active. With nothing to be ashamed of, I would like to confront Limbaugh’s carefully laid out rationale for why women such as me should post our sexual activities on the internet, since we expect the government to pay us to have sex. Oh, yes, folks, I am not putting words in his mouth or even paraphrasing:

Rush Limbaugh“What does it say about the college co-ed Susan Fluke [sic] who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex? What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? Makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex, she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex.”

Limbaugh went onto propose that if the government pays for Fluke to have sex, we as taxpayers should get something; we should be able to watch.

The problem, though, is we have already been watching for years. It’s just been someone else’s good time. Everyday we watch ads and infomercials for various men’s enhancements and desire supplements. From Extenze and Viagra commercials, to Trojan Man ads, men’s desire and virility remains perfectly natural and central to the cultural norm in the twenty-first-century. Recently, a series of K-Y Jelly ads have featured mutual “satisfaction,” but I noticed how the ads frame pleasure through a particular moralist and racial understanding of sex.  From the several commercials I have caught, they are always heterosexual couples who are always in bed and of the same race. This is what acceptable sex looks like. Message received.

Limbaugh also issued two apologies in the following weeks, the first was calculated and smug; the second more sober, given that about fifty sponsors had pulled out. The other day in a conversation about the incident I was told that the whole Sandra Fluke debacle was a distraction—a planned event to get us easy-to-rile-“femi-nazis” upset and off topic. I mean, there are so many other important issues facing the nation—gas prices, employment opportunities flat-lining, and the economic downturn. But while I was told not to get too worked up over nothing, a bill in Arizona nears passage (at the date of this blog) that will allow any employer to opt out of providing contraception coverage. Women who seek reimbursement would have to prove they’re using it for medical reasons, and not birth control. Georgia’s state senate also voted to ban abortion coverage under the state employee’s healthcare plan. The New Hampshire State House passed a similar measure. In Utah, legislation has been passed that would make their state the first to ban public schools from teaching contraception as a way to prevent pregnancy or STDs. The Virginia senate passed a bill requiring an ultrasound via vaginal or topical probe for every patient prior to undergoing an abortion. For more, on this whirlwind of legislation, please see:http://www.democracynow.org/2012/3/19/ina_may_gaskin_on_rising_us

Ella Diaz is a Visiting Faculty member at the San Francisco Art Institute. Her Ph.D. in American Studies is from the College of William and Mary. Diaz is an At Large Representative of MALCS.


Mujeres Talk Moderator  June 2, 2012 at 6:24 AM

Ella, your blog essay had 179 pageviews on the day it was posted and I recently heard someone mention at a conference how much they liked it! Thanks for speaking out on Latina reproductive health.

Spilling the Beans: Mujeres Talk Can Be a Virtual Public Sphere

by Ella Diaz

In the first two months of 2012, there are already major crises facing Latina/o and Chicana/o communities. From Alabama’s HB56, which makes all civic participation illegal for undocumented children and their parents, to Arizona’s recent “confiscating” of certain books from public schools, the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness in the U.S. is looking kind of bleak. If you have 35 minutes, you should listen to the first portion of the January 27, 2012 episode of This American Life, titled “Reap What You Sow.” They do an excellent job of talking about HB56 on the street level and frontlines of law enforcement.

On the MALCS listerv, we send out many emails updating each other on the status of certain legislation and movements against Latinas/os. We also update each other on general news from our campuses and professions, or ask for specific help on projects. But perhaps it’s Mujeres Talk –our blog—that can provide us with a virtual public sphere, a place that each of us may enter and speak with one another openly about many of the topics we raise in our emails. There are so many important circumstances we are facing in our schools, jobs, communities, and families. What is a major issue that you are currently facing? In 2012, what do you find to be the #1 crisis we need to confront?

For me, the next year will prove to be one of the most significant for the 21st century. We are in a political and mainstream cultural moment that will continue to push us farther away from our stories, the lives we live that make us tell them, and, as writer Wally Lamb entitled his second novel, from what we know is true. Theoretical frameworks that are not grounded in our narratives are ahistorical; and by “our narratives,” I mean the testimonios, poems, plays, fictions, and “autobioethnographies” (to use Norma Cantu’s term) that create our individual and collective memory. It is my opinion that one cannot understand Borderland Theory without knowledge of the 1845 and 1848 annexations of northern Mexico in to the U.S. Likewise, oppositional consciousness and the decolonial imaginary are also not possible without knowing the migrant chains of mujeres across geopolitical borders, historical revolutions, and tactics for survival under state policies of the twentieth- now twenty-first century. Theoretical frameworks not grounded in our narratives help create a reality that makes Shakespeare’s The Tempest a banned/confiscated text in Arizona and Helena Viramontes’s “The Moths” pornography. I am not undercutting the value of the theory and critical lenses we use to more clearly interpret our cultural production in relation to larger systems of power and the global economy. I am merely stating that theory and narrative aren’t mutually exclusive. We have to decide if, in addition to scholars, we are also story-tellers who listen, remember, and retell the stories that built the fields of Chicana/o and Latina/o Studies. That is my biggest concern, and I would love to know what others think and if they agree or disagree. What is your #1 concern going forward into March 2012?

Ella Diaz is a Visiting Faculty member at the San Francisco Art Institute. Her Ph.D. in American Studies is from the College of William and Mary. Diaz is an At Large Representative of MALCS.

Remembering the Power and Satisfaction of Mentorship

January 23, 2012

by Ella Diaz

Mentorship, both the act of mentoring and being mentored, is a well-known practice amongst Chicana and Latina scholars, educators and activists. We know firsthand of its efficiency, and the deep sense of satisfaction that comes with offering and taking advice, of extending a hand in friendship and in solidarity with each other. Working against hyper-competitive workplaces, against the culture of silence to which we often conform in our universities and institutions, and against individualistic notions of success, mentorship is our intervention in capitalist structures and neo-colonialism.

I want to write about mentorship in my first blog for Mujeres Talk because it perfectly captures my experiences between 2010-2011 as a scholar and as a Chicana. Having graduated with my Ph.D. in 2010, and as an adjunct instructor, I entered a period of uncertainty. So many of us recent graduates enter this space—a disconnected zone where we are unsure of our next steps towards creating a career and a viable practice in our given field. The fact is, the times have changed, and with all signs pointing towards adjunct positions as permanent ones, academia needs new conversations and new professional strategies.

Photo by ASU Libraries

Photo by ASU Libraries

But, with this said, a fundamental dysfunction in academia persists, despite changes in the professional opportunities in our fields; that dysfunction is what I call the culture of silence in universities. No one tells you what the next steps are. There is no workshop, no final debriefing meeting in which the transition from graduate student, to ABD, then Assistant Professor is demystified. Failing to share our concerns, our uncertainty, our questions, is deeply alienating for us Chicanas and Latinas who often navigate terrains communally and in dialogue. Chains of migration, familial and social networks are not only a major part of our support systems and cultural capital; they are also integral to our epistemologies and research methods. So finding oneself in a void of silence in our doctorate programs and then in our professions can be doubly difficult for Chicana and Latina scholars and professionals.

As it has been said for three decades, this is why MALCS is invaluable. MALCS is single-handedly the most important mentoring organization for emerging and established Chicana and Latina scholars, institutional workers, and activists. I personally experienced the power and deep sense of satisfaction that comes with taking good advice and embracing hands extended to me over the last year. Here I offer my experiences with seeking and receiving mentorship in a series of tips and lessons learned. I am mostly offering my thoughts on how to be a good mentee.

A few months before graduating I had made the good decision to present at a Latina/o Literature and Culture Society meeting. I did so because I needed a project to carry me through completing my dissertation that, well, wasn’t my dissertation. I also noted who the scholars were who were sponsoring the meeting of the Society. Thus the first tip I can share with you about seeking mentorship is you must make an introduction with a possible mentor that showcases your work. In other words, networking is good but it only carries you so far: it’s not about talking about your work or alluding to what you do; it’s about showing what you do. So plan panel presentations around audiences. Be bold enough to invite a favorite or inspiring scholar to one of your presentations. Mentors need to see and hear your work because, ultimately, it’s a two-way street. Of course, a senior colleague and established professional will want to work with new talent; but we must remember that part of our feminist practice and cultural heritage is dialogue and collaboration. Therefore, a mentor seeks an intellectual / professional partnership.

My strategy to present my best work at the Latina/o Literature & Culture Meeting proved successful. Showing my work through a polished speech complemented by slideshow brought me two mentors who connected with my work and then connected me with other scholars who they felt I could forge meaningful partnerships. Literally, one of my new mentors recommended I contact another scholar and share my presentation notes. I did so the next day and was invited to the MALCS Article Workshop. I participated in this workshop and was contacted by the editor to develop my work quickly for publication. I dropped everything else I was working on and developed the work. My first scholarly length article was published in Chicana/Latina Studies this fall 2011.

The next tip, then, is to follow up on every single piece of advice or instruction given to you by your mentors. Mentors experience a deep sense of satisfaction when you take their advice, run with it, and create successful outcomes. This is their reward, their payment, for guiding your path. There is nothing really quite like having your words, thoughts, ideas honored by careful attention and good listening skills.

Following up on these two experiences, I shared my professional documents with my mentors: my CV, my letters of interest for positions, my teaching statements, etc. They, in turn, gave me careful edits and some even shared their own professional documents. I revised all of mine accordingly. I strongly believe that my newly developed documents catalyzed the job interviews I recently received.

Upon receiving my first real interview, I met with my mentors, I spoke with them over the phone, and I emailed. At times it was overwhelming to compile all of their specific and general advice; but I created a document and recorded all vocabularies, scenarios, and strategies. I kept talking with them right up until the very day of the interview. I have been invited for a campus visit. Now, I can’t  tell you what happens next because I post this before I leave for the visit; but I will tell you that, after reflecting on this whirlwind of a year, I realize how carefully it was orchestrated by me and my mentors. Those two weeks of conversation, of taking advice, of listening to phrasings, practicing new vocabulary, and heeding strategies for preparation for potential questions asked at a job interview—all of it has been a training ground; it was literally a two week professional development seminar led by some wise, savvy, and thoughtful women. Whether or not I receive the position is not important; the training I received is invaluable and will assist me indefinitely.

So the final tip for pursuing mentorship is to be honest with your mentors. Share with them your fears, what you perceive to be your weaknesses professionally and/or academically. There is always an answer for every question and a solution to every problem. Speak candidly so that they can help you overcome your professional fears and foster the professional confidence that will propel you to the next leg of your journey. When they offer solutions, or unfamiliar options, digest them and try them out.

In closing, I hope you find my thoughts on making the most out of being mentored useful. I look forward to my upcoming posts and hearing your thoughts about them. Wishing everyone a happy new year!

Ella Diaz is a Visiting Faculty member at the San Francisco Art Institute. Her Ph.D. in American Studies is from the College of William and Mary.


  1. Anonymous  January 26, 2012 at 12:37 AM
    I’m so glad you are posting your experiences and expertise, specially right now that I’m close to my own transition from grad school to professional practice, and I haven’t find and/or figure out a way to prepare myself for that. I’ll take in consideration all your suggestions and will do as best will help me. Thank you Ella. Best, Erika. 😀
  2. Anonymous  January 26, 2012 at 8:18 AM
    Hola Erika, I am glad my thoughts are timely for you. And next tip: JOIN MALCS! Here you will find other artists and scholars who work with artists, as well as opps to publish. Saludos, Ella
  3. Anonymous  January 31, 2012 at 8:09 PM
    right on target. Very helpful. Saludos, ella