Tag Archives: Marie “Keta” Miranda


October 29, 2012

Photo of "The Art of Inclusion #1" by Stella Beli.

Photo of “The Art of Inclusion #1” by Stella Beli.

“Gender as a category of analysis explodes as technologies remap the category to reinvent fresh ways of interpreting sexualities and social/political desire.”

Emma Pérez, The Decolonial Imaginary (14)

By Marie “Keta” Miranda 

It has been more than two years that the MALCS membership has been in a challenging discussion on inclusion in our organization. As I try to draw lines from so many conversations, I see that the issue of a “woman’s space” has permeated the contentious arguments for or against expanding categories of membership. What has developed in this process, what has become a central focus of Chicana feminisms is the conscious effort to negotiate, to shift from the types of binary oppositions that fix and position us at the margins.

As Gloria Anzaldúa, Chela Sandoval, Emma Pérez articulated a fronteriza/border- lands, differential consciousness, and decolonial imaginary—each in their own way defining a third space, a way to express lived experience—the concepts served to explode existing categories, producing many more liberatory forms of analysis and ways of examining life lived at the borderlands. Similarly, Jose Esteban Muñoz’s concept of “disidentifications” acknowledges the theories of women of color and particularly Chicana feminisms to understand how subordinate subjects resist dominance. Disidentification becomes a decolonizing act–a political strategy of survival that finds alternative routes of desire, identification, and power.

As MALCS emerged from the debates about gender within NACCS in the eighties, these questions remained “unsettled” and continued to make our MALCS space one where our differences are left open-ended…unsettled, waiting, and anticipating. As Chicana feminists began defining what occurs in third spaces —the processes, the ways of doing things—has rested on a continual need to find our histories, of learning again what our practice was and what it could be like. MALCS has also become that alternative space, the third space of developing ideas, nurturing our voices and building solidarity.

As MALCS began to work through these topics we additionally processed the memberships discussion when it came time to update our bylaws, to develop more inclusive terms of membership. Through workshops directly addressing inclusion and in workshops discussing our bylaws, we discussed what a change in membership would mean. We also learned that bylaws are guidelines and therefore are not only amendable, but can reveal or reflect a future vision, directing or indicating a move forward. Ex-Officio Monica Torres and I shared a conversation in this process where we both expressed pride in how this organization takes up very problematic issues. We jump into the fray of battle; we take up previous questions, one that we thought or assumed settled long ago. We are challenged each of us by other members…we can’t be too comfortable…there is much more to understand…to perceive differently.

As MALCS’ previous chair, at various times, I had to write to members to request that they un-invite their partner who significantly contributed to the work, or to a professor to un-invite a student who provides a different path to understanding, or to ask a chapter to un-invite a participant/member from attending the MALCS Institute. At those times, I worked and revised and reworded these requests, looking for words that would honor the restrictions. How to express that MALCS space was a mujer space, woman’s space, to give us the space to articulate, to conjecture, to find, to express in words that go against the grain, negotiate and resist without also excluding. That is what our space has meant to us, and it has been an important one. Yet, so many more have engaged the essays, the poems, the films, the art of women of color feminists, moved by or ignited by new ways of thinking about race, class, gender, sexualities, abilities no longer contained by borders.

It was Maylei Blackwell who best expressed for me our decision to include trans and gender non-conforming people in the membership of MALCS as the legacy of Chicana feminisms: “they are the children” of our labor. Finding space in MALCS–the issues of who to include and to exclude–aren’t put to rest with a bylaw change. Will transgender and intergender folks want to come to this space? What can/will MALCS do to make this a safe(r) space? Is this changed space only a temporary one? A place to hone one’s voice, to find some respite—as it has been for so many of us?

As I think through my own process of thinking what inclusion means to MALCS—from an essentialist definition of woman/mujer—to consider what MALCS can become, I find that we, MALCSistas, have to go to new ground, new engagements, new territory, to unsettle what we have assumed. We need to re-consider, review, and even rework what “feminist practice” is. In many instances, it seems that feminist practice is about cordiality as discussions become heated. Yet each discordant voice helps us to hear; each clamor alerts us to listen. At other times, feminist practice underscores love for one another. I think love is the premise of our discussions and that it should recognize disagreement. We have a long way to go. The inclusion of transgendered and intergendered folks has shifted the ground…this MALCS space. It shows us where we have to go and it reveals that we need to find our definition of feminist practices, of good practices. Our MALCS elders brought these issues to the table when it was founded and it shows how difficult yet unafraid our elders are. We are the children of those irreverent theories, those conflicting experimentations, of those words that speak to our multiple experiences, of this MALCS space.

As I took up this essay I heard that disagreements were circulating, that emails were starting up re-engaging the bylaws change on membership. I wish this conversation could take place on our MALCS web, here on Mujeres Talk or via the listserv to all members. Our engagements, our disagreements, our differences make MALCS the unique organization that it is. Our work, our discussions and debates attempt to make MALCS a “safe(r) space” to find ways of creating bridges between our many communities.

Our bylaws change reflects more than three years of discussion. Members disagreeing, members finding ways to bring the discussion to the table, finding ways of putting the hallway discussions onto the floor of our panels and workshops, on our agendas. It has been and will continue to be debated, however, I don’t think we will go back; I think the discussion of inclusion has never been closed/settled.  Our membership finds ways of interrogating, intervening and changing what we look like, of who we are. The bylaws change begs the question: who else will be included? That answer will reveal itself as we find how our practices and theories sometimes blend, collide, sometimes even confuse. And as we develop a working definition of feminist practice, I believe, we will develop discursive and material practices, revealing our limits as well as showing us new paths/circuits for liberation.

Marie “Keta” Miranda is on the faculty at University of Texas at San Antonio in Mexican American Studies and a former Chair of MALCS.

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.