Tag Archives: NACCS

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.

“This Is Us”: A Legacy of Mentorship and Scholarship con Corazón

April 2, 2012

By Brenda Sendejo

On March 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, the 2012 Tejas Foco Regional Conference of The National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies (NACCS) convened at Texas State University, San Marcos.  Scholars, writers, artists and community members gathered to recognize and celebrate scholarship, art and knowledge of nuestra cultura. Over 200 conference participants attended more than 60 panel sessions with a rich array of topics. I participated in an intergenerational panel of Chicanas with two students from our university and feminist scholar and historian, Martha P. Cotera. Through testimonio, personal narrative and historical analysis, panelists showed how Our Lady of Guadalupe-Tonantzin has acted as a symbol of Chicana identity and catalyst for social change over three generations. The perspectives on the intersection of spirituality and social justice spoke to the conference theme, “This Is Us: Cómo Nos Ven, Cómo Nos Vemos / Changing Chican@ Identity in the 21st Century.” Our respective lenses on our relationships to La Virgen reflected who we are Chicanas today, and how we have developed politically, spiritually and intellectually over the decades. But our experience at the 2012 Tejas Foco also served to show how, as a Chicana/o community we believe in and are committed to mentoring and producing scholarship con corazón.

I invited Susi and Melissa to participate on the panel because I had seen how deeply Chicana feminist scholarship has impacted them and resonated with their lived experiences. I suspected attending their first Chicana/o Studies conference could be a powerful experience for the students, and this proved to be true. Being with them at the Foco took me back to my first MALCS conference several years ago, where I found a space of validation and community where discussions around integrating our scholarship and teaching with activism were central. I continue to be inspired by mujeres whose paths I have crossed through MALCS and by those in the NACCS community. Through these communities I’ve learned that intellect has little meaning, unless it is passed down to future generations used to make a difference in the world. And, importantly, that it must be motivated by corazón. This year’s Tejas Foco was my first opportunity as an educator to see how the impact of this on my students.

I recognized Susi and Melissa’s starry-eyed looks upon meeting Martha and later, other scholars whose work had impacted them so, as to this day I still get that same look in my eyes. I watched as the students’ eyes lit up upon walking into the ballroom and hearing mariachis playing the familiar, “Volver.” They were in a space where they were in the majority, rather than the norm of being in the minority on our campus. These first generation college students have been involved in various struggles and social justice work over their lives and at our predominantly white liberal arts college. Therefore, entering the conference, a space of acceptance where they, their stories, cultural heritage, and histories were embraced and validated, was a moving experience for them, and for me to witness. Our panel presentation would prove to be a similar experience.

The panel audience of approximately 12 attendees was comprised of scholars, including MALCSistas, Profesora Norma Cantú and conference organizer, Profesora Ana Juárez, students, community members, and two members of our campus community. The panel itself represented a legacy of Chicana feminist scholarship and mentorship. We explored the ways that the historical and cultural legacy of Guadalupe-Tonantzin has manifested in the social activism and spiritual identities of generations of Chicanas since the movimiento. Martha discussed how La Virgen saved second wave feminism, Susi presented on how La Virgen aids her in moments of choque as a Chicana activist, and Melissa discussed how she invokes her mother and her teachings of La Virgen in persevering as an activist. I discussed teaching about Guadalupe-Tonantzin to Chicana/o students through a spiritual activist pedagogy that informs our understanding of Chicana identity.

Sharing their personal narratives for the first time in public elicited, as one would expect, strong emotions from both Melissa and Susi. As others and I have done when talking about the difficult and empowering moments in our lives, the women shed tears. I recall the saying, “Tears are not a sign of weakness, but a sign that you have been strong for too long.” These women epitomize this kind of strength, and it was apparent that the audience could feel this as well. One of the students, overcome with emotion, was having difficulty continuing on with her paper. Dr. Emilio Zamora assured her from the audience that she was doing just fine, and would later tell her that her tears were a sign of maturity. I watched as more such moments of support unfolded, as in a tender moment where Martha told a joke about a statue of La Virgen in Crystal City that lightened the mood and almost brought us all to tears of laughter. In the Q & A Dr. Cantú assured one student self conscious about her writing not to worry, that she was fine and that she can just get a good editor, for the ideas, the feeling, the intellect, the corazón were there. Following the presentation they received well-deserved accolades for their presentations.

My heart grew full witnessing this outpouring of communal support for Susi and Melissa and their work and lives, and I am truly grateful for a wonderful Tejas Foco Conference whose organizers and attendees embraced student research and growth. Melissa and Susi will carry this experience with them always, as will I. Moments like these and working with students like them help keep my spirit in tact in the academy; they are healing for me, and, I hope for them as well. Our panel on Guadalupe-Tonantzin’s continuity as a symbol of Chicana strength, perseverance, ability to overcome adversity, and as a catalyst for social justice was in itself a symbol of these things. This legacy of mentoring and doing scholarship con corazón characterizes us as a Chicana/o community. This is us.

Brenda Sendejo is on the Faculty of Southwestern University.


  1. Anonymous  April 10, 2012 at 7:36 AM

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Bren  May 3, 2012 at 3:39 PM

    Thank you so much, Deena! This means a great deal from you, someone who has modeled the kind of mentoring and scholarship development of which I wrote. I feel so fortunate to be a part of this comunidad.

  3. Anonymous  May 15, 2012 at 11:45 AM

    So beautifully expressed, Brenda; and such amazing things you are doing for SU students…This is what anthropology should look like; indeed scholarship and the academic world in general should model itself on this kind of integration of community, reflection and activism ….You rock! Your SU colleague, Mel

  4. Anonymous  June 2, 2012 at 6:50 AM
    From Deena Gonzalez on April 10, 2012 7:36 AM
    Thank you, Brenda, for sharing this information and in this format; so many faculty, students, and staff of MALCS continue this tradition, enacting the two things consistently at once, mentoring awarenesses and developing scholarship. They go hand and hand as MALCS and NACCS have shown over the decades. There is a lot of work and strength going on in Texas and it is great to learn about it! Saludos, Deena Gonzalez (CA, Loyola Marymount University)

L.A. Supporters of Ethnic Studies Gather

March 29, 2011

The Los Angeles Committee to Support Ethnic Studies (LACSES)
The National Association for Chicana & Chicano Studies (NACCS)

politicaltardeadaAZGreetings Compañera/os,

As you may know, Arizona has been passing laws that affect Chicana/os and their extended communities. One law in particular (HB2281) was put into effect this January 1, 2011 that outlaws La Raza Studies. The Tucson School district has a fully developed K-12 La Raza Studies that is graduating over 80% of its students. Other schools districts in Arizona that don’t have La Raza Studies mirror the rest of nation’s drop out rate of over 50%. It is obvious that when our children are taught critical thinking skills and are presented with a broader view of history and society they are engaged to the point of graduating and work towards higher education. This law HB2281 will force the Tucson school district to stop teaching La Raza studies despite their success.

A coalition of parents, teachers, and students in Arizona have taken  their State to court to challenge this law. They need our financial support to mount a court battle that will resound loudly and clearly that we will not let them to deny our children an education that inspires them to succeed in academics. Other States are also drafting similar laws because they fear an educated populace with critical thinking skills that might come up with solutions to the economic, social, and political problems that have plagued our nation to the point of bankruptcy and make us fear and blame the most voiceless and powerless in our nation.

We the LACSES need your presence, your friends and financial support to help us combat this legal battle. We will be hosting a Political Tardeada on the last day of the NACCS conference on Saturday, April 2nd from 6:30-9pm in the Grand Ballroom of the Westin Pasadena.

We are inviting many of Southern California’s artists, academics, activists, and public figures whose work has been inspired or based in Chicana/o Studies and/or Ethnic Studies. Our aim is to gather our forces and finances to learn more about this and upcoming issues, other fundraising strategies, and to create a critical mass that will stand against the growing anti-Latino sentiment in the country. Now is the time to come together, see who are allies are and see how we can each bring our talents, connections and will to turn the tide.

A very partial list of some of our supporters include: Dr. Rodolfo Acuña, Dr. Mary Pardo, Dr. David Sandoval, Dr. Lara Media, and many more academics. Artists, activists and public figures include: Harry Gamboa Jr., Barbara Carrasco, Yreina Cervantes, Felicia Montes, Richard Montoya, Lalo Alcaraz, Gustavo Arrellano, Wendy Carrillo (Power 106), Raul Campos (KCRW), Lysa Flores, Carlos Montes, and more are joining everyday.

Admission to the event is a humble $25 for the general public and $10 for students. Please come to be generous.

Some of the Arizona legal team will make a presentation on the state of the case. Richard Montoya will conduct a lively discussion on the issue and Las Cafeteras will provide music. Food and beverages will be available. We want you to come and meet other like minded individuals who also believe YA BASTA with these attacks on our community. We hope to see you there.

If you cannot attend but would like to make a donation go to: http://www.saveethnicstudies.org/donate.shtml.   We are suggesting pledges of $5 to $10 a month. Make the check payable to: Save Ethnic Studies Defense Fund 307 S. Convent Ave. Tucson, AZ 85701

Also let us know if we can list you as an endorser

For more information, go online:

http://vimeo.com/15062646 (Precious Knowledge Trailer)
http://www.saveethnicstudies.org/index.shtml (Tucson campaign)
Please download this flyer (pdf here) and circulate!