Latinx Studies in Times of COVID-19- Lorgia García Peña and Frances Negrón-Muntaner

I. Lorgia García Peña

I am a first-generation Dominican Latinx Studies scholar from Trenton, NJ. I study blackness, colonialism, and diaspora with a special focus on dominicanidades.

My approach to dominicanidad  [Latinx Studies] comes from a very personal intellectual questioning of the multiple ways in which silences and repetitions operate in the erasure of racialized Dominican [Latinx] subjects from the nation(s) and its archive(s). Those silences are often filled with fantasies that reflect colonial desires and fears that in turn cement exclusion. My book [work], in many ways, interrupts historical silences by recovering and historicizing dominicanidad [Latinx Studies] through what I call contradictions, “dictions”—stories, narratives, and speech acts—that go against the hegemonic version of national identity and against the mode of analysis we tend to value as historically accurate or what most people call truth.-Lorgia García Peña, Repeating Islands

Non-essential Knowledge: Latinx Studies in Times of COVID-19

Zoom Presentations:

Angeloni, Michael L

Arias, Adrianna

Armstrong, Alexis G

Avila, Miriam A

García Peña understands Ethnic Studies — Black, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, Islamic — as an articulation for an anti-colonial, anti-white supremacist space of knowledge production and learning.

She uses Arthur Schomburg, the black Puerto Rican scholar, and bibliophile, to discuss how “his experience with race, migration, and unbelonging are relevant to many of us who identify as Black or brown Latinx today. Whether born in the U.S. or elsewhere, our racialized bodies, our Hispanic last names, our accents, and our immigrant experiences continue to exclude many of us from Americanness: We are Latinx, Latina/os, and in this country, in this political climate, that is a mark of unbelonging and exclusion.

In Schomburg’s work, she sees hope and optimism: “he saw that the only way to a future of  ‘racial integrity’ was through transnational forms of anti-colonial solidarity grounded on knowledge, on history, on the possibility of another way of learning.”

García Peña shares her experience teaching Latinx Studies and comments on the importance of “creating spaces for survival and community within the colonial, violent structures of higher education” which continues to conceive Latinx lives, Latinx knowledge, Latinx faculty, and Latinx students as non-essential, as extras.

II. Frances Negrón-Muntaner in Conversation with Sophia Johnson

Frances Negrón-Muntaner is an award-winning filmmaker, writer, curator, scholar, and professor at Columbia University. Among her books and publications are: Boricua Pop: Puerto Ricans and the Latinization of American Culture (CHOICE Award, 2004), The Latino Media Gap (2014), and Sovereign Acts: Contesting Colonialism in Native Nations and Latinx America (2017). Her most recent films include Small City, Big Change (2013), War for Guam (2015), and Life Outside (2016).

In this interview with Sophia Johnson, Frances Negrón-Muntaner discusses the cultural contribution of Latinxs and defines central concepts to Latinx and Caribbean Studies like colonialism, coloniality, and debt. Negrón-Muntaner explores too how coloniality has an effect on beauty standards and Latina/o/x representation in U.S. media. She goes over the debate about identity labels and looks at current inter-Latinx relationships and political challenges.

2 thoughts on “Latinx Studies in Times of COVID-19- Lorgia García Peña and Frances Negrón-Muntaner”

  1. Option 1

    1. García Peña believes that the framework of ethnic studies is essential to our humanity. What arguments does she bring forth?
    According to Garcia Pena, the framework of ethnic studies will create a learning environment contrary to racism, inequality, and misogyny; thus, people will be more just and more ethical. Adoption and learning of ethnic studies will help many people from different fields such as future lawyers, doctors, business people, public servants, and educators to develop a culture of acting fairly when serving one another. Also, the framework of ethnic studies will offer a learning opportunity to acquire knowledge about the death crisis of affected people; hence come up with measures of resolving the issue. Moreover, ethical studies will eliminate oppressive frameworks of the white-supremacist university, thus dismantle structures that promote diverse aspects of racism, oppression, as well as inequality.
    2. How the notion of being “essential “or “non-essential” is connected to the paradox (a contradictory position or state) of the type of work Ethnic Studies does within academia?
    Even though Ethnic Studies are depicted as non-essential, this is ironic since they have a significant impact on academia. Therefore, Ethnic Studies are essential since they challenge the dominant narrative of black inferiority. Ethnic Studies are termed as non-essential since they are not advocated in numerous universities despite protests conducted by the students. These studies cover significant concepts based on social justice, stereotypes, discrimination, as well as racism; hence being non-essential is a paradox. Therefore, Ethnic Studies should be incorporated in learning and there should be faculty based on it in every learning institution.
    3. What does García Peña mean at the end when she invites us, the readers, to go “back to Schomburg”?
    By informing the readers to go “back to Schomburg”, Garcia Pena tell people to learn and adopt ethnic concepts laid down by Schomburg. She believes that Schomburg expressed some significant concepts as he advocated for the establishment of black history to outright university violence amongst black and brown people. Schomburg preluded ethical studies offering insights about the possibility of humanity, freedom, belonging, and equality for all. Therefore, readers should go back to Schomburg’s concepts and kindle the torch of ethnic knowledge and racial integrity.

  2. Option 2
    – Latinas, beauty standards and US Media
    In her interview Frances Negron takes time to highlight a very big issue in the Latina community and those who are considered inferior. When speaking about Latinas and beauty standards in the US Media she focuses on Jennifer Lopez and her struggle with mage and how she was able to overcome it on a micro level. She discusses how Jennifer’s image was not conforming to US beauty standards. She also states that Jennifer was able to win the fight because the majority of media users ( those 18-25) were Hispanic, Black and Asian so they supported her views. I think it is very important that she decided to speak on beauty standards especially in the media because once we log on to social media platforms we automatically see what is considered to be beautiful and acceptable. Oftentimes Latinas with different textured hair, ethnic hairstyles and curvier bodies are put into categories that exclude them from what is considered to be acceptable in a lot of environments. What ends up happening is that the constant images of what is wanted pushes them to alter their image so they could fit into these wanted molds. Although there has been a rise in acceptance for different hair textures and body types, like the curly haired community and “plus sized” models, the fight still continues on a macro level. We are still bombarded with people who have chosen to change their natural features to simply fit in. What that has ultimately done is made the younger generations of Latinas idolize women whose image fits what they think will get them the most attention, instead of truly appreciating and feeling comfortable and confident with their natural features. Overall, I believe that some small battles of image have been won with women of curvier bodies, thicker hair, and darker complexion, but the main battle of simply highlighting these natural features is still far from where it needs to be. There needs to be more acceptance and less comparison when we come across images that don’t really reflect what we see when we look at ourselves in the mirror.

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