Vexed Histories: Rethinking Trajectories of Black Studies, Ethnic Studies, & Women's Studies

Presenter: 

Dr. Nick Mitchell, African American Studies

Presenter2: 

Ziza Delgado, Ethnic Studies

Date: 

Thu, Apr 12, 2012 - 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm

Location: 

691 Barrows

VEXED HISTORIES: RETHINKING THE TRAJECTORIES OF BLACK STUDIES, ETHNIC STUDIES, & WOMEN'S STUDIES

The Third World Liberation Front at UC Berkeley 1969: A Counter-Hegemonic Struggle for Radical Pedagogy & Revolutionary Curriculum
Ziza Delgado, Ethnic Studies

This presentation will discuss the struggle for Ethnic Studies at UCB via the Third World Liberation Front (TWLF), as a counter-hegemonic project within the Euro-centric patriarchal university. First, it will outline some of the dominant hegemonic values in institutions of higher education in 1969, to contextualize why the TWLF can be considered counter-hegemonic. Second, it will engage with the revolutionary atmosphere that permeated the bay area in 1969, such as the flood of revolutionary literature from abroad on college campuses, and increased visibility of domestic radical activism. Lastly, this presentation will put forth the question “Is it possible to establish a decolonial academic intellectual space within a Eurocentric University? Or is this relationship between radical students of color and UCB inherently antagonistic?”

Curricular Objects: “Women of Color,” Feminist Anti-Racisms, and the Consolidation of Women’s Studies
Dr. Nick Mitchell, UC President's Postdoctoral Fellow, African American Studies

As a preliminary investigation for my current manuscript project, Disciplinary Matters: Black Studies, Women’s Studies and the Neoliberal University, this paper offers a genealogy of the category “women of color” as a way of thinking the institutional relationship between black studies and women’s studies that emerged in the 1970s.  Drawing a (provisional) distinction between, on one hand, the category’s use for political organizing and coalition building, and, on the other, its uses in naming and consolidating a body of knowledge for academic institutions, I argue that attention to “women of color” as, in part, the outcome of institutional machinations can allow us to see processes often obscured when the self-consciously political connotations of the term are emphasized.

By 1981, the year of the publication of Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa’s now classic anthology, This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color (hereafter Bridge), and the year of the National Women's Studies Association's "Women Respond to Racism" conference, "women of color" was already bound up with the ways in which women's studies imagined its own progress. As Bridge announces the emergence of “women of color” as a political collectivity through (among many other strategies), a multi-tiered and many-voiced critique of white feminist racism, its publication also marks the emergence of another, equally complicated discourse—feminist anti-racism.  This form of anti-racism is defined, on one hand, by (white) feminism’s commitment to generating its anti-oppression discourse generically, and, on the other, by (white) women’s studies’ institutional power to generate a diversity discourse that other racially marked fields could not. Mediated by diversity discourse, feminist anti-racism produces racial difference as a kind of institutional capital; as, in other words, an object that can be trafficked in the absence of the very political commitments that brought it into being.  Thinking about the institutional emergence of “women of color” in this regard—as a category with no guaranteed relationship to the political desires that gave it its origin—this paper attempts to reopen questions about the relationship between university-sanctioned knowledges and the political.