Enacting a Transformative Activist Stance

In this section, I bring together the concepts of erasure, agency, testimonios, and identity as they intersect in the narratives presented in the following chapters around the argument that, collectively, the narratives are instantiations of a transformative activist educational project in that they reflect a stance that resists, pushes down erasure, and, through struggle and contestation, contributes to futures in the making.

While some of the authors have worked as community organizers or in more overt collaborative activist efforts, their narratives generally speak to more personal experiences in their process of becoming Latinas, women, students, or advocates. From a Transformative Activist Stance perspective, transformative agency is recognized not only when overt challenges and disruptions of oppressive structures occur or when material conditions are changed as the result of agentive actions. Transformative agency is also recognized when more subtle changes occur at the personal and/or collective levels (acknowledging that from a Vygotskian perspective, the personal is always social, and that from a more contemporary critical perspective, the personal is also always political). These subtle changes and contributions can be characterized, borrowing the metaphors by sociologist Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui (Cacopardo, 2018) and Walsh (2013, 2017), as fissures, resquebraduras, that open up possibilities, and as narratives that widen the cracks of a transformative and decolonial educational project (Mignolo, 2000).

Going back to the questions posed earlier, I propose that Latinas in these narrative studies engaged in agentive moves, discourses, and actions that contribute to a transformative activist educational agenda in several ways discussed next: a) the narrators author themselves as they mobilized funds of knowledge and funds of identity that challenged erasure and supported their agency; b) they situate their narratives on erasure and agency within larger historical practices of marginalization and advocacy that bring to the forefront the relationship between collective histories and individual stories; c) the authors use writing as activism to develop networks of solidarity; and d) lastly, the chapters contribute to a transformative activist educational project by addressing the implications of their narratives for the development of more equitable, humanizing, and decolonizing education for Latinx students and all students of color, a contribution that will be the focus of the last chapter.

Mobilizing Funds of Knowledge and Funds of Identity

As discussed in the section on memory, remembering is the work “of continuously recreating the past and recruiting its resources in the service of one’s becoming,” (Stetsenko, 2017, p. 305) with a healing and activist potential to transform who we are and the work we do as educators (Dillard, 2016). Esteban-Guitart and Moll (2014) characterize those resources we mobilize through remembering as funds of identity. In the very act of narrating their experiences, the narrators featured in the upcoming chapters mobilized and orchestrated funds of identity that enabled them to authorially take up social practices, artifacts, activities, and discourses to author themselves and to resist and push down erasure. The range of funds of identity the authors made salient in their narratives speaks to the intersectionality of Latina identities.

While the book title highlights two social identities in the word ‘Latinas,’ namely ethnicity and gender, identity is constructed in the chapters through experiences and processes related to their ethnicities (often more than one ethnicity), race, language, gender, class, immigration status, and educational experiences, among others. In the end, embracing a situated Latina identity in its inherent intersectionality, even with the ideological struggles the category ‘Latina/o/x,’ may prompt, for some, opened-up opportunities for solidarity, for feeling part of a collective, for advocating for Latinx students, women, and other marginalized groups.

In my reading of the chapters, salient funds of identity organizing the narratives involve the authors’ mobilization of their ethnicities and nationalities. Latinas in this volume story themselves (and dis-identify) using one or more of these social identities: Black Latina, Chicana, Mexicana, Mexican American, Poblana, Cuban, Dominican, Honduran, Indigenous, Panamanian, Puerto Rican, Salvadoran, gringa, immigrant, and undocumented. A clear tension emerges in the narratives from the desire to belong (mostly as Latinas, but for some, also as Americans), while at the same time rejecting designated identities that serve to dismiss intersectionality. The chapters contribute a view of identity as situated and fluid, as the narrators move in and out of the category of‘Latina’ in relational and contested ways. While biculturalism and interculturalism are embraced by some, the narrators’ unique voices and perspectives offer nuances about, expand upon, and complicate what it means to live and identify as a Latina in the United States, contending with erasure while at the same time contributing to co-creating history. Oftentimes, the narrators’ sense of ethnicity and nationality appears strongly connected to their sense of place (Brukitt, 2005; Harnett, 2010). Several chapters highlight how moving across geographical contexts became a critical source for identity formation, whether such places affirmed or constrained their process of becoming.

Another salient source of identity formation recruited by the narrators in their remembering processes are the social relationships developed with significant people in their lives, particularly family, including their ancestors. The narrators also orchestrated what Esteban-Guitart and Moll (2014) refer to as institutional funds of identity. That is, in their remembering, the tellers mobilized institutions as spaces that mediated identities, constraining or opening up spaces for self-authoring. For eight of the nine narratives, those institutions were educational, and most of them were associated with experiences of erasure or subtractive schooling practices (Valenzuela, 1999). However, institutions also became a source for identifying stories of affirmation, which speaks to the critical role teachers can play in affirming students’ identities and embracing critical pedagogies that promote student agency (Antrop-Gonzâlez & De Jesús, 2006; Darder, 1995; Nieto & Bode, 2018; Rolón, 2000; Stetsenko, 2017).

The authors in this volume also mobilized their academic funds of knowledge and identity as they developed their academic voice, even if it was employed to challenge the very structures that sustain academia. The authors appropriated theoretical concepts that placed their narratives within scholarly traditions and discussions concerned with educational issues and the topics of erasure, agency, and identity. That is to say that, in my reading of their narratives, using theory was more than an academic exercise: the various conceptual frameworks used became artifacts or funds of identity as the authors storied or created identity narratives about themselves or interpreted those of others. This theoretical move also inserted the authors within the historical efforts for liberation made by our communities, our ancestors, and the scholars that have preceded us. In the end, orchestrating these theoretical constructs and using the language of academia could have potentially silenced the voices of these Latina young women, as others have experienced. On the contrary, theory was used in agentive ways for combating erasure, gaining new self-understandings, developing an academic identity, and building solidarity, with the potential for decolonizing academia from within.

Mignolo proposes that each one of us is responsible for our own decolonial liberation (in Mignolo & Walsh, 2018, p. 105) and that the fundamental task of decolonialism is to decolonize knowledge and ourselves (p. 136). I propose that the mobilization of funds of knowledge and identity by the narrators, including the use of epistemologies from different traditions, such as those coming from communities of color, sociocultural theories, decolonial frameworks, and even some concepts from postructuralism, to think about their experiences and their participants’ experiences, inserts their narratives agentively within a larger decolonial project.

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