~E501 Post~ Andrea Lunsford on Gloria Anzaldúa- ¡La Libertad!

In my Intercultural Communications class we talk about social identities and the tentative negotiations of those identities within cultures and languages. In these class conversations we focus on awareness of the cultural “rich points,” moments of confusion or conflict between cultures. These rich points are when culture is happening. By identifying similarities and respecting differences, cultures can map out ways to communicate effectively. In Andrea Lunsford’s article, “Toward a Mestiza Rhetoric: Gloria Anzaldúa on Composition and Postcoloniality” on the life of the chicana, feminist writer, I recognized the twists and turns experienced by Anzaldúa as she navigated her multicultural identities within an often antagonistic society.

Lunsford lauds Anzaldúa’s “personal triumph over the ‘tradition of silence’’ and how she found places to wrestle and negotiate beyond commonplace identity “cubbyholes” (2).Anzaldúa likens these navigations to the fluidity of “identity [as it] flows between, over, aspects of a person. Identity is a river, a process” (2). She speaks of herself as “a new mestiza,” a woman of Spanish and American Indian blood,  who has learned to inhabit her own reality, and wishes to teach others how to “read” her and others who don’t fit ascribed cultural roles.

Anzaldúa vigorously advocates a change in teaching strategy:

We need teorias…that will enable us to interpret what happens in the world, that will explain how and why we relate to certain people in specific ways, that will reflect what goes on between inner, outer, and peripheral ‘I’s within a person and between the personal ‘I’s and collective ‘we’ of our ethnic communities. Necesitamos teorias that…cross borders, that blur boundaries-new kinds of theories with theorizing methods. (Lunsford 4)

What kinds of methods can be created to “blur boundaries” in such a diverse community as the student body? How may teachers of composition use Anzaldúa’s experience to help their students broach issues of, race, gender, notions of body, and engage in open and respectful class discussions? One way is by students recognizing their own multi-layered identities of gender, race, ethnicity, familial roles, and how these effect their daily lives. Even the identity of ‘student’ should be examined. By this frank self-analysis, students can see the complexities and slipperiness of who they are in the community, in their family, among those they hide from and those they reveal themselves to– and why. Written reflections might give pause as students struggle to identify themselves and then give testimony without hesitation. By this exercise, they will see how complex others’ lives are as well, and by looking towards others with empathy, they can yield place for all voices.

Anzaldúa assures Lunsford her goal for her mestiza rhetoric is “a liberatory goal…to create possibilities for people, to look at things in a different way so they can act…in a different way. It’s like a freeing up, an emancipating” (6). I ask myself-Am I up for such a lofty goal to attempt to liberate students of writing to see others, to see themselves, in such new and critical ways?


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. composingrhetoric
    Nov 11, 2011 @ 10:14:09

    I agree with both you and Talisha’s points. I’m not sure, if I were to become a teacher if I would even be up for the “loafty goal.” To change a student’s perspective on themselves and the others around them is a huge challenge, especially if you’re met with resistance, is that worth the fight though? There is so much more to the teaching of writing then I can say that I ever knew. But when you said “Written reflections might give pause as students struggle to identify themselves and then give testimony without hesitation.” This line struck a chord with me. In my undergrad, reflection papers allowed me to really dig deep and understand how my use of language can reveal things about myself I didn’t even know I had in me. I feel this exercise could help many students find themselves and help them understand that writing is much more complex than the basics as Talisha mentioned.

  2. talishahaltiwanger
    Nov 11, 2011 @ 08:00:03

    “I ask myself-Am I up for such a lofty goal to attempt to liberate students of writing to see others, to see themselves, in such new and critical ways?” I think this is a question many writing teachers reading this article ask themselves. I myself wonder if I am up for the resistance by students; I wonder if I am ready for possibility of failure, which seems to be higher when asking students to work with and think critically about subjects of race and identity. Maybe the problem is that we are still lacking the “teorias” that help us do this. Or maybe the problem is that, as we’ve discussed this past week in class, often students of writing want simply to learn the basics, the surface stuff. They think of writing as language, words formatted correctly on a page, and it is. But writing is also thinking, and I’ve learned from teaching this semester that not all students are at the level of thinking required for good writing.

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