Saturday, July 13, 2013

Connections Throughout the Year, or Haciendo Caras Here and There

After reviewing my past blog postings on AcademicZ (Gutierrez-Perez), I wanted this entry to continue advocating for Latina/o scholars to connect and collaborate, but how can I make a face (cara) that shares how much we need each other throughout the year? As Gloria Anzaldúa explains: "'face' is the surface of the body that is the most noticeably inscribed by a particular subculture. We are 'written' all over, or should I say, carved and tattooed with the sharp needles of experience" (124). For example, I am experiencing the in/between space betwixt my first year and second year as a doctoral student at a private Rocky Mountain university, and although I am here, I am also there in California thinking about my grandmother and the loss of my grandfather. In describing haciendo caras (making faces), Anzaldúa continues, "when our caras do not live up to the “image” that the family or community wants us to wear and when we rebel against the engraving of our bodies, we experience ostracism, alienation, isolation, and shame" (124). In this liminal space between my first and second year and betwixt here and there, I am (re)constructing my identity as a scholar and as a grandson alone. Haciendo caras is a metaphor for constructing one's identity (125), and as an embodied process, I must mine beneath the surface of my various and interconnected identities to break out of the faces I must wear in the academy in order to eat, pay my bills, and maintain a home. In critically reflecting on the "interfaces" between the many masks we wear, we must (or at least attempt to) "confront and oust the internalized oppression embedded in them, and remake anew both inner and outer faces" (125). For instance, Stacey Sowards analyzed the caras of Dolores Huerta as rhetorical styles or practices to show how "Huerta used these faces of emotionality (both conscious and unconsciously), which often left her audiences (especially growers and politicians) without response” (Sowards 232). In this blog entry, I disclose and reflect on the workings of my inner masks through three narratives of "belonging" to utilize a "politics of relation" as a strategy to invite the reader to consider voice, pedagogy, and critical love as ways to connect throughout the year.

Be Longing and a Politics of Relation

“The sites of our belonging constitute how we see the world, what we value, who we are (becoming). The meaning of self is never individual, but a shifting set of relations that we move in and out of, often without reflection” (Carrillo Rowe 25).

In the quote above, Aimee Carrillo Rowe defines belonging as an integral concept within a politics of relation and discusses how the two interact to move subjectivity "from location to relation" (29). By placing subjectivity within community, intimacy and awareness, belonging and a politics of relation inclines the self towards another (46), and "this is not to suggest that the ‘I’ disappears, but rather, that the ‘i’ is multiple, shifting, and contingent upon the relational sites into which she inserts herself" (9). It is asking the critical questions "about where you long to belong, whom you want to nestle beside at the end of the day, whom you call when you are in pain, or who accompanies you in ritual” (Carrillo Rowe 35). In my case, I am here looking at the latest birthday card from my grandparents, and it is cute but made for a grandson half my age. There is no money in the card because there has never been money in my always-on-time gift from my grandparents. As a working-class family, we have learned other ways to show our affection. However, this year the gift feels heavier, and it isn't until I read the single and lonely signature that I realize why: "Love you, Grandma." It is my first birthday without "Grandpa" signing my card. I cry alone in my office. Although I am here, my heart longs to be there nestled beside my family because we are in pain, and in this moment of ritual, I acutely feel the loss of my grandfather's company. Can you connect to this grief?

Belonging focuses on how power is transmitted through our affective ties with whom we love, the communities we live in, and who we expend emotional energy to build ties with (Carrillo Rowe 26). These relational politics are spatially and temporally bound (9), or in other words, it is a politics of "where we place our bodies, how we spend our time, the mundane and significant events that give texture to our lives all give rise to our becoming” (34). For instance, it is weeks later, and I am on the phone calling my grandma to thank her for the birthday card. She picks up and is apparently excited that I called, and of course, she wants to make sure that I got the card she sent. I write "apparently" not to insinuate hostility on my part or insincerity on my grandma's part, but as I listen to the hearing American sign language (ASL) interpreter embodying my deaf grandmother, I can't help but feel disconnected from my loved one. I am here trying to be there with my grandmother, and I am longing to be with her voice regardless if it slurs and features ASL broken English. I need to hear her easy laughter, her direct (like me) communication style, and her enthusiasm because I need to feel like I belong somewhere/anywhere. Within my affective relationship to my grandma, there are structures of power, location, and time implicated in where our bodies are and how our communication and time is mediated through technology and (dis)ability. Where do you belong? Why?

The goal of sharing my inner faces is to gesture towards ways we can connect beyond the conference panels, business meetings, and the all too brief hallway encounters. As Carrillo Rowe writes, “this inclination toward another involves seeing others to whom we belong as inseparable, not separate, from us” (36). For example, I am heading towards my grandmother’s house right after the school year has ended, and my aunt, cousins, and I are baking in the 110 degree weather. After a refreshing dip in the pool, we all head over to my grandfather’s grave, and as my mom and aunt begin to cry, I am here staring at a small marker in the ground. We couldn’t afford a proper gravestone, so I am staring at a simple stone, and I feel nothing. He isn’t here at the cemetery and he wasn’t there at my grandmother’s house. Where do I go now? In (re)constructing my identity, I know I must reflect on these memories to make una cara that can better manage my politics of relation within the academy and within my family, but I just lost one of my biggest supporters. Grief and loss are emotions that connect us all to humanity. Can you feel how inseparable we are to each other?

Conclusion: Connections Throughout the Year

Although any reflection of one's inner caras inevitably implicates our outer caras, this blog entry is not meant to critique my institution or the faculty to which I belong because I am well-supported, and although there are many great works examining the outer caras Latinas/os must wear (Calafell and Moreman; Delgado; Moreira and Diversi; Moreman and McIntosh), this blog entry aims to share my inner thoughts and feelings to hopefully connect to the reader through critical love. Critical love is "an ethic of care rooted in...humanization, dialogue, and strong emotions such as fear, frustration, and anger," and "to critically love across our identity differences in the scholarly sense entails bearing witness to struggle, reaching out to nurture, marking the presence of privilege, and advocating for humanization" (Griffen 216). It isn't easy working through the sudden loss of my grandfather in public with all of you reading; however, I know that many of us here have recently lost a loved one, so you understand how I feel here and there, don't you? 

As Bernadette Calafell writes, "Love is very necessary" (emphasis in citation, 436), and as Rachel Griffen clarifies, "I am not proposing a 'let's all hold hands and bite our tongues for the sake of peace' sense of love, nor is love being positioned as a fountain of endless optimism that dismisses the anguish of oppression" (Griffen 216). Instead, I am proposing that affective ties and how/why we expend energy in their construction and maintenance is a valuable dialogue for Latina/o scholars to consider. Last year at NCA, we discussed and encouraged each other to connect throughout the year, so in answer to this call, I invite all of you to participate in a roundtable discussion at this year’s NCA entitled, “Connections Throughout the Year: A Forum on Voice, Pedagogy, and Critical Love within Communication Studies.” Scholars from across the country and discipline and from various, multi-layered racial, ethnic, gender, and sexual identities have gathered to provide an opportunity to share inner and outer caras and strategize on how to maintain affective ties beyond the annual NCA conference. In this blog entry, I utilized my relationship with my grandmother and grandfather to construct three narratives on belonging here and there to try to connect with you (the reader) because we need each other throughout the year. As Latinas/os, there is a danger in sharing our inner caras with the wrong person or people, but for me here in this space, I know that I must be willing to be vulnerable because I have to work through this grief and loss somehow in order to (re)construct my identity. Again, I find myself reaching out to this readership bare-chested and in a weakened state somewhere not quite here but not quite there to humbly invite you to utilize this blog space to find support for and connections with each other throughout the year. For now, let me end by thanking you for being here and there for me. Abrazos. 

Work Cited

Anzaldúa, Gloria. "Haciendo Caras, Una Entrada." The Gloria Anzaldúa Reader. Ed. AnaLouis Keating. Durham and London: Duke UP, 2009. 124-139. Print. 

Calafell, Bernadette Marie. "Mentoring and Love: An Open Letter." Cultural Studies ↔ Critical  Methodologies, 7.4 (2007): 425-441. Print.

---and Shane Moreman. "Iterative Hesitancies and Latinidad: The Reverberances of Raciality.” Handbook of Critical Intercultural Communication. Eds. Rona Halualani and Thomas Nakayama. Malden: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. 400-416. Print.

---and Shane Moreman. "Envisioning an Academic Readership: Latina/o Performativities Per the Form of Publication." Text and Performance Quarterly, 29.2 (2009): 123-130. Print.

Carrillo Rowe, Aimee. Power Lines: On the Subject of Feminist Alliances. Durham and London: Duke UP, 2008. Print.

Delgado, Fernando. "Reflections on Being/Performing Latino Identity in the Academy." Text and Performance Quarterly, 29.2 (2009): 149-64. Print.

Griffen, Rachel Alicia. "Navigating the Politics of Identity/Identities and Exploring the Promise of Critical Love." Identity Research and Communication: Intercultureal Reflections and Furture Directions. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2012. 207-221. Print.

Gutierrez-Perez, R. M. "Reaching Out to the Other, or a Performance of Striving." AcademicZ: The Latino/a Experiences in Research, Pedagogy, and Service in  Higher Education. AcademicZ, 27 November 2012. Web. 2013 July 12. 

---. "On Mentoring and Love: Thanking Whom?" AcademicZ: The  Latino/a Experiences in Research, Pedagogy, and Service in Higher Education. AcademicZ, 1 May 2012. Web. 2013 July 12.  

Moreira, Claudio and Marcelo Diversi. "Missing bodies: Troubling the Colonial Landscape of American Academia. Text and Performance Quarterly, 31.3 (2011): 229-248. Print.

Moreman, Shane T., and Dawn M. McIntosh. "Brown Scriptings and Rescriptings: A Critical Performance Ethnography of Latina Drag Queens." Communication & Critical/Cultural Studies, 7.2 (2010): 115-135. Print.

Sowards, Stacey K. "Rhetorical Agency as Haciendo Caras and Differential Consciousness
through Lens of Gender, Race, Ethnicity, and Class: An Examination of Dolores Huerta's Rhetoric."Communication Theory, 20 (2010): 223-247. Print.

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