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May 6, 2016

Launching Michicanxs of Aztlán: Stories of Xicano Culture in Michigan

May 6, 2016 | By | No Comments

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Now live and available for your viewing pleasure, Michicanxs of Aztlán is a website documenting Xicano culture in Lower Michigan. This project grew out of my work in CHI last year with The Xicano Cookbook project, and I decided to branch off in order to take a slightly different approach on a very similar topic. Whereas last year’s project functioned like a digital essay that discursively discussed various theories, stories, and images related to Xicano culture, this year’s project is more like a collection of snapshots. By focusing on a small number of stories, I have been able to contextualize my data to a greater extent by giving it more space within my website.

Created as part of the Cultural Heritage Informatics Graduate Fellowship program, Michicanxs of Aztlán is also intended to function as an ongoing sort of repository of Xicano narratives. Great Lakes Xicanos in particular have limited space—virtually or physically—to display our work, and few repositories like this exist currently digitally.

Michicanxs of Aztlán currently displays three stories written as part of an independent in Xicano/Indigenous rhetorics, which I took fall semester 2015. Each story has its own page, with an individualized header that includes a representative image and short description of the narrative. I’ve included these descriptions below.

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March 22, 2016

“Crunk Mestizaje” Story Preview

March 22, 2016 | By | No Comments

For my CHI project this year, I am building a website that will host stories of Xicano cultural survivance in Michigan. I’d like to take the opportunity with this blog post to give a preview of one story to be featured on that site. Enjoy!

In 2004 my brother—stage64ebca376845f34bc5a6fe3d9e78ba07f5c84e05 name “the Latino Saint,” or “Saint” for short— released a crunk rap album entitled, Half Breed. As far back as I can remember, his music has pretty much always been about partying and taking pride in Mexican and Latino identities; this album is no exception. Half Breed takes its name from the mixed Mexican and white backgrounds from which we both come. As with most crunk music, much of the content is centered around alcohol, dancing and celebrating life with friends and family. Yet, in spite of the negative connotation of the term “half breed” itself, Saint delivers these club songs from an unapologetically Mexican perspective, reclaiming both the term and the concept of “half breed” and using it to assert his own position as a Mexican MC from the Midwest.

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December 26, 2015

Expanding The Xicano Cookbook

December 26, 2015 | By | No Comments

For my CHI project this year, I will be continuing work on my project The Xicano Cookbook, a digital essay documenting Xicano culture in the Great Lakes region. With a special emphasis on food practice, visual art, and oral history, it articulates the ways in which Xicanos have survived and thrived on Anishinaabe land in the midst of ongoing colonialism. The project is guided by decolonial theory and the ingenuity of everyday Indigenous resistance. Thus, it mixes academic theory with the recorded words and artwork of Great Lakes Xicanos to deliver stories about the cultural survival of a de-tribalized, Indigenous people.

Xicano Cookbook Image

I will draw from a bootstrap theme in order to re-conceptualize the framework of my cookbook project. One of problems with my StoryMaps project is that it’s just a bit clunky, so one of my goals is to simplify the design in order to making navigating the site easier for users. The landing page for my website will center the image of the calavera and title of the project, followed by a short description about how the website relates to Chicana/o Studies.

Tabs at the top of the page will be how users are able to navigate through the different “nodes” I have written. I will continue to use SoundCloud to integrate audio clips into the various nodes. A header with the calavera image and title project will be kept at the top of the page as users scroll down on the information, as will the tabs. An “about” section will include brief information about the CHI initiative, Anishinabek culture, and my approach to this project. A works cited tab will also be visible in order to provide a list of scholarship that I draw from, in addition to including links to other related food projects that exist online—for example, to Decolonize Your Diet.

In many ways, this project is being created for a scholarly audience and will contribute to the fields of Chicana/o Studies, Cultural Rhetoric, and Food Studies. At the same time, in making the Xicano Cookbook multi-modal, I think it will also appeal to non-scholarly audiences interested in visual arts and storytelling.The Xicano Cookbook currently displays two oral histories given by Xicano artists from Michigan. These histories give listeners a sense of the issues that Xicanos face culturally and socially and how they use food practices and art to address those issues. Interviews with several more Great Lakes Xicanos are currently archived in an offline repository and will be added to the site over time.

There are currently 6 different works of art displayed and discussed on the website. The project’s primary function is to speak in depth about the works, providing historical and cultural context and theorizing their political functions, as opposed to acting as a full-fledged digital archive or repository for these images. This is why I have chosen to describe the project a more of a digital or multi-modal essay, rather than using one of the aforementioned terms.

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September 29, 2015

CHI Fellow Re-Introduction: Santos F. Ramos

September 29, 2015 | By | No Comments

Coyols Unapologetic Survival

I am a returning fellow for the program, last year having developed a digital project documenting Xicano culture in the Great Lakes Region, Indigenous food sovereignty, and MiXicano visual art. I am now in my second year of a PhD program in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric and American Cultures, focusing on Cultural and Indigenous Rhetorics. My research takes an ethnographic approach to examining the intersections of pedagogy, Indigeneity, and social movements, and I also try to spend as much time as possible supporting local community education programs geared toward Indigenous youth—such as the Indigenous Youth Empowerment Program and the Native American Youth Association.

One of my primary interests is looking at cultural continuance as a form of resistance to assimilation with Western modernity and considering the relationship between academic research and non-academic Indigenous communities who engage these types of practices. Especially as a Xicano person living in Michigan, much of my attention is also focused on inter-Indigenous relationships and with negotiating the often-conflicting markers of “Indigenous” and “migrant.”

I am excited to be back for another year in this program because it has created many opportunities for me to think about all of these fun/complicated topics in a different way than I am typically used to. By developing a website to explore these subjects, new questions come up about the way that cultures are being influenced by the intense emergence of digital platforms.

Here’s to another solid year as a CHI Fellow!

Update: the image used above was created by Angélica De Jesús and was used in my project for last year, The Xicano Cookbook: Survival in the Great Lakes Region.

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May 8, 2015

Launch of The Xicano Cookbook

May 8, 2015 | By | No Comments

17014307382_af78ac4277_oI am pleased to announce the launch of The Xicano Cookbook, a multi-modal essay documenting Xicano culture in the Great Lakes region. The website uses Xicano art, oral histories, and decolonial theory to describe some of the ways in which Xicanos make space and place for our culture, especially in regard to our food practices and visual media making.

It has been great having the chance to develop this project through the Cultural Heritage Informatics Graduate Fellowship this year. It changed forms many times during the past 8 months, but thanks to continuous critical feedback from my colleagues in CHI and in WRAC, I was able to develop a project that was both fun to work on and (hopefully) useful to Chicana/o Studies and CHI in general.

Originally, at the beginning of the academic year, I had envisioned making an interactive map that tracked my family’s migrant history from Mexico to Texas to Michigan. While these types of genealogies can often be worthwhile, the decolonial theory that was guiding my project pushed it in a different direction. Rather than providing a linear visualization of this migration history, I utilized the dynamic tools available through Story Maps to craft a digital essay that articulates invisibilized aspects of Xicano culture with an array of multimedia content. Using Story Maps allowed me showcase different kinds of media simultaneously—audio clips from interviews I conducted with local Xicano artists and cooks, photography and other visual images, and written text—and it has made my project much more interactive.

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December 10, 2014

A Micro-History On Teaching, Organizing, and DH

December 10, 2014 | By | No Comments

What follows is a sort of micro-history: a narrative of how I came to be simultaneously involved in teaching, digital humanities, and community organizing. I am taking a personal narrative approach to this post because that’s just how I roll, but also because I find personal stories to be an especially useful way of highlighting the connectedness between seemingly disparate aspects of the academic profession. There is no shortage of definitions of the digital humanities from which I could draw, but in this post I am thinking of DH primarily as a discursive construct similar to how it has been described by Matthew Kirschenbaum. In other words, I do not identify myself as being within the purview of DH because of the kind of work I produce (digital/non-digital), but because my work is concerned with the ways in which digital technologies function discursively within systems of power, and how this relates both to social justice organizing and to the college writing classroom.

The first time my interests in political organizing seemed to literally overlap with my inquires into DH was when Occupy Wall Street (OWS) emerged in 2011. I was attracted to the ways in which OWS was using digital technologies, and how the velocity with which it was able to gain international attention seemed to be directly connected to its ability to garner support through social media platforms. I eventually became extremely critical of the relationship between OWS and its digital technologies, feeling that the rapidity with which OWS entered public consciousness actually exposed its lack of internal infrastructure, and that it should be remembered as an eccentric political moment instead of a long-term political or social movement. Soon thereafter, I received my most substantial community organizing experience through Southerners on New Ground (SONG), an LGBTQ organization focused on addressing issues of racial and economic justice across the South. It was at this time that I also began teaching college writing courses and was able to draw from facilitation experience with SONG to engage my students in conversations about the relationship between writing, race, sexuality, and gender.

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November 12, 2014

What Cultural Rhetorics Can Teach Us About Positioned Authorship

November 12, 2014 | By | No Comments

This past Halloween weekend, the Cultural Rhetorics Theory Lab hosted the first ever Cultural Rhetorics Conference here at Michigan State. There are many dynamics of the conference worth talking about, but in this post I will limit my focus to one theme that seemed especially prevalent in my experience at the event, and which I think is also important for those of us engaged in cultural heritage informatics to keep in mind: that of positioned authorship.

Many presenters reflected the theme of the conference—“Entering the Conversation”—by relating our own personal, cultural and academic experiences to our scholarly work. This often took the form of story-telling around how we came to be involved in the field of Cultural Rhetorics. At least one panel was dedicated primarily to this form of story-telling—“Origin Stories—Tracing Our Academic Roots,” which was comprised of four of my graduate colleagues in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric and American Cultures: Victor Del Hierro, Phil Bratta, Matt Gomes, and Ronisha Brown.

One of the things I enjoyed about this panel (and others like it) is that it reflected the personal stakes many of us have in the scholarship we engage. Not only is our work impossible to separate from our own personal narratives, but our work is literally shaped by the prior and concurrent experiences we continually bring to it. Obvious though this may sound, the myth of objectivity still often overshadows our extremely important subjectivities in order to conform our work to Western notions of scholarship, intelligence, and professionalism. This can have very real consequences that work to de-legitimize not only our own personal narratives and scholarship, but also the narratives of the communities from which we come, as well as the academic communities we are forging through Cultural Rhetorics.

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October 15, 2014

Decoloniality & The Digital: Confronting Techno-Seduction in the Digital Humanities

October 15, 2014 | By | One Comment

Techno-seduction is a theoretical framework I’ve developed to better understand the ways in which scholars and activists come to be seduced by the false promises of technological determinism. In “Digital is Dead: Techno-Seduction at the Colonial Difference, From Zapatismo to Occupy Wall Street,” I draw from the work of decolonial theorists to argue that the digital functions as a colonial identity construction that advances the logic of technological determinism and, thereby, technocratic capitalism. I look to recent social movements in order to examine their treatment of digital technologies, and I find that the sustainability of these social movements correlates quite convincingly with the methods by which they choose (not) to incorporate these technologies into their organizational frameworks.

The issue becomes concerned with velocity. In a capitalist framework, time is monetized to the extent that it nearly becomes synonymous with capital. And, especially considering the continued neoliberalization of university systems, we know academia lies not outside of this relationship, but wedged somewhere within it. The busier we stay—because time is money and a large part of our job as academics is to spend our time chasing money—the less we strategize our own tactics. The more we lift up aimless conceptions of “practice,” the deeper theory gets cast into the shadow of colonialism.

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September 17, 2014

CHI Fellowship Introduction: Santos Ramos

September 17, 2014 | By | No Comments

Like many other Chican@s, my father’s family immigrated to Michigan from the Texas/Mexico borderlands in search of work. For us, this migration came a couple generations ago. So I grew up in Michigan, but have spent the past 3 years engaged in teaching and research experiences in Virginia and Cambodia. I am now back in Michigan as a PhD student in the Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures department here at Michigan State University. I’m excited to be a CHI fellow this year, especially as a newcomer to cultural heritage informatics in search of more technical skills to compliment my theoretical, content-driven brain.

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