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Latina/o Academy of Arts and Sciences: a proposal


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Latina/o Academy of Arts and Sciences: 

A Proposal
The demographic growth of Latina/os in the United States has led to the gradual emergence of new discourses on the “Latina/o question.” This question is often interpreted as a challenge and sometimes even as a problem or menace. For a number of years, community leaders, activists, and intellectuals have intervened in different ways to rectify mistaken public perceptions and misleading depictions as well as to propose corrective ideas, projects, and goals. Massive marches in favor of immigrant rights in April and May 2006 gave unprecedented visibility to some of these concerns. The marches also challenged everyone to intervene in new and unexpected ways in the public sphere. The present initiative is an effort in that direction. It seeks to build on the work of communities and intellectuals as well as to offer an original approach to the challenges faced by Latina/os today. The Latina/o Academy of Arts and Sciences will aim to create a platform for a collective intellectual response to national public debates. It will facilitate collective planning and communication among Latina/o intellectuals and other scholars committed to mobilize intellectual resources for the causes of social and epistemic justice in the United States.

Creating a Latina/o Academy of Science is both possible and necessary today. It is possible because, contrary to dominant perceptions of the Latina/o presence in the United States, there is already a critical mass of Latina/o intellectuals teaching in institutions of higher learning. Many of these researchers are deeply interested in issues of social justice. A Latina/o Academy is necessary because for the most part these scholars remain divided by discipline, theoretical orientation, ethnic origin, and other differences. In addition, the increasingly corporate structure of the university complicates the possibility of cooperative interdisciplinary work aimed at social transformation by prizing individual competition and undervaluing collective work on behalf of underrepresented populations.

The Latina/o Academy will aim to strengthen collective research projects already in place and contribute to the creation of a “collective public intellectual” voice that shapes public debate and intervenes in international fora. Contrary to the more traditional national academies, the Latina/o Academy will not only forge interdisciplinary conversations in the service of the nation, but more particularly will serve communities that are often considered to be at odds with the nation, or that challenge traditional standards of belonging to it. The Academy will seek to do this by serving as a platform for the articulation and public dissemination of scholarly critiques of erroneous or prejudicial conceptions of Latina/os and other underrepresented communities, and by seeking to bridge the gap between academics, communities, and activist organizers. The main goal is to enrich scholarly research and incorporate it into appeals for social and epistemic justice.

In order to accomplish these tasks, the Academy will: 1) create special committees to promote interdisciplinary work that responds to salient social issues--with special attention to the varied intersections of class, ethnic, gender, race, and sexuality; 2) explore theories and methods that better explain or diagnose social problems as well as provide responses to them; 3) bring together scholars and community leaders to discuss how best to utilize academic resources to pursue social and epistemic justice; 4) sponsor artistic projects that offer new insights into the work of the Academy; 5) convene meetings with activists and political leaders who demonstrate an interest in the Academy’s goals; 6) widely publicize the Academy’s projects and findings; and 7) mentor, train, and engage in interdisciplinary dialogue with students and work to create the conditions of access and opportunity for a new generation of Latina/o scholars.



There are currently over seventy signatories to a preliminary draft of this proposal. The first national meeting to discuss the initiative and to lay the foundation for an infrastructure to further these collective objectives is scheduled for May 1-3, 2008 at the University of California, Berkeley.


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