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Vulnerabilities in the Academy: Experiences and Latin+ Strategies

By Roberta Villalón & Erika Busse-Cárdenas

In our October’s collective gathering, we talked about our vulnerabilities as Latin+ academics, shared strategies that we have used, and thought about other ways in which we could prevent and confront common obstacles.

In conversation, professors and graduate students alike found similar susceptibilities: the burden of excessive workloads; the oppression of working in predominantly white, heteropatriarchal and neoliberal institutions; the constant experiencing of discrimination and gaslighting by students, faculty, administrators and staff; the challenges of living in two or more languages and cultures; and the instability of job positions. Moreover, we found that the feelings that these vulnerabilities provoked echoed among the group: anxiety, exhaustion, loss, overwhelm, insecurity, confusion, offense, anger, and pain.

Despite all of these challenges and their impact, we had ALL managed to persevere and succeed.

The question that we posed after acknowledging these shared experiences was how we had dealt with the combination of these challenges and feelings given that despite all of these, we had all managed to persevere and succeed somehow. In other words, in conversation, we were able to first identify that what we might have thought were private troubles were instead public issues; which in turn helped us validate our circumstances and emotions as opposed to continuing to double-guess and question what was happening to us and why we couldn't react differently.

In community, as a Latin+ feminist collective, we worked through these intense problematics and were able to build something similar to a shield that consisted of four foundations: validation/recognition, analysis/understanding, resignification/revalidation, acuerpamiento/sentipensar. Specifically, together, we identified the following strategies based on both our previous experiences of resistance and new ideas that emerged en conjunto.

En conjunto, we identified that our shields are build with a foundational material: Sensitivity.

Initially, we reframed the meaning of vulnerability from our Latin+ culture: vulnerability is not just fragility; it is also sensitivity. And, sensitivity provides us with a deeper, more genuine, connection with others and our surroundings, which is something that we sincerely appreciate and should value more. Similarly, we emphasized the importance of being able to understand these institutional and sociocultural barriers sociologically and politically. The fact that we are capable of identifying how relations of power develop gives us a vantage point from where, in spite of how bad we may feel, we can see things for what they really are. Being able to recognize power relations empowers us.

Being able to recognize power relations empowers us

Accordingly, we stressed that we must hold to our community to be able to endure the pain and incertitude that these oppressive power relations create so we can capitalize on the strength that our bi- or multi-culturalism/linguism and Latinidad provide, and recenter ourselves as capable, insightful, thoughtful, and worthy. In collective, we can help one another lift the veil that systematically creates the double-consciousness that harms and confuses us, as W.E.B. Du Bois theorized more than 100 years ago. Then, acuerpadas, embraced by our Latin+ Feminist Collective, by our communities, we can resist from the cracks, act counter-hegemonically, shatter the dominant processes that systematically marginalize, invisibilize, and demean us.

Acuerpadas, we can resist from the cracks and shatter the dominant processes that systematically marginalize, invisibilize, and demean us.

So when we find ourselves perceived as a threat (simply because of our being in spaces that were reserved for the powers that be) and therefore minimized or neutralized, we can indeed show them that they are right, that “aquí estamos, y no nos vamos;” that we are valuable, that we bring much to the table, that we have the right to sit at the table, and that in response to their invisibilization, we will shine, and to their belittlement, we will rise. But not because we are stubborn or delusional. On the contrary, we will do it because we are lucid, sensitive and constructive. In solidarity, we can.

In response to their invisibilization, we will shine, and to their belittlement, we will rise. Because we are lucid, sensitive and constructive.

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On value, vulnerability, and validation to our work and our experiences,

"we bring much to the table," indeed we do!

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