My interdisciplinary work focuses on five primary areas: (1) Latin@ Studies and (Im)Migration; (2) Racial & Ethnic Studies; (3) Urban Studies; (4) Education & Youth Studies; and (5) Language and Discourse Analysis.
My broadest engagement with these varying fields is in my book manuscript, titled Looking like a Language, Sounding like a Race: Exclusion and Ingenuity in the Making of Latin@ Identities. My ethnographic account focuses on how administrators in a Chicago public high school whose student body is more than 90% Mexican and Puerto Rican seek to transform “at risk” Latin@ youth into “young Latin@ professionals.” This administrative effort is structured in relation to broader anxieties surrounding the status of Latin@ as a distinctly American category and a diasporic concept that potentially redefines Americanness by linking it to Latin America in newfound ways. Students respond to these anxieties by remapping borders between nations, languages, social identities, and institutional contexts. This reimagining of political, linguistic, and cultural borders reflects the complex interplay between (im)migration and racialization in the socialization of Latin@ youth. I emphasize the ways that negotiations of assimilation and multiculturalism demand a reconsideration of mainstream educational approaches that fail to reflect the diasporic nature of Latin@ identities across the Americas.
I am currently building on this previous research by examining education and the politics of citizenship for Latin@ youth. I am working with Latin@ community-based organizations that seek to develop new visions of and pedagogies for citizenship from transnational perspectives. By taking into account the forms of marginalization that U.S. Latin@s face alongside African Americans and other racialized groups, these organizations understand the fallacy of logics that equate U.S. citizenship with societal inclusion. Thus, a “pathway to citizenship” is a Faustian bargain for U.S. Latin@s, as is demonstrated by the millions of Latin@s who are U.S. citizens and yet still face systematic institutional exclusion. I am collaborating with Chicago’s Puerto Rican Cultural Center and Chicago Public Schools to create a pedagogical framework for a Citizenship of the Americas. Rather than simply advocating for immigration reform, this effort involves the conceptualization of educational approaches that embrace and promote more just forms of citizenship linking nations throughout the Americas. I presented on this work in September 2014 at a symposium commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Roberto Clemente Community Academy in Chicago.
I am also partnering with Holyoke Public Schools on a project titled “Reimagining Linguistic Diversity,” which is funded by a Public Service Endowment Grant from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. In this research project, I am training my UMass students and Holyoke High School students as sociolinguistic ethnographers. Together, we are working to remap the City of Holyoke, Massachusetts, which is 50% Puerto Rican, from an asset-based perspective. Rather than viewing Holyoke from a deficit-based perspective as a space of linguistic and cultural lack, students are being trained in asset-based methodologies that place value on their everyday language and literacy practices. The findings of this research will provide new approaches to understanding linguistic and cultural diversity not only within the academy, but also in the marginalized community in which this work is located. In each of these settings, linguistic and cultural differences are often viewed as handicaps or challenges rather than valuable resources.