Genealogy of a Field: Cultivating an Anzaldúan Editorial Spirit in the El Mundo Zurdo Collections by Larissa Mercado-López

These past few years, I have had the privilege of co-editing three collections of essays drawn from papers presented at El Mundo Zurdo: An International Conference on the Life and Work of Gloria E. Anzaldúa. Since its inception, I have been an active member of the Society for the Study of Gloria Anzaldúa, first as a member of the organizing committee, and now the national advisory committee; through my involvement I have not only seen the conference grow in its attendance, but I’ve also witnessed the rapid growth of the fields of Anzaldúa and borderlands studies as scholars from across the disciplines have used Anzaldúan theories to bring decolonial approaches to their work and fields. These edited collections, thus, are critical not only for making accessible the work that is happening now, but for documenting the genealogy of the growth of a field that has permeated nearly every academic discipline.

In the spirit of transparency, our process looks like this: about a month after the conference, we contact all the El Mundo Zurdo participations and send them a call for papers. In our call, we ask that contributors expand their conference papers to more fully develop their ideas so that the collection is rigorous and reflective of the exchanges that occur during the conference sessions; because the sessions often produce productive dialogue and new insights, we hope that authors will include these new perspectives into their pieces. Next, the three co-editors divide the essays, ensuring that each essay has two readers; the third reader acts as the tie-breaker, when needed. As we read, we look for the inclusion of key criteria, including:

  1. Does the piece center Anzaldúa, as opposed to occasionally referencing her, weaving quotes from her works, or using other theorists to legitimize her theories?
  2. Does the essay expand the author’s field or the field of borderlands studies in ways that are meaningful and innovative?
  3. If the piece is a testimonio, is it grounded in or structured by Anzaldúan thought?

Once decisions are made, we contact the authors, and those whose essays were accepted are given the closely edited files for revision. After revisions are resubmitted we review once more and then send to the publisher for publication.

At the core of the process of choosing, editing, and publishing the essays is the question: What would Anzaldúa do? By asking ourselves this question, we have made decisions to work very closely with authors to radically restructure and revise essays instead of rejecting them and to accept more pieces that are less traditionally academic but that embody the genre and methodological mestizaje of Borderlands. The end result is collections of work by community and university scholars across the ranks and the disciplines that push the boundaries of our disciplines and that, importantly, add to the body of scholarship that is forming the foundation of Anzaldúa studies. Guided by an Anzaldúan editorial spirit, we have worked to ensure that the essays accurately represent Anzaldúa’s ideas; that contributors are diverse; that the chapters broaden and innovate the field, and that at the core of each contribution—and each editorial decision—is an effort to promote social justice and effect transformational change.

The collections, however, would not exist without the continued support of feminist press, Aunt Lute: A Multicultural Women’s Press, who had the initial intellectual foresight to publish Borderlands. As we near the 30th anniversary of the publication of Borderlands, Aunt Lute continues to be at the helm of a movement to preserve and innovate Anzaldúan scholarship. At El Mundo Zurdo 2015 in Austin, Texas, Aunt Lute co-founder and friend of Anzaldúa, Joan Pinkvos and I discussed the slow sales of the collections. Our conversation led me to think of some ways to reframe their significance.

In addition to my previous statements about the collections as part of the genealogy of Anzaldúa studies, I want to emphasize the ways in which the anthologies challenge the boundaries of the neoliberal academy; additionally, I want to explain how we work to ensure that they “count” towards tenure and promotion, a critical issue, especially, for women of color. Within the neoliberal academy, tenure and promotion committees consider collections drawn from conference papers to be “conference proceedings”; typically they are not considered “rigorous” and, in many cases, are not given the same weight as peer-reviewed journal articles. However, similar to the process for journal articles, each essay goes through two levels of review, and sometimes a third; additionally, the reviewers/editors are Anzaldúan scholars who have been approved by the founder of the Society for the Study of Gloria Anzaldúa and the organizing committee.

Anticipating resistance from tenure and promotion committees, faculty up for promotion have proactively sought our help coming up with language that describes the emergent field of Anzaldúa studies and that situates their work at the helm of the field’s growth. To further support their cases, we have written letters that attest to the rigor of the review process and to our credibility as editors, and the letters have been successfully accepted. Rather than their essay look like a deviation from their discipline, their essay is reframed as an elemental piece of the foundation of an emergent and rapidly developing field.

It should go without saying that these collections are indispensible for serious scholars of Anzaldúa and borderlands studies. Conference attendees often comment on the freedom they feel to center Anzaldúa’s theories in their conference papers, particularly scholars whose fields are hostile to women of color, queer, and other intersectional theories and methodologies, a perception that is supported by the lack of Anzaldúa-centered scholarship published in major journals. Published every eighteen months and averaging twenty articles each, outside of special issues of journals, these collections contain the most recent and cutting-edge scholarship on Anzaldúa. Thus, it is imperative that serious scholars of borderlands and mestizo studies read and own these anthologies to honor the scholarship that is being produced now and to inform their own work.

Recently, an article was published that listed the top 100 women whose works most often appeared in syllabi at universities across the U.S. Anzaldúa was one of only two Chicanas on the list (in addition to the brilliant Sandra Cisneros) and appeared at #96. Considering how central her work is to many of us, and how foundational her work is to the fields of feminist studies, Xicanx/Chicanx studies, folklore, etc., it came as a surprise to many that she is so low on the list.

Having said that, I am issuing a call to action:

  1. Purchase the El Mundo Zurdo collections for your personal library
  2. Ask your university, department, and community libraries to purchase the collections for their stacks
  3. Cite the contributors in your work; not only does this refer readers of your work to the larger body of scholarship, but for some faculty, citations count toward tenure and promotion.

I am extremely humbled to have served as co-editor alongside Sonia Saldívar-Hull, Antonia Castañeda, Jackie Cuevas, and Domino Pérez, all of whom have taught me what it means to work and collaborate in the spirit of Anzaldúa. I look forward to future collections of El Mundo Zurdo and to new generations of Anzaldúa scholars doing the work that matters, that expands, and that transforms.

Larissa Mercado-López is an Assistant Professor in the Women’s Studies Program at California State University, Fresno

You can purchase the titles via Aunt Lute

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Author: El Mundo Zurdo

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