LATINX VISIONS, A NEW PODCAST BY TWO ALUMNI, OFFERS NEW PERSPECTIVES ON MEDIA, ART, AND POP CULTURE
How is the revamped version of One Day at a Time representing Latinx women? That question is the subject of the first full-length episode of Latinx Visions, a podcast just launched by Baruch Professor Rojo Robles Mejias and Adjunct Assistant Professor Rebecca L. Salois, both alumni of the Graduate Center’s Latin American, Iberian, and Latino Culture Ph.D. program.
Robles and Salois recently spoke to the Graduate Center about their podcast, which explores many forms of Latinx arts and culture, and also how these works and Latinx communities are reflected and perceived:
The Graduate Center: What led you to create this podcast, and who do you hope to reach?
Salois: I’ve been really into podcasts for the last few years and started my first project in 2019. It was a podcast geared toward my Great Works of Literature students at Baruch. When I moved from the English Department to the Black and Latino Studies Department, I felt it was time to wrap up that project and start one that was geared toward the content I was now teaching.
While the students have always been my priority in both of these projects, I think the goal would be to also appeal to a broader audience. Because we get pretty analytical, it works well for students (and other professors who may wish to share it with their students) but I think it has attractive components for nonacademic audiences as well.
Robles: As a writer, teatrero, and critic I have always been interested in reaching different audiences. I think podcasts are an ideal outlet for interdisciplinary learning. They are accessible for people and communities outside of academia. In our mediascape, there is a critical need for platforms by, for, and about U.S. Latinx people and their relationship to home countries in Latin America. Discussions about the United States as an empire tend to be avoided in mainstream media, so the field of Latinx Studies allows us to offer that perspective too. The podcast allows us to engage in depth with sources and materials that we are researching while also incorporating the conversations we are having with our students and colleagues. I hope our audience grows to be very diverse.
GC: Some surveys suggest that the term Latinx is not recognized or preferred by some Latinos/Latinas. (Part of your first episode also alluded to the fact that umbrella terms are not always applicable to everyone.) What is your take on this issue, and why did you choose to use it in the title of your podcast?
Robles: It’s important to note that just like “Hispanic,” “Latino/a/x” are imperial/colonial terms that hide the diversity and distinct experiences of people in different geographies, diasporas, and with complicated regional and national alliances. Certainly, Latino/a/x allows for an at-times needed solidarity based on language and similar experiences with colonialism in the Americas, but I believe that it’s healthy to challenge them constantly, and, when used, they require nuance and specificity. For instance if we are talking about a Chicana film we use Chicana or Chicanx as a cultural descriptor instead of replacing it with Latinx. To just say Latinx would take the particularities of the Chicanx experience out of the discussion.
We use Latinx in the title because it lets us talk about different people and communities from or of Latin American descent in the U.S. From the three options, the one with the x let us incorporate queer, non-binary, and trans perspectives. The x also acknowledges simultaneously historical erasures and identities that aren’t fixed.
GC: Did your time at the Graduate Center help with the work you’re doing now?
Robles: Definitely. At the Black and Latino Studies Department, the courses I teach are particularly focused on Latin American, Latina/o/x, and Afro-diasporic literature, film, and cultures with an emphasis on Puerto Rico. I started working and developing research in all of those fields while at the Graduate Center. I’m currently writing a book on experimental Boricua poetics and archives that originated partially from my dissertation at LAILAC and from a research grant via the Center for the Humanities’ Lost and Found, The CUNY Poetics Document Initiative.
While a student at the GC, I also participated in committees connected to the publication of the LL Journal and the student conference. Those engagements were excellent as an introduction to departmental culture and service. My first experiences teaching courses on Latin American and U.S. Latinx literature and cultures happened because I was a CUNY Humanities Alliance Teaching Fellow, a student-centered pedagogy program based at the GC, and via building networks.
Salois: So much of my time at the Graduate Center was involved in networking and university engagement. I served on committees in our department, helped plan multiple conferences, took on leadership roles with the DSC, and involved myself in campus-wide initiatives. That has helped with my relationships at Baruch in each of the departments where I have taught. The relationships I built and the skills I learned at the GC helped me with reaching out to different people at Baruch and, I would argue, played a role in my eventual position in Black and Latino Studies.
I also believe that my research approaches were greatly honed during my time at the GC. I learned a lot more about theory and its application and was exposed to new ways of looking at literature and media. Much of that has been applied to the articles that I am working on and how I teach the content for the many different courses I have taught at Baruch.
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