As the Chicana/o-Latina/o Studies department considers renaming itself Chicanx/Latinx Studies, the department hosted an open forum with the Center for Comparative Studies in Race & Ethnicity (CSRE) to discuss the merits of the “x” in the term “Latinx.”
The forum featured ethnic studies professors from other universities and was moderated by Rigoberto Marquéz, director of community engaged learning of CSRE.
Marquéz began the discussion with a brief introduction of the term “Latinx” and its rising popularity, as well as an introduction of the guest speakers. Each speaker came up to the podium to explain their own perspective on the “x.”
According to Marquéz, “Latinx” is a term that came from Latina/Latino/non-gender conforming queer feminists who envisioned the “x” as inclusive of all genders without the masculine connotations that are present in Spanish.
“Latinx … seeks to decentralize heteronormative scope and representations of Latinas and Latinos in mainstream society by utilizing an ‘x’ instead of the masculine and feminine ‘o’ and ‘a’,” Rigoberto said.
Anita Tijerina Revilla, associate professor and chair of gender and ethnic studies at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, described her experience with undergraduates discussing feminism and queerness. She explained how students would adopt the “x” in terms such as “muxerista” and “Xeer” to denote unique experience informed by both gender and ethnicity.
Juana María Rodríguez, professor of comparative ethnic studies at UC Berkeley, expressed concerns over how “Latinx” may disregard the gender of someone who feels it is integral to their identity. She stated that “Latinx” is a term that is appropriate for addressing multiple people and expressed the need for a neutral third gender in language that is not associated with masculinity.
Rodriquez talked about her experience with the term “Latin@,” used to denote both genders. ”Latin@” is often read as “Latina, Latino,” “Latino-arroba,” or “Latino-at.” Although she used the term in her latest book, Rodriguez said that it tends to exclude non-binary gender. The term has phased out of popularity with the rise of “Latinx.”
Richard T. Rodriguez, associate professor of media and cultural studies and English at UC Riverside, said that all Latino/a/x identifying persons should use Latinx even if they do not identify with it explicitly in terms of queer feminism because they are all informed by this identity in some way. He shared examples of authors, students and literature in which people did not agree with a label but nonetheless were influenced by that label.
After each speaker presented their views, Marquéz asked them about their own struggles in activism and academia as well as their views on the unity of Latinx peoples and what changes are easier to accomplish on university campuses.
“Sometimes there’s low hanging fruit,” Juana María said. “Club names, that’s easy. Department names, that’s not so easy.”
Revilla addressed the disconnect between activists and academics and argued that the two have to sympathize with one another better rather than policing each other.
“You have to create spaces for people who are at different levels of consciousness,” Revilla said. “You have to be generous.”
Finally, Marquéz opened the discussion to questions from the audience.
One student asked whether any other institutional changes, such as the hiring of new professors or the development of new courses, could be brought beyond just the adoption of a queer “latinidad” in name. Richard Rodriguez responded by noting that the change from Chicano to Chicano/Latino Studies does not necessarily translate to curriculum that remains focused on Chicano literature.
The discussion and renaming process is guaranteed to continue for at least a year, according to Marquéz.
Contact Nohemi Davila at nohemi ‘at’ stanford.edu.