This is a short post on something that’s been on my mind the past few days — something I felt like I needed to get in print before the feeling left me. First a preface: the biggest surprise to my about my move to Iowa is how much I’d gotten used to and taken for granted the diversity of people in Texas. This isn’t to say that Iowa is homogenous. In fact, Iowa City is a lot more diverse (racially, class-wise, etc.) that I was expecting. Still, there’s a difference of degree that had a bigger impact on me that I had expected. It’s strange, for example, having students who had never met a non-white person prior to coming to college — students who grew up in entirely white towns. It’s also been strange being without my camaradas, with whom I’d grown close in my last year in Texas. Add to that new preps, the process of moving, the process of adjusting to a new institution, being so far away from mi amor … and it all adds up to a general intellectual funk. Not the good kind of funk, mind you; there was no George Clinton helping me get my groove on. Well … the funk is gone.
Last week (Thursday through Saturday), Iowa hosted an AMAZING symposium called The Latino Midwest. This intellectually stimulating conference was filled with some people I already knew and a bunch of people whom I’m excited to now know. All of the presentations were on Latin@s in the midwest (obviously, from the title), most were about Chican@s and Mexican Americans; so they weren’t necessarily presentations that spoke directly to my research interests. That said, they were all incredibly interesting, exciting talks.
Just as importantly for me, though, was the feel of the conference. It was a space full of mutual interest, mutual care, and love. From the loving suggestions of a long-time mentor, to the loving embrace of new friends, to the ethic of decolonial love exhibited by Junot Diaz — it was a transformative experience. It inspired me to call friends and co-conspirators; and it inspired me to get back to work. As soon as the morning panel on Saturday was complete, I locked myself in my office and hammered out more writing than I’ve done in months. I even managed to follow it up with a repeat performance on Sunday.
Why write all of this down? Two reasons. First, I don’t want to forget this feeling and this inspiration, and hope that committing it to the blogosphere will help. Second, I want to remind people how important our intellectual and affective communities of connection are. It’s easy to get lost in the daily grind of this or that (service, bureaucracy, classes your heart’s not in, etc.). But it’s important to remember those communities of folks that animate us. I’ve been dreading the coming National Communication Association convention for months; but now I can’t wait to see my friends, my intellectual family, my brothers and sisters who make me who I am and keep me moving with my work.