Feeling the Love

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.

Abrazos. Pa’lante.

Teaching With/From/Against Textbooks?

Sitting down to prep for my class tomorrow afternoon, I realized something that I found intriguing: It’s been a long time since I last taught out of a textbook. In fact, I think the last time I did so was as a grad student … and I can think of no instance when I actually chose to teach from a textbook in a undergraduate class (with the exception of an anthology). In general, I find textbooks to be more of a pain than they’re worth. They tend to be very expensive (though that’s not always the case) and I feel like they limit my options in more ways than I’m generally comfortable.

So why did I choose one this semester? Partly out of desperation. Partly out of the desire to simplify things on the tenure clock. And partly because I know that my options (which in the case of this social movements class meant turning primarily to journal articles) wouldn’t really be appropriate for my audience … especially in the introductory weeks. Whether that was the right choice on my part, however, is neither here nor there. The choice has been made, the semester has started, and now I’ve got to deal with it.

As someone used to teaching out of journal articles, though — someone used to unpacking the thick academic prose and distilling the material for the students — I’m at a bit of a loss. The textbook (in this case, Stewart, Smith, and Denton’s Persuasion and Social Movements) is … well … pretty straight forward and already distilled. Perhaps I’m overestimating my students’ retention and comprehension abilities, but it seems to me that if one reads the textbook in an active manner (i.e., underlining, making margin notes, maybe even taking some notes) there wouldn’t be much need for clarification in class. If that’s the case (and perhaps my assumption is fundamentally flawed in the first place), what is a professor to do?

So this professor has decided to do a little crowd-sourcing:

  • When teaching with the aid of a textbook, how much do you repeat what’s in the text already? Rather than repeating it yourself, do you walk the students through doing the work of reframing/recalling the textbook?
  • Do you spend a good deal of time problematizing the textbook?
  • Do you make a habit of bringing in other scholarly sources/idea to supplement what’s in the textbook?
  • Do you tend to do more application or use touchstones/examples to animate the concepts?
  • Is your answer “yes”? 🙂

I’ve got a lot of ideas on how I might proceed, but I thought some of my much smarter friends might be willing to join in the discussion to help me and help each other. So what say you, smart friends and possible strangers — got any great ideas you want to share?

Ch-ch-ch-changes (and Other Goings On)

So if you don’t really know me and/or aren’t friends with me on Facebook, Twitter, and the like, then you may not already know that I’m making a big career change this summer. I’ve been at the University of North Texas for the last three years and have had a GREAT time. In fact, Denton, TX has been the first place that really felt like home to me since I left Washington state for grad school at Indiana over a decade ago. But with as many friends and great colleagues as I’ve met in TX, the time has come for me to move on; and as you might be able to tell from the new color scheme (or updated CV) I’m headed back to the midwest to start a new job in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Iowa.

While it’s going to be hard to leave friends and loved ones behind in Texas, it’s an exciting time to be joining some good friends and new colleagues at Iowa. Not only do we have a great department overall and particularly in rhetoric (though I’m certainly biased on that front), interesting developments are also afoot in Latin@ studies and across the university. For example, the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies will be hosting a symposium next year entitled The Latino Midwest, which will bring some amazing speakers to campus and serve as a catalyst for some critical conversations in a state with a fast-growing Latin@ population.

In preparation for my move, I’m trying to wrap up some projects in TX — a short article starting the project to delink rhetoric from modern/coloniality, my book proposal and sample chapters, etc. At some point, I should probably also pack up my stuff and (UGH!) get ready to move. With all of this stuff, I hope to start using my blog a little bit more to work/test out some ideas, vent some frustrations, transition myself to life outside of TX and the metroplex and back into the land of corn and soy, and once again provide some tips for professional development (e.g., stay tuned for a post on how I’ve come to accept my new Google overlords).

Anyway, I’ll move on up to Iowa sometime in July … hopefully just in time to escape the worst of the Texas summer. In the meantime, I hope everyone in Internetland has a great summer full of productive work, delightful relaxation, and the love of good friends and family.

~d.

PS, please note the change in my website address and bookmark this one if you’re so inclined.

On Saying “No”

Thinking back to the first time I was asked to review for a big journal in my field, I remember being so excited that someone was asking for my opinion about the quality of a complete stranger’s scholarship. That was right after I got my degree. Then the requests steadily increased in frequency. Still a tenure-track assistant professor, I find myself in a little bit of a bind. On the one hand, I fully recognize the importance of peer reviewing and the obligation we have to our disciplines and each other to contribute to that process. On the other hand, in a tenure-track where it’s hard enough to strike a balance between research, teaching, and non-work life, sometimes you’ve just gotta say no.

For me, I’ve set my limit at about 3 journal reviews a year (plus conference reviewing), with first priority going to the places where I’m on the editorial board (and generally just won’t say “no” to them at all unless there’s a very good, specific reason). Why 3 reviews? Aside from 3 being the magic number, I have no idea — seemed about right is all. But now I find myself in the uncomfortable position of saying “no” more than I say “yes” to reviewing. At the end of the day, however, I recognize that reviewing isn’t going to get me tenure. And it’s not going to help me maintain a work/non-work balance. As hard as it is for me to say “no” to people’s requests (I inevitably feel like I’m letting them down), I’ve come to see it as a necessary evil — key to preserving productivity and maintaining some king thin grasp on my sanity.

What about you? What is/was your limit as an assistant professor? Did/will that change post-tenure? Are there (or do you fear) negative consequences to saying “no” on a regular basis?

Please comment below and share your thoughts!

New(ish) Essay on the Young Lords and Decoloniality

I’ve been slacking off on this blog for a while now, but in an effort to start posting a little more regularly, I want to announce a new(ish) essay that just came out. Called “Decolonizing Imaginaries: Rethinking ‘the People’ in the Young Lords’ Church Offensive,” this essay explores the ways in which the New York Young Lords craft a decolonial version of “the people” in their verbal, visual, and embodied discourse surrounding the Church Offensive (1969). In addition to the specific arguments about the Young Lords, this essay is the first in the journal (the Quarterly Journal of Speech) to make use of decolonial theory (a la Quijano, Mignolo, and Maldonado-Torres) and hopefully serves as a good introduction of the ideas to this new audience in rhetoric within communication studies. The title of the article (above) is a hyperlink, but if your institution doesn’t subscribe or you’re not at an institution in the first place, I’d be happy to pass on a PDF. Just shoot me an email.

Now let’s see if I can’t start using this and Twitter a little more regularly….

New Essay and an Addendum

My new essay on Nuyorican cultural production in East Harlem was just published in Communication Theory. Unfortunately, it looks like the production team at Wiley-Blackwell accidentally omitted a couple of key things.

1. The article is supposed to be dedicated to Nathaniel “Nacho” Córdova, may he rest in peace. Nacho was my friend and mentor — one of the few other Puerto Rican rhetorical scholars in my home discipline of communication studies. Nacho passed away this summer and this essay was to be dedicated in his honor, especially since he gave me some valuable feedback early on.

2. They also omitted the acknowledgements. Again, I don’t think this is something that was intentional and certainly wasn’t anything in the editor’s hands (Angharad Valdivia is, as anyone who knows her will tell you, awesome). Anyway, I wanted to post them here:

Acknowledgements

I want to extend special thanks to the many people who have commented on earlier versions of this essay, especially Nathaniel Córdova, Suzanne Enck-Wanzer and all of the wonderful participants from the 2010 UNT Summer Workshop on Critical Latina/o Communication Studies. I also wish to thank Angharad Valdivia and the reviewers for their guidance and suggestions.

I probably should also mention that this essay was originally presented at the 2009 American Studies Association convention. Its completion was made possible through a 2010 UNT Junior Faculty Summer Research Fellowship. The full citation, PDF, and link to the journal page are under the “Research” tab in the header of this site.

Abrazos,
~Darrel

Beginning the Semester Reminder: Backups

Well … I guess I took a summer hiatus. Didn’t really mean to; but everything got kind of blurry with the loss of my friend, Nacho, in July. It’s taken the semester’s start to give me a swift kick in the butt and start feeling like myself again. As such, I wanted to take advantage of the relatively calm Friday to get back into posting. This one (as the title indicates) is about backing up your stuff (which most of you do, I’m sure). More posts will be coming, however, as this is a big writing year for me as I try to finish off the book. So without further adieu, here are my thoughts on backing up your important crap.  Continue reading “Beginning the Semester Reminder: Backups”

R.I.P., Nacho Córdova

Nacho Córdova

It is with a heavy heart that I write of the passing of my friend, colleague, and mentor, Nathaniel I. Córdova, who most of us knew as Nacho. A beloved teacher and gifted scholar, Nacho was an associate professor and chair of rhetoric and media studies at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. In addition to being an academic, Nacho was a skilled photographer (both iPhoneography and more conventional dSLR work), a devoted partner, and a loving father.  I’m still pretty shocked to hear this news and remain speechless, so I’ll keep this post fairly brief…. Continue reading “R.I.P., Nacho Córdova”

More On the New Edition of Palante

A couple of days ago, I posted with glee that my copy of Palante had shipped. Having just arrived home from doing some work, I was delighted to see the box containing the book sitting on my front porch. What follows are some initial thoughts on the text, which underscore my prior belief that everyone needs a copy of this historic and affordable book.  Continue reading “More On the New Edition of Palante”