For New College Associate Professor C. Alejandra Elenes, the words may come easier than for most others. What she puts into her work is from the heart and from her upbringing. She writes what she knows, and her two most recent efforts are no exception to the rule.
“The analysis and critique of unequal social conditions and the struggle to change these also produce knowledge, alternative pedagogies, and ways of being in the world.”
C. Alejandra Elenes in her introduction to
Elenes, who teaches in the Division of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies, has authored “Transforming Borders: Chicana/o Popular Culture and Pedogogy” (Lexington Books) and co-authored with Dolores Delgado Bernal of the University of Utah, “Chicana Feminist Theorizing: Methodologies, Pedagogies and Practices,” a chapter in the third edition of “Chicano School Failure and Success: Past, Present and Future.”
Both deal with issues relating to the U.S.-Mexico border.
“My interest in the border, borderland theories and the relationship between culture and knowledge is the result of my experience growing up in a
bilingual, bicultural and transnational family,” says Elenes, who has spent her academic career conducting research, teaching and volunteering her services at ASU’s West campus since 1992. “I am the product of two cultures (Mexican and “American”), religions (Catholic and Protestant) and nations (Mexico and the U.S.).”
Her most recent book, “Transforming Borders,” is a significant contribution to transformative pedagogies scholarship, adding the voices of Chicanas feminist teachings, epistemologies and ontologies to the debate. The author looks at the significance of historical events, such as the creation of the U.S.-Mexico border, to understand the experiences of people of Mexican descent in the United States.
“What I hope this book can contribute is not only to add the voices of Chicanas and other people of color to this scholarship, but that in doing so, we operationalize the commitments to social justice by developing models that integrate and intersect race, class, gender, sexuality, power and privilege,” she says.
Elenes, who has served as a board member of the Arizona Association for Chicanos in Higher Education since 2004, admits the book plays to an academic audience, but also believes it contains lessons for all. “Any person who is interested in popular culture, especially narratives and stories of the people of Mexican descent, will be interested in the book and the histories of La Llorona (the Weeping Woman), the Virgin of Guadalupe and Malintzin/Malinche.
“I highlight in ‘Transforming Borders’ how stories change over time and according to who is telling the story,” she says. “I also point out that even though these stories have a long association with patriarchy, they have been reclaimed and re-imaged as feminist and women-centric images.”