Chicano Drivers of Ideas in Anthropology Across Space and Place: Pre-Postmodern Debts to Chicano Studies and Others


Carlos Vélez-Ibáñez

Document Id: OC-53

A brief sojourn in the development of anthropology conducted by Chicano/a anthropologists in the United States suggests that the currents in transnational and postmodern analysis presently in vogue in anthropology were anticipated by equivalent theoretical and methodological positions held by many of us who had been involved in Chicano Studies. As well, new institutional forms have been inaugurated in anthropology as a direct and indirect result of the experience of participating in and managing Chicano Studies programs and centers. Many of us simultaneously participated in Chicano Studies departments and engaged in graduate programs in anthropology in the late 60's and early 70's. For many of us in California, including Roberto Alvarez, Jose Cuellar, Diego Vigil, Steve Arvizu, Paul Espinosa, Margarita Melville, and myself, our experience teaching the incipient courses in Chicano Studies led us to cross into then non-Chicano territory in place and theory. Cuellar and Vigil worked as ethnographers in Guatemala; Alvarez traced the emergence of Mexicans from lower California to Lemon Grove, Calif.; Arvizu and others were among the first to offer a serious theoretical critique of anthropology in Decolonizing Anthropology (1978), simultaneous to Melville's well recalled patterns of domination in Guatemala. All impacted our rendition of a different kind of anthropology and Chicano Studies. I initially began my work in urban Mexico seeking answers to questions initiated by Chicano Studies. In fact, what is particular to all of this cohort of incipient anthropologists is their experience and engagement in multinational ethnography, processes and analysis, and a "critical cultural" stance from which to engage theory and substantive data and ethnography.

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