Webjefa’s note: We are honored to re-launch our new blog and website with this thoughtful inaugural post by former Chicana/Latina Studies editor KarenMary Davalos. Initially presented informally at our General Meeting last November in San Antonio, KarenMary offers her personal insight about what makes MALCS a unique organization.
Why MALCS is an important and unique professional organization
by KarenMary Davalos
While I served as the lead editor of Chicana/Latina Studies: The Journal of MALCS, readers and contributors consistently asked me to articulate why our organization is important and what makes it unique. I offer this brief reflection based on my experiences and observations to stimulate discussion about the significance and contribution of MALCS. Each item represents a vision and practice, and I admit, MALCS is on the path and in the process of our own nepantla. MALCS may not get it right every time, but the organization continues to return to the mission and vision it has for social transformation. In the words of Josie Mendez-Negrete, “MALCS is being careful not to reproduce the injuries that the academy has done to us,” and it creates spaces to guarantee that it grows and develops as an organization and with its membership. Thus, I hope that our collective voices will become the material for a more formal statement about MALCS that can be utilized in fundraising campaigns, membership drives, chapter development, and promotion and tenure. Additionally, if our voices can suggest ways to further operationalize these principles and practices that make MALCS unique and important, then we will also create a work plan for us and others to duplicate and share in these troubled times.
1) MALCS is a visionary organization because mentorship is one of its core principles.
Mentorship is one of the founding objectives of MALCS. It is not simply that we mentor through MALCS; it is the content of our consejos. MALCS does not try to reproduce the power structures that wounded our predecessors or our communities. Because MALCS is committed to social transformation, it aims to change how higher education functions, does business, defines success, etc. Within MALCS, mentoring occurs in two venues: at the journal and at the summer institute/conference. In addition to the two formal, structured initiatives of the journal—the annual writing workshop and the mentorship program—through which the journal assists writers in improving their work and readying it for submission, the journal’s editors usher works into print using a feminist editorial process. The feminist editorial process not only educates writers about the stages of publication (submission, review, copy editing, proofreading, etc.), but it helps them contextualize their work in the larger discourse. In very concrete ways, the feminist editorial process offers writers qualitatively and quantitatively more feedback compared to other journals. Reviewers for the journal must provide at least one substantive recommendation for submissions that are rejected. Mentorship at the summer institute is somewhat less structured but it is vital to the annual gathering, as meals, panels, workshops, and meetings are spaces in which we mentor each other.
2) MALCS is unique because each meeting begins and ends with spiritual ceremonia.
In order to maintain wellness and wholeness (to avoid further compartmentalization and illness), MALCS feeds the spirituality of its members. As with other important interventions in academia and society, MALCS consistently prioritizes the spiritual experience, presence, and dimension of humanity. When the members gather, we enact the mind/body/spirit connection: we pray, bless, share our gratitude, and name our spiritual guides.
3) MALCS is an interdisciplinary organization.
From its inception, MALCS joined the humanities, the social sciences, and the arts, particularly the visual and creative arts. Recently, MALCS has made bridges to scientists and mathematicians. MALCS not only invites members with diverse academic training and experience, but it fosters conversations across disciplines. In the pages of the journal, for example, MALCS interrupts disciplinary boundaries by requiring authors to read widely and rigorously trace their intellectual genealogy. It also blurs the distinctions between genres—article, creative writing, commentary, review—by thematically arranging the contents.
4) MALCS bridges community and academy.
Although I take seriously the guidance of others, particularly the 2010 MALCS Arizona Site Committee, who caution against a reification of the artificial separation between the community and the academy, MALCS values and engages spaces, people, organizers, leaders, and knowledges outside of higher education. In many ways and styles, MALCS links public activism with duties of the professorate. Teaching, advising, publishing, service are not separate from community engagement, community accountability, and community collaboration. MALCS challenges the unnatural walls between community and academia. MALCS members are activist-scholars, community organizers join us at the summer institute, and the journal offers a space to announce political mobilizations and struggles. This is a partial list of how MALCS bridges community and academy.
5) MALCS membership is inclusive of learners at many levels, from high school student to retired professors.
Graduate students along with a few assistant professors founded MALCS. It continues to serve learners who are starting their academic career. MALCS marks as one of its successes the fact that several members joined the organization as students—both undergraduate and graduate—and are now tenured professors, full professors, and retired faculty.
6) MALCS is a creating path for thriving in the academy.
MALCS is a space of support and empowerment. MALCS organizes the summer institute so that members can revitalize, rejuvenate, and renew. MALCS recognizes that many of us our isolated on our campuses and that we crave the spaces that allow us to become whole. The MALCS summer institute enables and empowers members to return to their campuses and communities fully charged, ready to continue the struggle, to publish, to teach, to lead.
For me, I thrive in the academy because I have learned from MALCSistas to maintain balance, my own definition of success and accomplishment, and wellness. I learn through MALCS to question power, to root out injustice, and to fight against the tyranny of the majority. The annual gatherings help me remove the mascara.