María Cotera, PhD
Associate Professor, Women's Studies Program & Program in American Culture (Latina/o Studies) at University of Michigan
2012 Roundtable on Latina Feminism
"Liberating the Feminist Archive: Documenting the Development of Chicana Feminist Thought through New Media"
By: Favianna Rodriguez & Jesus Barraza
Archival collections are most often figured as both the residue and the primary building blocks of historical memory. But they are also partial and idiosyncratic formations, unavoidably subject to the vagaries of chance and the individual interests and predilections of archivists who represent the interests of increasingly corporatized institutions. Moreover, access to archival collections is usually limited to a small cadre of authorized scholars, figured as the interpreters (molders) of the raw materials found in the archive. Is it possible to constitute an archive that can match the libratory potential of its central subject: Chicana feminism? What would such an archive look like? Who would help to create it, and who would have access to it? In this presentation, Cotera will talk about her digital humanities project Chicana Por Mi Raza: Mapping the Hidden History of Chicana Feminism a web-based archive that documents the development of Chicana feminist thought and praxis through an interactive timeline, digitized archival materials (out-of-print books, newspapers, reports, leaflets and other material culture culled from personal collections), oral histories, and secondary sources. The Chicana por Mi Raza project will not only create new feminist archives, but also interrogate the ways in which archives themselves are constituted. The project brings academics, activists, and media practitioners together to democratize the archive, and to push against the privatization of knowledge and envision a model of scholarship that does not transform the raw materials of the archive into mere commodities that can be sold in the marketplace of ideas.
María Cotera began her career as a researcher and writer at the Chicana Research and Learning Center, a non-profit dedicated to supporting research by and about women of color. In 1989 she helped produce “Crystal City: A Twenty Year Reflection,” a documentary about the role of young women in the 1969 Chicano student walkouts in Crystal City, Texas. From 1992 to 1994 Cotera worked with Dr. Jose Limón (University of Texas) on a recovery project that uncovered a lost manuscript by Texas folklorist Jovita González. Published in 1996, the manuscript, entitled Caballero, includes a critical epilogue by Cotera. Since that time she has published numerous essays on Jovita González and Sioux ethnographer Ella Deloria and has recovered other works by González. Having recently completed NativeSpeakers, her book about the ethnographic fiction of Ella Deloria, Zora Neale Hurston, and Jovita González, professor Cotera’s research now centers on recovering the theoretical writing and cultural productions of Chicana Feminists from 1960-1990.