New class pushes for intersectionality

February 7, 2020

This semester, a new class titled “HISP 178B: Latinx Futurisms,” will be taught by Professor María Durán, a Florence Levy Kay Fellow in U.S. Latinx Cultural Studies. Durán is a new professor here at Brandeis. While explaining why this subject interests her, Durán highlighted in an email interview with The Brandeis Hoot how, currently, she has been working on a research project and is interested in the creation of “altermundos,” or alternate worlds. 

These worlds are created by Latinx writers and provide critiques on politics and society. These “mundos” allow individuals to look toward the future to see how people can make the world into a better place. They also allow students to look at the present and the past and analyze specific moments—such as moments that display systematic oppression, colonization or violence—in order to make sure that history doesn’t repeat itself. She desires to share these “mundos” with her students and allow them to think of ways they can apply to the modern age. 

While describing the content of her class, Durán wrote to The Hoot that many “Latinx ‘gems’ are embedded in the cultural productions with which students will be engaging. That is, these productions integrate some pretty important theoretical Latinx interventions, which may not be readily apparent to students who have not taken an introduction to Latin American or Latinx Studies course.” 

Durán believes that one of the challenges in teaching this class will be understanding these “gems.” She gives an example of the word “nepantla” which is a Nahuatl word that means “in between” and is mentioned only once in Gloria Anzaldúa’s “Borderlands/La Frontera.” Although this word is mentioned very briefly, it is a word that is extremely complex and  “represents points of growth and transformation.” Durán describes how she has to “slow down and contextualize the relevance to and the implications of using this term in Latinx speculative arts.”

In the first few weeks of the class, students will be exploring the doctrine of Afrofuturism. As the semester continues, students will delve into many cross-cultural connections and investigate ethnic studies, borderlands theory and queer studies. The students will read poems, plays, comic books, nonfiction essays, novels and historical documents. Students will also look at and analyze pieces of art. Durán plans to have many unique teaching methods in class, such as having students engage in debates, simulations, create memes and have lightning presentations. She highlights how she is most excited about teaching Edgardo Miranda-Rodriquez’s “La Borinqueña: The First Latina Superhero!”

Durán’s two main goals for this class include firstly breaking the commonly white and patriarchal mindset that many individuals have toward science fiction. She also intends to teach students that Latinx cultural productions have the ability to push boundaries in the arts through art and literature. Durán hopes that students will understand the value of Latinx speculative arts and their ability to overcome boundaries between gender, sexuality, race and class. She illustrates that “[i]t is a future that transcends these categories in pursuit of emancipation and social justice.”

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