The Story of a Vision

The birth of the Series crystallized a growing sense that it was necessary to foster an awareness of the unique contributions that persons who were born, raised, and/or passed through the Rio Grande Valley made locally, nationally and transnationally. Indeed, the idea of hosting a Series that recognized Anzaldúa’s legacy had been unfolding.  At the time junior faculty members – among them Dr. Cory Wimberly in Philosophy, Dr. Stephanie Alvarez in Mexican American Studies (MAS), Writer and Poet Emmy Pérez in Creative Writing, MAS, and current Director of CMAS, and Dr. Sonia Hernández former faculty in History and MAS – had been discussing this possibility.  Guided by this vision, in 2006 Dr. Cory Wimberly began to host guest philosophers to give talks that reflected Anzaldúa’s legacy. Thanks to the work and leadership of former faculty Dr. Adriel Trott, the Anzaldúa Speaker Series in Philosophy was officially created in 2008.

The Series is unique because its mission is to focus on the philosophical nature of Gloria E. Anzaldúa’s body of work, which is original in its expressive form, epistemic and cultural presuppositions, transnational orientation, and distinct philosophical concerns. In so doing, the Series highlights the significance of her contributions to the academic field of philosophy while expanding our cultural imaginary of what philosophy is.

Since Anzaldúa’s work is a testament to the philosophical currents that form part of the history and living reality of the Rio Grande Valley, the Series has become a public forum to concretely engage with an often overlooked component of the local community’s rich cultural legacy. Indeed, Anzaldúa argued that because of the social, economic, and cultural circumstances affecting the life decisions of Mexican Americans in the United States, her community had been historically discouraged from learning literary, philosophical, and otherwise “abstract” cultural forms in favor of obtaining knowledge that can be “applied.” However, for Anzaldúa these “abstract” cultural forms are actually concrete tools to gain access to the diverse traditions that inform people’s customs and perspectives as well as practices that express contemporary experiences that build complex, critical, and creative cultural understandings of our multiple selves and others. Such a perspective is particularly relevant within transnational and transcultural borderlands formed by the encounter of local histories and global forces. In this sense, the Series contributes towards Anzaldúa’s own pedagogical vision of overcoming this false dichotomy between “abstract” and “applied” knowledge and presents the concrete ways in which philosophy – in its diverse dimensions and forms – is a skilled practice and form of social labor.

Today, the Series has become an important part of our Philosophy Department, University and Rio Grande Valley community. The Series include both nationally and internationally renowned intellectuals and junior scholars.  Audiences have been as large as 65 guests.

Throughout the years the Anzaldúa Speaker Series in Philosophy has enjoyed the support and generosity of many.  First and foremost, we are grateful to Ms. Kit Quan and Dr. AnaLouise Keating for granting the Series the legal permission to explicitly mention Anzaldúa’s name in its title.  We are also tremendously grateful to each and every one of our invited Speakers, who shared their wealth of intellectual, practical, and embodied knowledges, at times in exchange for very little to no financial support. Without their generosity, the Series would have never taken off and become such an integral part of our institutional and community identity.  A special thanks to philosophers Cory Wimberly Alex Stehn, Mariana Alessandri, and Ian Werkheiser for their continuous support. We are also thankful for the encouragement and/or material support of the Chair and Faculty members of the Department of Philosophy, the Center for Mexican American Studies, the Office of the Provost and Vice-Provost for Faculty Affairs, the Office of the Dean of the former Arts and Humanities College, the University Library, and Texas Humanities Mini-Grant Program.

The Anzaldúa Speaker Series in Philosophy does not have access to permanent allocated funds.  If you wish to support the Series to ensure the continuity of its success, you may reach us by email here.