Hi The SALSA Collective, please tell us a little about yourselves…
Scholars of América Latina Studying desde Afuera (SALSA) brings together people from a variety of disciplines who explore, highlight, and challenge the complex and nuanced aspects of Latino/a culture.
We are currently based in Norwich where co-jefas, Becky and Eilidh, are studying in the School of American Studies at the University of East Anglia. Becky’s research addresses the changing demographics of the United States, specifically the rise of the Spanish speaking population and the ways in which the nation’s public schools have responded. Eilidh’s project explores the role of women in the Mexican American family – discussing the novels of Ana Castillo and Sandra Cisneros through literary, social, and cultural lenses to consider the changing role of women in Chicano society.
We met at the UEA but we had heard about each other before we met…
E: I’d been told to look out for Becky as a fellow Mexican-Americanista, a rare breed in AMS in the UK.
B: I too had heard about Eilidh, the new PhD student on the block, who also studies Latino culture. You can imagine my shock, a Scottish girl interested in Latinidad here in Norwich? I was very excited to meet her, especially having just returned from my research field trip in Los Angeles.
E: One of our first meetings was at the school annual symposium where we all share our work and straight into the questions Becky’s hand shot up and she was ready to grill me – in a nice way of course!
B: It is always extremely jarring to hear about researchers who study your community but it is also really exciting. Especially, as I didn’t realize that Mexican American culture was on the radar for researchers in the UK so I was very interested in her work and what she had to say.
E: And I of course was super excited to get my geek on and share ideas – such a wonderful coincidence to have someone here in Norwich to bounce ideas off and discuss new approaches.
B & E: And since then, we have really enjoyed working together and working out the kinks of our research: collaborating, sharing, and learning along the way (often with a glass of vino in hand).
What were the main reasons for setting up The SALSA Collective?
The SALSA Collective provides a space, currently absent in the UK, where dialogues concerning Latino/a culture, literature, music, film, history, politics can take place. Our goal is to promote the study of latinidad outside the conventional boundaries of academic and geo-political borders. We hope to encourage the reconceptualisation of Latino/a identity by seeing it as a fluid, dynamic, and significant force. It’s mainly all about bringing interested people together.
How did you get interested in Latino/a cultural studies?
B: My academic (and not so academic) journey has taken me, a Latina from Los Angeles, California, across the pond to study Latinos in the U.S. (It’s a long story). My research addresses the ways in which race, ethnicity and language informs U.S. national identity and the impacts this has on U.S. born Latinos.
E: I’ll forever be indebted to the amiga who gave me Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street. It’s from this collection of wonderful short stories that I became interested in Chicana literature and from there Mexican American and Latina/o culture more widely.
What kind of pieces do you post on your site?
So far we have included different kinds of blogs from people interested in various aspects of Latin American and Latino life. The blog has heard from Norwich, LA, London, Colombia, Mexico, Philadelphia, Cork, Cuba, and Miami. And our next blog comes from South America, from a scholar who looks at indigenous filmmaking.
We’ve written on our own experiences from conferences both within and outside the UK, exhibits we’ve seen, books we’ve read, but we have also included pieces from gente interested in and with experiences of Latinidad.
Do you have any events coming up?
En este momento no, but watch this space.
Where would you like to see The SALSA Collective in two years time?
We’d like to see the SALSA Collective with a more established network. Too often people with similar interests go unacquainted for too long, often missing out opportunities to discuss and build their research, interest, and knowledge. It’s been so great for us to share our work together, and we’d love to foster these kinds of connections for others.
We’d also like to work on more public engagement so that it’s not all about academic study of Latinidad but about communities and people – un tipo de compadrazgo.
How can people get involved with The SALSA Collective?