New Knowledge, Changing Worlds
The Department of Chicana/o Studies provides a venue for the interdisciplinary and multi-method study of social justice as evidenced within Chicana/o/x, Latina/o/x and Indigenous cultures, communities and experiences. By its founding documents, the Department was created to respond to the need for critically educated members of society, including those pursuing careers in education (as K-12 teachers and counselors), in the law and public policy and in social and environmental justice non-profit organizations. Over the past fifty years, students have become advocates for their communities, aided by their education in Chicana/o Studies and now additionally they have the option of pursuing doctoral degrees in the field. The Department of Chicana/o Studies was the first in the nation to create such a doctorate and continues to lead the field with faculty producing innovative research and new Ph.D.s entering the professoriate.
What does “Chicana/o” mean?
The terms “Chicana” and "Chicano" have been mobilized to inspire new political identities for the peoples of this hemisphere who have been impacted by waves of coloniality since 1492. In the US, these peoples fought against the low opportunity conditions to which they were confined because of their colonized “races,” “nationalities,” “ethnicities” and “cultures.”
During the 1960s, term “Chicano” was worked for and used by Filipinos and Mexican peoples who were born in the US as well as by Mexican immigrants to the US, and some Native Americans. Less well known today, is that the term was even adopted by many others who included Indigenous/Hispana/os, Mestizos, Central and Latin Americans, Afro-Latinos, Black, and Asian peoples. And as the great philosopher Gloria Anzaldúa points out, the term was adopted even by some Anglos who understood and who worked toward the state of decoloniality that the name “Chicana/o” still summons up.
For many today, being a member of the Chicanidad means to ascribe above all else to a decolonizing state of being bent on re-membering or reinventing into new combinations the liberatory aspects of cultures, languages, politics and economies once present in this hemisphere and elsewhere. The discipline of Chicana/o Studies seeks to undo colonizing approaches to all areas of life. In doing so, our department challenges common sense notions, perceptions and enactments of race/gender/sexuality/economics/Pedagogy/Law/government and Consciousness itself.
Taking root at UCSB in institutional form motivated by the Chicana/o/x Movements and Civil Rights Movements of the 1960s, Department of Chicana/o Studies scholars, staff and students continue to work for social justice locally and around the world.