UC Latino Cultures Network
Kristen Silva Gruesz
UC Santa Cruz
UC Los Angeles
The UC Latino Cultures Network brought together UC faculty across departments and fields of specialization working in Latino literary and cultural studies: an emergent field in which the object of knowledge itself is unusually subject to change, as new texts, images, films, and sound recordings are created, made available through translation, and rediscovered in the archives. Not only is the state of knowledge about Latino cultural expression dynamic, the conditions under which this knowledge is produced are more volatile than in a typical Humanities field. Scholars must continually advance new ways of looking at present and past cultural productions in keeping with large-scale demographic shifts and developments in political economy. Consequently, even as demand for this knowledge expands rapidly, print publication is not always the optimal medium for assessing the field: dynamic models of scholarly dialogue are more appropriate to its exigencies than static ones. Our MRG addresses these demands by creating a collaborative online resource that will be housed on UC’s eScholarship site and organized around key words, historical flashpoints, and visual icons in the analysis of Latino cultural production.
Many innovative recent volumes have followed the lead of Raymond Williams’s Keywords in exploring the shifting currency of a particular concept. Others, such as the New Literary History of America and parts of Literary Cultures of Latin America, have used a temporal “flashpoint” as a point of entry into explorations of longer-term historical processes. Such reference works encourage horizontal, connective modes of reading rather than linear ones. Our collection of key words/moments/icons entries—each around 2000 words—will draw from these horizontal models (which recall hypertext and are innately suitable to the Web) but add an innovative component. In addition to its “stable” main text, each entry will have a “dynamic” parallel column which will periodically re-frame, and re-interpret the key word in light of new events or changing conditions. An update to the keyword citizenship, for instance, might address the current debate over birthright citizenship in the US and show how that concept would take on a new retrospective significance in the Latino context if the Fourteenth Amendment were to be abolished. These periodic updates will be flagged visually on the screen (for instance, with a parallel column in a different color) and publicized as they were made available using RSS feeds, helping establish a readership for this resource. The authors of such an entry would not need, then, to rewrite the stable entry immediately, but through updating option they can mark it as one in which the state of knowledge is particularly dynamic.