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An Assessment of Latcrit Theory Ten Years after


Keith Aoki


University of California, Davis - School of Law

Kevin R. Johnson


University of California, Davis - School of Law

October 17, 2008

Indiana Law Journal, No. 83, 2008
UC Davis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 151

Abstract:     
This article is published in a symposium issue on Latina/os and the Law. This essay assesses LatCrit theory a decade after Latina/o Critical Legal Studies (LatCrit) began publishing symposia that attempted to gather and organize a diverse group of scholars working on diverse scholarly projects using a diverse set of methodologies. This essay recognizes both LatCrit's achievements and shortcomings. LatCrit has articulated an anti-essentialist and anti-subordination agenda, creating an important social network for young scholars of color at the annual LatCrit Conference. However, LatCrit theory, as represented by the annual publication of papers solicited at the Conference, has been uneven and this essay considers reasons why this is and what might be done to address this unevenness.

LatCrit theorists, through an organized institutional structure, have instrumentally built a community of scholars and fostered a collective commitment to issues of social justice. Moreover, to its credit, LatCrit theory in little over a decade has produced a considerable body of scholarship analyzing race and racism, as well as other forms of subordination, in the United States and globally. It has, for example, made important contributions to the analysis of the Black/white paradigm of civil rights, which historically has marginalized Latina/o civil rights concerns. LatCrit theory has also shed fresh new insights on deep, enduring, and complex issues of Latina/o identity, as well as criminal justice, immigration enforcement, and the building of mulitiracial coalitions for social justice.

From its outset, LatCrit has stood firmly committed to anti-essentialism - the acknowledgment of the great diversity in the Latina/o community - and anti-subordination. These two foundational principles are now so embedded in the critical literature that they are difficult to seriously dispute today.

However, one vitally important-and unquestionably fundamental-question inevitably nags at virtually any scholar in evaluating critical Latina/o theory at this time in its history: beyond some original insights at the movement's inception, what has LatCrit come to affirmatively stand for today as a scholarly movement? Given the current state of LatCrit scholarship, one would be hard pressed to answer this question with any degree of certainty. A review of LatCrit's sprawling body of work reveals that the unifying themes and common threads are difficult to identify with specificity.

In 2006, LatCrit theory published a symposium issue commemorating its tenth annual conference, an important milestone. In this essay, we hope to use this historical moment as an opportune time to assess both LatCrit theory's scholarly achievements as well as its future trajectory. In so doing, we bring to print issues that have been discussed extensively inside and outside of LatCrit circles for many years. These sensitive issues, however, have largely escaped commentary in LatCrit scholarship-effectively sacrificed to the goal of inclusion and to the concerted efforts to construct a lasting scholarly community. In our estimation, the prolonged silence about the unevenness of LatCrit scholarship jeopardizes the intellectual component of the burgeoning movement.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 46

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Date posted: October 20, 2008  

Suggested Citation

Aoki, Keith and Johnson, Kevin R., An Assessment of Latcrit Theory Ten Years after (October 17, 2008). Indiana Law Journal, No. 83, 2008; UC Davis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 151. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1286181

Contact Information

Keith Aoki
University of California, Davis - School of Law ( email )
Martin Luther King, Jr. Hall
Davis, CA 95616-5201
United States
Kevin R. Johnson (Contact Author)
University of California, Davis - School of Law ( email )
Martin Luther King, Jr. Hall
400 Mrak Hall Drive
Davis, CA 95616-5201
United States
530 752 0243 (Phone)
530 752 7279 (Fax)
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