Neoliberalism and the Battle Over Ethnic Studies in Arizona
Thought and Action: The NEA Higher Education Journal, pp. 45-56, Fall 2010
12 Pages Posted: 18 Mar 2011
Date Written: September 1, 2010
On May 14, 2010, Sandra K. Soto served as the invited faculty speaker at the Convocation ceremony for the University of Arizona College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. She spoke in the context of, and made explicit reference to, the raging political debate in Arizona over the passage of two laws: the anti-immigration law, SB 1070, that has received international attention; and HB 2281, intended to ban the teaching of Ethnic Studies in K-12. Soto’s speech and the reactions to it - the audience’s effort to shout her down, a strategic YouTube posting of the decontextualized second-half of the speech, the attention from local and national news and opinion media, hundreds of e- mails addressed to her and to university administrators - became an occasion through which the political and racialized dynamics at work in the state were repeated and elaborated. This essay analyses the ways the speech became another battle in the war over the external boundaries, internal norms, power relations, and resource distribution of the state and nation and highlighted the complexities of the so-called “public sphere,” the various institutional sites of discourse and their diverse norms and the constraints on who can speak and be heard, what can be said and be heard.
Keywords: Ethnic Studies; Immigration; Neoliberalism
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