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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Mesoamerica Heals Our School: A Critical Narrative Inquiry of Ancestral Computing Para el Vivir Comunitario en El Sereno

  • Author(s): Moreno Sandoval, Cueponcaxochitl Dianna
  • Advisor(s): McLaren, Peter
  • Morrell, Ernest
  • et al.

People of Mesoamerican descent are the fastest-growing population in the U.S., yet public schooling institutions continue to push for the erasure of Mesoamerican historical knowledges through present-day colonialism. Public schools reproduce a raced, gendered and economically stratified academic pipeline. This pipeline is especially evident in computer science (CS), one of the most segregated fields in education that promotes an unquestioned digitized approach to living, learning, and dying, primarily for capital gain. This Critical Narrative Inquiry centers Mesoamerican epistemology by describing student activism and adult support through the lens of Itzel, a high school junior, in three organizational tiers: a student-led organization, a CS classroom and a larger schooling community. The foundational framework of this study stems from Critical Theory in a Xicana Sacred Space, a method of reflexivity that relies on critical discourses and material practices through a focus on decolonial scholarship. I include auto-ethnography as I draw upon empirical observation, inquiry and analysis of my experience as a unique `insider'. The central question that guides this study is: How may Mesoamerican academic cultural practices provide a foundation for a positive learning ecology of cultural academic identities in three organizational levels of a public high school, especially in spaces that have been historically segregated, like computer science education? Over the course of three years (2009-2012), and using a Grounded Theory approach to data collection and analysis, I highlighted the interconnections between the themes that emerged to build a Critical Narrative Inquiry. I begin with the narratives that develop within the microcosm of a student-led organization about ancestral computing for food justice. Itzel's participation details how a student-led initiative of promoting ancestral praxis interacts with computing for social change. With collaborative adult support, Itzel navigates several dimensions of her identity in her cultural academic journey developing critical consciousness for collective action while healing the neoliberal sickness in public schooling as a continued movement for educational excellence entre el vivir comunitario.

This empirical study reveals Mesoamerican academic cultural practices as a Figured World (FW), a socially constructed cultural world that Itzel and others create. This world exposes ancestral computing (AC) practices--a critical approach to situating computing, or digital activism, from a familial historical perspective of communal vision--and reveal that social relevance can foster positive cultural identities as academic practices in schooling, even in the most barren sites of diversity. The scholarly significance of this work is threefold; it: 1) reveals how Mesoamerican familial practices motivates positive cultural identities as academic practices; 2) spawns a counter-culture that promotes critical thinking for collective agency and responsible technology production towards el vivir

comunitario; and 3) illustrates a model that bridges student-led initiatives to classroom and neighborhood wide spaces.

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