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The Future(s) of Ethnic Studies is in its Past(s)…and in the Surrounding Possibilities


According to Walter D. Mignolo, unlike the speakers of modern European languages where the future is "in front" of the person, for the Quichua or Aymara people of Ecuador the future is "behind" as it cannot be seen.  That is, because the past can be remembered and therefore "seen," it is for this reason that it is "in front" of you.[i] From this perspective, it's imperative—if we are to consider the future(s) of Ethnic Studies—to look, carefully examine, and reflect on the field's past(s).  Moreover, if the past can be remembered and therefore "seen in front" of you, them it should follow that the "present" is always already a surrounding portal of infinite possibilities and opportunities.  By fusing these perspectives, this article has two goals.  The first one is to call attention to the activist origins of Ethnic Studies.  Having its foundation in a decolonizing praxis, I argue that activism and community organizing always should be central to the field.  From the perspective that Ethnic Studies should be attuned to the openings that the current context of activism is providing, the second goal is to highlight my participation in recent campus and community centered organizing in the San Francisco Bay Area.  The reason for this is that, if Ethnic Studies intends to remain relevant the current historical contours and communities, the field's activist underpinnings must be aligned with current decolonizing social change happening on the ground.

[i] Walter D. Mignolo, "Globalization and the Geopolitics of Knowledge: The Role of the Humanities in the Corporate University," Nepantla: Views from the South, 4.1, (2003), 114.

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