Monday, August 19, 2013
August 19, 2013: Still Studying: George Sanchez
[With a new school year on the horizon, it’s important to acknowledge how much I continue to learn about America. So in this series, I’ll highlight—briefly, ‘cause I don’t know much yet!—subjects about which I’ve only recently learned. Add things you’re learning or have recently learned for a weekend post that’ll teach us all, please!]
On the pioneering book that’s ever more relevant at twenty.
The June issue of the journal American Quarterly featured a 20th anniversary retrospective on George Sanchez’s Becoming Mexican American: Ethnicity, Culture, and Identity in Chicano Los Angeles, 1900-1945 (1993). The piece, by African American scholar George Lipsitz, makes a compelling case for Sanchez’s book as a watershed moment, not only in Latino Studies specifically but in the evolution of Ethnic Studies and American Studies scholarship. It also sounds as if many of Sanchez’s focal points—Mexican American immigration, assimilation, and resistance; federal and state border and deportation policies; national and international labor and trade and their impacts on migrant workers; language and culture in diversifying but also stratified communities—are even more salient today than they were at the time of his book’s release.
I say “sounds” because, to my AmericanStudies shame, I have not yet read Sanchez’s book, and knew only the title before reading the Lipsitz piece. And I believe that my failure to do so to this point, while understandable given the plethora of works worth reading, does reflect in part a downside of the tendencies toward identity politics and scholarly specialization that have pervaded the academy (and the nation) for decades. That is, since I wasn’t studying Mexican or Latino American literature, history, or culture as an undergraduate or a graduate student, I didn’t put Sanchez’s book on my reading lists (literally or figuratively). But as Lipsitz persuasively argues, and of course as I believe to my core, any one ethnic American experience is also profoundly cross-cultural, both in practice (ie, in the interactions that impact any individual community) and in theory (ie, in what we all can learn and understand through engaging with each other).
Which is to say, it’s long past time that I read Sanchez’s book! Next subject I’m still studying tomorrow,
PS. So what are you still studying?