Tracing the lives of eight Midwestern Mexican American women, my dissertation interrogates the role of stories and storytelling in familial relationships and community building. I engage with Chicana feminist understandings of identity through these Midwestern Chicanas' stories of growing up in the Midwest (in the 60s and 70s) and their lives as women – while paying particular attention to the intersectional categories of gender, race, class and sexuality. Chapter One situates a “mestiza methodology” and the process of collecting oral histories with three women who are immediately related to me and five who are not. Weaving in women's stories, Chapter Two deals with Gloria Anzaldúa’s conceptualization of the borderlands (as an in–between space of creative strategies for survival and affirmation) in relation to Midwestern Mexican American woman's experiences. By situating Anzaldúa’s metaphorical borderlands in the Midwest (Kansas and Minnesota), I argue that while the physical border may be miles away the cultural clashes/borders that exist due to isolation, racism, and initially small communities of color have nevertheless mapped the borderland onto Chicanas in the Midwest and yet, their narratives are full of opportunities for re–envisioning politicized identities through the firm planting of roots, self–definition, and claiming an alienating space as home. Chapter Three uncovers the complicated understandings of silence in relation to Chicana sexuality and la familia. I explore how these women often resist the gendered roles they might feel constrained by in order to move the reader to think about their actions as underground feminist acts. Lastly, the conclusion synthesizes these eight Midwestern Chicana voices around the theme of storytelling. It reiterates the importance and value of the family and how storytelling has served as a means to pass on cultural knowledge. In exploring the bonds that women specifically build through storytelling I characterize the sharing of stories for these greater purposes as actos de amor, (acts of love). I assert that through dissolving the strict borders between ethnography and oral history, or testimonio and storytelling we can write Midwestern Chicanas into larger histories and explore alternative meanings of feminist identities in these geographic places far from the U.S./Mexico border.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. December 2010. Major: Feminist Studies. Advisor: Edén E. Torres. 1 computer file (PDF);viii, 288 pages, appendices A-C.
Creel, Kandace J..
“This is our home!” Chicana Oral Histories: (Story)telling life, love and identity in the Midwest.
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