Teaching Gloria Anzaldúa as an American Philosopher

In Margaret Cantú-Sánchez, Candace de León-Zepeda & Norma Elia Cantú (eds.), Teaching Gloria E. Anzaldúa: Pedagogy and Practice for Our Classrooms and Communities. pp. 296-313 (2020)
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Many of my first students at Anzaldúa’s alma mater read Borderlands/La Frontera and concluded that Anzaldúa was not a philosopher. Hostile comments suggested that Anzaldúa’s intimately personal and poetic ways of writing were not philosophical. In response, I created “American Philosophy and Self-Culture” using backwards course design and taught variations of it in 2013, 2016, and 2018. Students spend nearly a month exploring Anzaldúa’s works, but only after reading three centuries of U.S.-American philosophers who wrote in deeply personal and literary ways about self-transformation, community-building, and world-changing. The sections of this chapter: 1) describe why my first students rejected Anzaldúa as a philosopher in terms of the discipline’s parochialism; 2) present Anzaldúa’s broader understanding of herself as a philosopher; 3) summarize my reconstructed Anzaldúa-inspired American Philosophy course and outline some assignments; 4) discuss how my students respond to Borderlands/La Frontera when we read it through the lens of self-culture; and 5) explain my attempt to shape the subdiscipline of American Philosophy by teaching Anzaldúa to specialists at the 2017 Summer Institute in American Philosophy.



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Alexander V. Stehn
University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

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