We Are Our Own Best Advocates: Latinx Immigrants Teaching and Learning for Their Rights

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


This practitioner inquiry (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 2009) study examines the literacy, teaching and learning practices of Latinx immigrants’ organizing in the context of historically high anti-immigrant legal violence (Abrego & Menjívar, 2012) by the United States government. Informed by theories of de/coloniality (e.g. Mignolo, 2011), research decolonization (e.g. Smith, 1999/2012), literacy as sociocultural practice (e.g. Street, 1984), intergenerational learning (e.g., Gadsden & Hall, 1996), Latina/Chicana feminist epistemologies (e.g., Anzaldúa, 1987/2007) and popular education (e.g., Freire, 1970/2007), this study involved systemic inquiry into my own and shared organizing practice at a grassroots immigrant-led Latinx organization over the course of one year. Methods included in-depth interviews of eleven Latinx immigrants with whom I shared an organizing practice, as well as documentation of our work through fieldnotes and photography. A key finding is that Latinx immigrant communities organize for their rights by intergenerationally mobilizing literacies as critical social practices that facilitate what I term a “communal pedagogy of resistance”. This is an inquiry-based dialectic pedagogy that foregrounds communal being, expands our sense of who is part of our people, and leads to intermeshed action (Lorde, 1984; Lugones, 2014) for immigrant rights and for the larger dismantling of systems of oppression that affect all disenfranchised and racialized communities in the U.S. Another key finding is that practitioner inquiry can be a methodology to resist coloniality. Distinctively, this research also demonstrates that the organizing practice of Latinx immigrants is inquiry-based intergenerational educational practice. As a whole, this study provides important insights for K-12, community-based and higher education practitioners. Among much else, this research makes the case for regarding Latinx immigrant children, youth, adults and families through deepened resource-orientations that acknowledge the complexity of the educational and literacy practices they must employ to resist oppression everyday. Similarly, viewing organizing through literacy and education lenses could be influential to organizers within and beyond the movement for immigrant rights. In all, this study provides a textured image of what resisting coloniality in research and in organizing entails from the epistemic privilege (Campano, 2007; Mohanty, 1997) of communities most affected by legacies and ongoing realities of colonialism and imperialism.

Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017
Externally publishedYes

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