(AL=Amy Lind LL=Laz Lima)
AL: Thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview Dr. Lima. I wanted to start by asking you generally about your background and how you came to decide to write a book about Sonia Sotomayor.
LL: Yeah, well it’s a big topic, but first, thanks for the invitation and for hosting me here at the University of Cincinnati. It’s my first time in Cincinnati and I’ve just found the city phenomenal. So a little bit about my academic trajectory, I’m an immigrant, English is not my first language, and one of the possibilities for social mobility that always inhere to my immigrant families’ version of coming to the states, of giving up versions of home for the sake of a future were always premised on education, and education is a type of freedom, and education as social mobility, which is really part of the driving force so various iterations of the American Dream. So, from school experiences that were often times jarring when we left Cuba, we went through Spain and with a little sojourn in the Azores, which were a processing center for Cuban refugees at a certain point, we arrived in what I’ve since called the Northern most city in Cuba, which is Miami and Miami was a space that was very similar to the versions of home that I had remembered prior to that displacement across the Atlantic into the west coast of Africa and the Azores and then the upper peninsula so when my parents divorced, then we all of a sudden had to find another version of home and we ended up in Connecticut then it was really curious to me that I was shocked that folks don’t speak Spanish in Connecticut, and that meant being taken in by teachers and counselors, who were interested in me, not because it was part of their job description, but because they saw it as part of their mission in what they were doing, and that was a different time during American public education, where even the public school system had a very clear sense of the mission driven imperative of what it means to live the American Dream. We’re in a politically different moment right now where the challenges at hand are many, but one of the constants was always this notion of education equals social mobility so Sonia Sotomayor’s story is really one fundamentally of social mobility and immigration, so those points of contact, with the fact that she is the nation’s best known and most influential public figure being on the Supreme Court now since she’s been in since 2010 made her an opportunity to think through how to present a version of the Latino/Latinx brands in the United States through this representative figure. So I went through ways of figuring out how to tell the story of Latinos in the United States that certainly goes back so many years, but we have such a paucity of examples and certainly we’re not reflected in the social mirror, in the educational mirror, and in the nation’s institutions, so she really became a figure through whom the character promise of American political life could be rearticulated again and for scores of nationals, nationals in the making, and other disenfranchised majorities. She has herself taken it upon herself to really provide a sort of blueprint for the Si Se Puede that we have come to associate with Latino equity projects, the yes you can, and yes we can. And I wanted to see how that story jived or not with the structural systems in place that would allow for fortified American Dream in the 21st century, so the book Being Brown Sonia Sotomayor and the Latino question seeks to tell two parallel stories, one of this phenomenal and engaging human being and her amazing story and also the parallel rund that the story has with versions of enfranchisement and the possibility for social mobility of the nation’s largest minority majority right now at 57.5 million which means that Latinos in the U.S. right now which represent the largest minority, more than African Americans or any other, so part of the story is trying to explain why this has happened, what we stand to lose as nation when we don’t understand the politics of civic possibility and becoming and engagement. So, the book tries to tell that story.
AL: Thanks. In the book, you talk about the Latino question in relation to the “historical Jewish question and the Negro problem.” Can you tell me a little bit more about how and why you focus on the Latino question and what that means to you?
LL: Yeah, the Latino question can basically be summarized as an opportunity to understand what is the country to do with Latinos as its largest majority minority, and what are Latinos to do with their disenfranchisement from American civic life, as I mentioned Latinos are the least represented in administrative structures from the court to institutions. Think of, in our own fields, how many administrators, how many college presidents, how many provosts, how many deans are Latinos. So I really want to understand why we’ve inherited a version of Latino-ness that is versions of Latin Americans in the United States as recent interlopers onto the national fold rather than constitutive of the nation along with other groups. So to the question, what are we to do with our nation’s most disenfranchised majority minority, what are the creative responses that Latinos have engaged in since the consolidation of the United States after the U.S. Mexico war for example, and these historical, signal, and flashpoints, we’ve lost them and we don’t tell them in our national pedagogies, we don’t tell them in our stories of American-ness because the Latino question is a type of familiar stranger that we recognize and we get a sense of, but it’s a familiar stranger who disappears like a ghost and reappears at moments profound cultural transformations such as the one that we have inherited after 2016 where we are now contemplating now what to do with children still as of this interview in cages. So having that conversation respectfully and thoughtfully, but also with the intellectual rigor and passion that could allow us to better understand this inheritance, how it came to be, I think is central to democratic practice and certainly part and parcel to what Humanities projects should be doing to engage with the broader civitas.
AL: So one thing that really impresses me about your work is not only the writing you’ve done, but also the films you’ve made and the powerful stories that you tell through your writings and films, yet, you have a critique of storytelling. I’m wondering if you could talk a little bit more about what that means to you, what we need to do since it’s so trendy right now to talk about storytelling in the Humanities and beyond. You know, what do we need to do beyond that, and how can humanists intervene in these so called wicked problems, and these crisis situations that we’re faced with.
LL: It’s really interesting. Crises are inherently anti-narrative. They either precede, narratives precede crises, “Oh, we’re going to have a hurricane,” but it evades common locution when you’re in the middle of the moraz, when you’re in the middle of the thick of a storm, and its only after that you begin to piece it together through storytelling, and through the rearrangement as we use to say in Literary Studies is a discourse is plotted onto a grid right so discourse is the arrangement of facts where the facts might be a, b, all the way through z. Discourse rearranges that to produce a given effect and the less we have interlocutors, who understand the very basics of representational strategies, we could be swept up in stories that are compelling but that aren’t based on fact, that aren’t based on notions of the commonality that they would extol, whether it’s about us being Americans, whether it’s about our particular historical moment right now, and the Humanities are really key to an understanding of another inheritance, which really is a false opposition between the civic case for the Humanities and the economic case. So the civic case provides critical thinking, the possibility to be free as in the tradition the liberal arts that begins with the Greco Roman tradition and the idea of seeing civitas, the idea of being free from dogma to the economic case, which is “I need a job.” And it’s curious that it’s precisely at a moment of Neo-Liberal emergence in the United States, and certainly the rest of the world, in particular England and the United States in the 1980s were three principle pillars that begin to emerge and begin to organize social life. And that is privatization, economic efficiency, and personal responsibility. Things begin to get privatized, and we know from the Maggie Thatcher story and British telecom, she gets really angry and all of sudden she can’t the phone installed and she wants to privatize that industry. And that’s an example of how the state and functions of the state are turning over to functions of capital and pecunia and that is monetary gain. With the question of economic efficiency, I think of education and why would institutions invest in things like tenure when they could hire adjuncts and then to the question of personal responsibility, if the plenty before us is being dispensed in a meritocratic system then what is it that if students fail, they must absolutely have a moral failing to accompany that because the plenty is all before them so these are some of the mythologies that inhere enter a particular moment and why as humanists, it’s central for us to be able to untangle that, not only to ourselves and our students, but to constituencies because this false opposition that we’ve inherited between the civic case and the economic case are really antithetical to one of the greatest gifts bequeathed by the United States to the world and that is pragmatism, so the question of continental philosophy from John Dewey to Du Bois even to Gloria Anzaldúa some would say, education is a function of liberating citizens and citizens in the making from the prerogatives of those who would make them subservient to their own interests, so it becomes expedient, it becomes necessary, it becomes urgent to think through how best to have that conversation. And that’s really related to some of the films I was doing so I appreciate that you ask that question. I had been writing books and articles and 2016 became a signal flashpoint for significant reasons that we’ve already covered, but most significantly because I wanted to figure out a way to communicate about the particular moment and a particular legacy of people of Latin American ancestry in the United States and one way of doing that is to reach people through film and the possibility of storytelling through film became a preoccupation of mine, and I had this wonderful student at a previous institution where I worked, and she had a very compelling story about as a child being brought to this country and not knowing about her status and her possibility for education and education’s practice for freedom, heavily valued in her home, and I wanted to figure out how I could tell that story outside the context of the oral history that I was working with my community at the time, and also the various communities that she had been with and put me in contact with. So after getting a grant, I was able to find a director whose work I respected deeply and we were working on very similar topics and her name is Carolyn E. Brown, award winning documentary filmmaker, she’s directed films such as The Salinas Project and now more recently Rubí: A DACA Dreamer in Trump’s America. So I wanted to find a way through technologies of representation and cultural dissemination that would make it possible for a vast swath of folks to hear that story, hear that compelling story, and with a caveat too that it is told from a particular perspective or particular point of view, but one that I feel that jives with the ethics of our moment and the best of democratic American practice, which goes back to this gift bequeathed of United States continental philosophy, which is the idea as Dewey told us that education about inculcating either one, someone into the protocols of the old world and ways of being and privilege or critical citizens in the making that could fortify democratic practice through asking the right questions and not being beholden to the authority or the word of another. And that type of freedom, whether we live them as petite freedoms every day and the way that we care for the ones around us that we love in the ways that we reach out to students who seem distant to us in the classroom, but really are undergoing things that we can’t even imagine. That type of humanity is part of what this great project called democracy requires of us and as educators, we’re at the forefront and though we can’t correct all of that inheritance, we can certainly do our best to disentangle what we’ve inherited, which is a version, a false version of the civic case for education and the Humanities and the economic case for education in the Humanities.
AL: Do you have any suggestions for how we can push back to economic case for Humanities?
LL: It’s a complicated conundrum because this is the only country whose been able to achieve a middle class without an education. So from the post-World War II period, what you have is individuals who are able to buy a home, a new car every five years through the protections of unions and factory work that no longer exists, that generation without a knowledge of this civic case for democratic practice and civic enfranchisement is the very generation that begins to vote against their own interests and the parsing of public funds to public education. So we see that trajectory from the 50s through the 60s through the Neo-Liberal gutting of education. That actually begins in California in the 1980s and all the sudden we lose that very clear moment that we had to do to correct it. When the culture wars emerge, culture becomes a cruel ruse, we begin to fight about identity labels rather than figuring out how to fight against the structural systems that deny basic access to basic freedoms that were guarded against reflection generations before, so that’s the conundrum we’ve inherited. Students who come to the university, who inherit a version of education from their parents as an elite practice rather than what the moral act did in the late 19th century, which was to create land grant state institutions because this great project called democracy needed an informed citizenry who could certainly farm, who could certainly produce teachers, but who could be educated enough to make informed decisions about democratic practice. We’ve lost that. We need to recover it. And educators are at the forefront of that and we need that clarity now more than ever.
AL: We definitely need more educators like you. You’ve written extensively about Latinidad, Latino-ness, and about what it means to be Latino, or what it means to have a Latino political identity. We’re sitting here in Cincinnati, we’re not in a border state, there’s a significant Latin American population here, an immigrant population of various social classes, but generally, it’s quite invisible and it’s invisible or not seen as well in the political realm either. I’m wondering if you could talk a little bit about why it’s important to think about Latino identities and in addition to that how it’s best to think about them. By that, I mean that there’s so many ways to talk about Latinidad that involves a transnational framing as opposed to a nationalist framing. I’m wondering if you could talk a little bit about identity and how we might think about that in a city like Cincinnati.
LL: I would think of it from the standpoint of admission, for example of this great public institution, which is reap the possibilities for self-making in the democratic commons, so one way of understanding that is by having a clear historical record that we have often times lost and unlike some of my Latinx Studies colleagues and fellow scholars, I believe that Latino identity is a necessary fiction, it is a necessary fiction because it requires forms of reparative justice that are part and parcel to the democratic project. So, for example, when we have things like public accommodation laws, when we have employment law letting us know that through various directives that we need to consider African American, Asian American, Latino and Native American communities, folks don’t understand why we have that. They see that as a giveaway without the historical grounding. So one of primary things that we need to understand is that reparative justice is part of the democratic imperative and reparative justice necessarily requires representation. So, if we don’t know that history, that cultural history, that literary history, the historiography attached to the story of people of Latin American ancestry in the United States, we have an inchoate conversation that can’t get off the ground outside people’s feelings and what they feel about the particular identity. So I like most scholars who are working in identity related issues and identity practices. I’m interested in identity as in its relation to the state certainly not exclusively, but is a necessary one that is premised on reparative justice, and once we frame it in those terms, it then behooves us to understand what we are repairing, why were Japanese Americans incarcerated and put in concentration camps? Why do we have a legacy of Blackness understood as three fifths a personhood? Why have we discriminated against the people of Latin American ancestry and consider them at least, in the public sphere, as synonymous with Mexican? So before we can even begin to understand the Native American question, which is also central to it all, which intersects significantly with Latinx Studies because as we know, a Latino identity is not about race necessarily, it overlaps with various ethnicities, and understanding that history becomes central. Let me give you an example of what I mean. If often times confuses students when we begin to talk about California, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado as California, Nevada, Colorado because then you begin to understand why these odd sounding names that we’ve internalized as fundamentally American, think of California for example, the mythology of American myth making. We begin to understand that over half of Mexico’s northern territories became part of the United States after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ensured citizenship for all Mexicans whether they were elected it or not would remain in these territories. And it’s curious that after the signing of the treaty on the senate floor an expansionist Senator John Calhoun says that one of the greatest miseries to befall Spanish America was placing the indigenous populations and the Black populations on an equal footing with the white Spaniards and we know that that is not true, but that is part of the story that he was telling on the Senate floor as a buildup to the U.S. question which emerged in the 19th century, which fundamentally about free versus so-called slave states. So, it is curious that after that particular moment Mexican Americans and Latin Americans living in these territories become classed as Blacks who speak a different language. And part of the way that cultural accommodation, culturally at least, happened in the 19th century was elite Mexicans and Latin Americans claiming their racial affiliation with whiteness. So they became complicit in their own erasure and it isn’t until the First World War that we begin to see the emergence of a version of Latino and Latina identity that is definitely related to state formation and all of sudden during the First World War, you no longer have to be an educated elite white man to serve, the laws get changed and all of a sudden, Blacks can serve in the military and think of World War I, where Puerto Ricans, who become U.S. citizens through an act of Congress in 1917, are one of the first to go with the Harlem Hellcats to the first theatre of war and are one of the first to die for the United States. It’s the first U.S. soldier to fire a shot in World War I was Teόfilo Marxuach in San Juan Puerto Rico when a German steamer approaches San Juan harbor, so once we begin to tell that story and its relationship to the state, we begin to structure our understanding of more individuated versions of identity that might be transnational because if we all of the sudden start from the premise that it’s transnational, we erase the very historical accounting that might make transnationalism meaningful specifically with regards to Latinx communities. The U.S. comes to Latinx and Latin American countries, so it is not surprising that because the U.S. goes in the form of economic or military intervention that we then have immigration caused by those interventions to whether economic, corporate, expansionist, or military. So having a basic understanding of that allows us to have the interpretative prowess to base our interpretations on historical fact and not just opinion, if we leave things at the realm of opinion, we’ll continue to do what the late Patrick Monahan alerted us to, which is that we’re all entitled to our opinions, but not our own facts. And he was deeply problematic when he considered versions of Blackness that he tried to understand, but we can’t throw out the baby with the bathwater, that understanding to our relatedness to our history doesn’t make us a foregone conclusion, but makes us active agents in the ability to understand how we are a constitute, a part of the American body politic, and before we get to the nuance, which is great to do for academic circles because we have a common language and share vocabulary, but the majority of folks do not, in fact, in states like Texas, predominantly Latino heritage states like Texas, we have Pearson education following the mandates of the educational board eliminating Cesar Chavez, eliminating the history of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement from the national pedagogies that begins in Civics classes from sixth grade to eighth grade. So that part of erasure is happening all over the country. So it is stunning, but not surprising that we have now children caged in the border and those who aren’t after being separated from parents are being put in service agencies for adoption and many of those are related to the current Betsy Devos, who is the current education director here in the U.S. for the Department of Education, so it is stunning to me that we’ve lost so much of that historical grounding, and of course, you know, students roll their eyes when they hear history right? “I mean, it happened in the past,” so we have to find creative ways of engaging inclusive pedagogies for all our students so that we can have an honest and earnest conversation about what we stand to lose in democratic practice when we allow spectral inclusion, the idea that we’re gonna allow this identity or that identity to be represented. We need those parades, we need those forms of inclusion, but not at the expense of the structural understanding and the critiques and the methods or the tools that we need to critique how those forms of exclusion delimit us all as Americans and drive us against the democratic imperative that I have spoken about.
AL: Your point about identity formation and the state is so important. I’m wondering if you could talk a little bit more about what reparative justice might look like in the United States,
LL: One of the challenges for recent immigrants related to cultural inclusion is what they see certainly in the academy, if they do access the academy, what they see as a deep critique of nationalism, a deep critique of American politics abroad and at home. And that is one of the things that we need to be conscious of because it might begin to explain while why the majority of the 57.5 million Latinos in the United States, 64 percent of them, by Pew demographic studies show are either citizens or citizens in the making that they don’t vote and they don’t vote because they come from countries whose traditions are not one of democratic practice, symbolic democracy, but they understand that elections are rigged.
AL: And I would add because of the history of U.S. Foreign Policy in many of those countries.
LL: And how those policies necessarily make them want to be invisible with relation to the United States and one of the ways to think through this moment is what happens when another nation meddles with our elections? And what happens when the primary head of state, the president asks for foreign intervention to benefit his campaign? We’ve lost a lot when we’ve gotten to a point where we can’t discern the deep crisis that we are in right now and it behooves us to figure out ways through that and beyond that and part of that coalition building necessarily entails giving up our petite identities that we are so beholden to so that we can think of something that we’ve given up certainly in the culture wars, which is this idea of democratic practice and its ties to forms of nationalism that generally have been exclusive, but that might provide the strategies of stepping out of the very binds that we have inherited, so it is not an either or, but rather a with and toward reparative justice that we work through within the structural system that we have, and it’s a conundrum that requires the type of work that humanists do which is fundamentally intersectional and interdisciplinary and if standards of evidence across then feels of inquiry then there necessarily different because what convinces a sociologist need not convince a political scientist, but it is precisely at those moments of incommensurate understanding of what counts as evidence, as what counts as truth, and what counts as a valid n, a valid number of participants for a study that one might be doing then we begin to ask questions with more nuance than we’re use to, and that is why interventions by Gender Studies scholars that speak through the wage equity that we have inherited, that speak through the limitations for being in the world by virtue of having a binary system that does more harm than good, we can then begin to chip away at the worst parts of that inheritance to build something better, to build something that is commensurate wit the best of American cultural identity.
AL: For the listeners who aren’t familiar with the term, could you briefly explain what you by Latinx and why we use that term now?
LL: It’s interesting, Latinx refers to people of Latin American ancestry in the United States and Spanish is a language that declines in number and gender. So for a male, you would say Latino or Latinos, Latina or Latinas for females, and because it is a romance language, we have that inheritance where the masculine trumps the numbers so you might have 500 women and 1 guy and you have to refer to them as “los,” the masculine form. It’s significant to include the x because that variable x is also a symbol of inclusion, but that in and of itself alone can’t repair the particular necessity to have to have that x to begin with so allowing for the understanding of why that identity is absolutely necessary along with historical reasons why beyond “I feel that I need to be included” allows us then to feel a deeper, more meaningful conversation about what it is to be an American and what it is to be an American of Latin American descent, and also, related to that, and I think this is something that’s very important is a 1954 Supreme Court case that’s not just Brown vs. Board of Ed, but also a case of Texas vs. Hernandez, which the Supreme Court determined that people of Latin American ancestry in the United States were entitled to 14th Amendment protections, so not only Blacks in the United States, but people of Latin American ancestry in the United States, and when we use terms like Hispanic, which are really complex and might begin to explain part of the identity inheritance, we forget that Portugal, Spain, and the principality of Andora in the Iberian Pennisula, which is what we refer to as Hispanic aren’t entities that have necessarily experienced structural discrimination, so it behooves us then to use terms that are more historically cogent like Latino, Latina, or Latinx if one prefers so then we can begin to have an understanding why reparative justice is part of the better calling of the democratic project. And we can’t have that when we use terms interchangeably and ahistorically. So I don’t mean to be pedantic, but there’s a moment where it becomes necessary to understand why it is not useful to include for example, in the census or on state forms identity monikers such as Latino/Hispanic. Discrimination hasn’t happened against Spaniards or Portuguese or Andorans the way that it has happened to people of Latin American ancestry in the United States, so once we begin to disentangle identities and to their relationship to the state and identification, what one wants to be called and what one wants to be understood, we co-opt the possibility for the third term that we really don’t want in democratic practice, which is disidentification, which is when citizens or cultural citizens become so enraged at the state that they disidentify and engage in mass forms of violence that are deeply problematic, and I’m reducing a lot in my discussion of what I mean by identification and disidentification, but unless we understand those terms, we don’t have a clear anchoring about how to have the corrective toward a reparative form of democratic practice that is premised on justice and that really is a legacy that inheres to the Humanities. It was Diotima Mantinena who told Socrates who told Plato the greatest gift bequeathed to humans was the gift of beauty, not as we understand it today as aesthetic practice, but as balance. Every time they go into a court house, and we see Diotima blindfolded with a scales in front, we’re talking about a legacy of equality and the possibility for equity that can be achieved in some small measure, but certainly however small, certainly an important measure through law. And that’s why my insistence of identity as a relationship on the state. If I’m successful in convincing colleagues and students about the importance of having a pedagogy, having curricular conversations about that, then we can do away with it and talk about the more interesting aspects of identification and identity building because then we would already presume that we are all equal under the law.
AL: To clarify, are you arguing that using the term Hispanic, and I’m asking this in part because the University of Cincinnati, the general term for this month is Hispanic Heritage Month instead of Latino, Latina, or Latinx Heritage Month. Are you arguing that using that term in itself is an act of violence?
LL: That might be a bit of a stretch, when President Johnson concedes September 15, we’re gonna have a week called Hispanic History week and years later it turns into Hispanic Heritage month, we do see in the 80s precisely with neoliberal rise that students begin to take that term and be more critical about it, and it certainly happens in pockets, it certainly happens on the west coast and on the east coast, where these populations have traditionally been more involved with education as a practice of freedom and understanding, and they begin to use Latino and Latina as a way to disentangle the colonialist Iberian project from the decolonial Latin American project. So for them, at that particular moment, it becomes indeed expedient and necessary to separate Hispanic from Latino, and again, to just a particular institution is an acting form of violence by using a particular name wouldn’t be accurate because unless we have a clear understanding of that histories like Hernandez vs. Texas say the U.S. Mexico War, or say military intervention from 1898 onward, we forget that reparative justice goes in steps and in each institution like those say that we love, they come to us in different ways, and we need to embrace what they offer at the moment that they offer, and we need to offer correctives when they’re coming short of full humanity, and we need to tell institutions that they’re coming short of their mission statements, but they can’t be understood as coming short if they don’t understand it, so part of the conversation is to talk through that and to understand what it means, and I’m glad you mentioned that because I’ll bring it up this afternoon because I think it’s an important…
AL: That would be great!
LL: point of conversation.
AL: And I guess a follow-up, and you don’t have to answer this right now, is what happens when you do have those conversations with institutions and they don’t make changes.
LL: It’s something that all institutions face and that’s the good news and the bad news. It’s the good news because if they were so reactive to say act on a Coke brothers initiative that freedom of expression means that we need to bring Milo to campus and have vulnerable students fear, rightly so, fear for their safety, we wouldn’t have the pause effect that institutions have. The negative, of course, is the endless waiting for the obvious to happen. So that’s why it becomes important to have representational equity and to ensure that there are clean and clear lines of communication between administrative structures, staff structures, and student structures as well. And part of the challenges as institutions is fundamentally the two sides of the house student affairs and academic affairs. And those bridges are sometimes in commensurate, think of student tours, students begin to talk about departments and about schools within an institution in a particular way that schools would scratch their head and say, “What? We don’t do that” or “Uh, and we do a lot of other important things, too.” So those soundbytes that get translated into the silly example that I just gave you about the students visiting the institution to see if they want to attend and their parents and all the promises that they’re being, that are made about their placement for majoring in business, well, what happens when we have humanists that and social scientists, Interpretative Humanities folks that parse out data and tell us that those with the most underemployment upon graduation are business majors? And unless we can have those clear conversations, we’re not going to have clarity about what we stand to lose without partnering up our particular interests, but being nimble is essential for institutions, but not so nimble that forces can topple the broader project. And part of that challenge is leaving the ivory tower that never really existed to begin with, that’s a fallacy, but that is a public soundbyte that makes sense to people having Public Humanities work and much like you’re doing with the podcast, and understanding your community is key to having interlocutors that can understand where you’re coming from that make conversations with administrative structures less monolithic feeling.
AL: Thank you and that’s a great transition to my last question, which is, how do you see the state of the Humanities today? And I’m asking that because I’m often perplexed by how certain kinds of Humanities get a lot more attention than others if you will. And I’m wondering how we can bring a diversity of voices and perspectives in every sense to the Humanities. So I’m curious how you see that playing out in this country.
LL: I think I’m gonna be a little bit of a scratched record because part of Humanities understanding comes from the Liberal Arts and that understanding, and it’s shocking to me that even a privileged institution such as yours and certainly the ones I’ve been affiliated with that you have parents who think that a Liberal Arts means indoctrination into liberal ideology. Right. Rather than the longer tradition of enlightenment followed by the thought that frees us from dogma and unreasonable state forums of abuse and leadership and governance, so we begin to have a conundrum, how did we lose this important opportunity to understand such an important project such as democratic practice and to begin to see it and really pedestrian terms that have no relationship to reality, but who begin to say through I’ll say alternative realities substitute a world that doesn’t exist with one that is purported to exist through various news outlets or some in quotes, so the Humanities are going to be central for any form of democratic governance and as soon as we start losing state appropriations for that, we lose the possibility and the grounding for that conversation. And let me give you an example, when I graduated from my Ph.D. program, 64% of all academic jobs were either tenure or tenure line, right now, it’s under 23%. That means that we create an incredible and competitive market where everyone is out for their own, and we begin with a type of infighting where we try to take whatever’s left of that 23 point whatever piece of the pie rather than interrogating and understanding the structural systems that will allow that to happen. From state appropriations boards to public like defunding of primary and secondary education, unless we’re able to have that conversation outside our institutional boundaries, we’re going to have a harder time in convincing the public of the obvious, which is, for example, tenure ensures that the professor that your child had will likely be there at least 6 years down the line or some variation there, depending on where they are on the tenure stream so that they can write letters of recommendation for an employer or law school. An adjunct who has to go from campus to campus, institution to institution, might provide the same letter of recommendation, but under duress and under forms of work and labor that are antithetical to democratic practice and really ironic when you’re having a student ask an adjunct for a letter of recommendation for Smith, Barney to do an internship when that adjunct can’t even afford health insurance. So we need to be very clear about what’s at stake and have a clear understanding of the terms that we use so then we can talk with and through each other rather than against each other. Only then do we have the possibility for the corrective that we need in this particular moment in time. We couldn’t have a moment of alternate realities if we had a fortified educational system.
AL: Do you have any last minute comments that I haven’t addressed?
LL: Your questions have been phenomenal and, you, Amy, are taking part of the best of educational projects in the 21st century with your work at the Taft Center so I’m happy to be here and to meet so many great people around you that are working with you and I look forward to meeting so many of your students and community.
AL: Thank you so much. It’s such a pleasure to have you here.
LL: My pleasure.