Center of Mexican American Studies
Center of Mexican American Studies

Olivia Mena


Teaching FacultyPh.D., London School of Economics and Political Science

Lecturer
Olivia Mena

Contact

  • Phone: (512) 471-2465
  • Office: GWB 2.310
  • Office Hours: FALL 2016 // MWF 1-2pm, and by appointment
  • Campus Mail Code: F9200

Interests


Race, Ethnicity, and Postcolonial Studies; Comparative Ethnic Studies; Latino/a Studies; Borderlands Studies

Biography


I am trained as a sociologist and cultural theorist and I have an interdisciplinary background. My research, teaching, and educational experience reflect an in-depth specialization in Race, Ethnicity, Postcolonial Studies; Latina/o Studies; and Borderlands Studies. In my writing and work I focus on questions about race, immigration, securitization, and governance. I am interested in the intellectual project of politicizing the conceptualizations of the deep inequalities implicated inside the rapid global changes re-making social institutions and practices of citizenship and human rights. I received my Ph.D. from the Department of Sociology at the London School of Economics and Political Science in Feb. 2016. I also hold a master’s degree in Bicultural and Bilingual Studies from University of Texas at San Antonio, and also a master’s degree in Race, Ethnicity, and Post-Colonial Studies from the London School of Economics.

Currently I am working on a book manuscript that looks at the global proliferation of more than 50 contemporary national border walls and fences that are proposed, under construction, or completed since 2001. I employ a borderlands epistemology to look at several case studies including: the U.S.-Mexico border fence and the world’s smallest border wall along the Costa Rica-Nicaraguan border looking at the persisting operative logic of race/culture thinking that underpins securitization as both a form of governance and an ideology. In the context of my doctoral research I was as visiting researcher at UT LILLAS-Benson for one year, and I also worked as a visiting researcher at the Instituto de Investigaciones Sociales de la Universidad de Costa Rica.

This semester I am teaching MAS 301 Introduction to Mexican American and Latina/o Studies and two sections of MAS 311 Ethnicity and Gender: La Chicana.

Courses


MAS 301 • Intr Mex Amer Latina/O Studies

35585 • Spring 2018
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM CMA 3.114

This course is an introduction to the interdisciplinary field of Mexican-­‐American and Latina/o Studies. It will examine the history, culture, and politics of the major Latina/o subgroups: Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Central Americans, and Dominicans. The course is built around four units that cover different historical stages in Latina/o community formation. During each unit, we will read about real scenarios when politicians, policy makers, and activists were confronted with ethical questions around how to incorporate Latinas/os into the political and social-­‐ historical actors through the four time periods that we will be engaging in the course. Although the context will change depending on the historical period under study in each unit, the underlying ethical tension will be between the interests of state leaders and the interest of minority groups in the United States, or between the United States and nation-­‐states in Latin America.

MAS 374 • Latino Migrations And Asylum

35674 • Spring 2018
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM MEZ 1.216
(also listed as LAS 322)

The purpose of this seminar is to study the politics of asylum practices in the United States and forced migration from Latin America. Students will gain knowledge on Latino migrations, asylum and detention through both the lens of global political economy, critical race theory and neo-Gramscian theory and through practical engagement with refugee and migrant organizations/legal practitioners. The course will focus on asylum policies and practices from the 1980s to the present and will draw upon case studies based on asylum seekers from Mexico and Central America among other migrant sending regions. There will be an emphasis on how groups with competing interests and visions struggle to conserve or transform the contemporary asylum regime in a transnational model of society and economy between the United States and Latin America. Finally the seminar will also consider the relationship between asylum and the growth of detention practices and explore the efforts of refugees and legal practitioners to challenge and reform the contemporary asylum regime.

 

TEXT:

  • Andrew I. Schoenholtz, Philip G. Schrag, Jaya Ramji-Nogales(Eds). Lives in Balance: Asylum Adjudications by the Department of Homeland Security. New York, NY: NYU, 2014.
  • Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, Gil Loescher, Katy Long, Nando Sigona (Eds).

The Oxford Handbook of Refugee and Forced Migration Studies. Oxford, UK: Oxford Univesity Press, 2014.

  • Garcia, Maria Cristina. Seeking Refuge: Central American Migration to Mexico, The United States, and Canada. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006.
  • Gonzales, Alfonso. Reform Without Justice: Latino Migrant Politics and the Homeland Security State . New York , CA: Oxford University Press, 2014 .
  • Loyd, Jenna Et al. Beyond Walls and Cages: Prisons, Borders and Global Crisis. Atlanta, GA: University of Georgia Pess, 2012.
  • Paley, Dawn. Drug War Capitalism. AK Press, 2014.
  • Rosa Linda Fregoso and Cynthia Bejarano (Eds.). Terrorizing Women: Feminicide in the Américas. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010.

 

GRADING :

Participation (20 points)

Students are required to participate in course discussions and are expected to attend all the course sessions. Participation will be evaluated based upon the student’s contributions to class discussion and presentations.  Each student will be required to facilitate select reading assignments during a week of class discussion.  Students must turn in a summary of the readings for the day that they chose to facilitate discussion. The two-page summary and analysis should also have thoughtful discussion questions for the class.

Asylum Group Project (30 points) 

Each student will be required to work on an immigration relief project/case study. This will require doing country specific research on a particular social group seeking relief from deportation. Each student will be required to be responsible for one of four components of each project. The Four components are 1) Coordinator, 2) Expert Witness, 3) Researcher 1, and 4) Researcher 2.

Midterm (25 Points)

Students will receive a take home midterm comprised of a series of questions related to the contents covered in class. The midterm will be in essay format and will be roughly 6-8 pages long.

Final (25 Points)

Students will receive a take home final comprised of a series of questions related to the contents covered in class. The final will be in essay format and will be roughly 6-8 pages long. As an alternative to the final advanced students may do a research paper under the supervision of the professor.

MAS 301 • Intr Mex Amer Latina/O Studies

36130 • Fall 2017
Meets MWF 11:00AM-12:00PM PHR 2.114

This course is an introduction to the interdisciplinary field of Mexican-­‐American and Latina/o Studies. It will examine the history, culture, and politics of the major Latina/o subgroups: Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Central Americans, and Dominicans. The course is built around four units that cover different historical stages in Latina/o community formation. During each unit, we will read about real scenarios when politicians, policy makers, and activists were confronted with ethical questions around how to incorporate Latinas/os into the political and social-­‐ historical actors through the four time periods that we will be engaging in the course. Although the context will change depending on the historical period under study in each unit, the underlying ethical tension will be between the interests of state leaders and the interest of minority groups in the United States, or between the United States and nation-­‐states in Latin America.

MAS 311 • Ethncty & Gender: La Chicana

36150 • Fall 2017
Meets MWF 12:00PM-1:00PM GAR 0.120
(also listed as AMS 315, SOC 308D, WGS 301)

Description:

The purpose of this course is to examine the various experiences, perspectives, and expressions of Chicanas in the United States. This involves examining the meaning and history of the term, “Chicana” as it was applied to and incorporated by Mexican American women during the Chicano Movement in areas of the Southwest United States, such as Texas and California. We will also explore what it means to be Chicana in the United States today. The course will begin with a historical overview of Mexican American women's experiences in the United States, including the emergence of Chicana feminism. We will discuss central concepts of Chicana feminism and attempt to understand how those concepts link to everyday lived experiences. Specifically, the relationship between gender, race/ethnicity, and class will be key as we discuss issues that have been significant in the experiences and self-identification of Chicanas, such as: family, gender, sexuality, religion/spirituality, education, language, labor, and political engagement. We will be engaging in interdisciplinary analysis not only concerning cultural traditions, values, belief systems, and symbols but also in relation to the expressive culture of Chicanas, including folk and religious practices, literature and poetry, the visual arts, and music. Finally, we will examine media representations of Chicanas through critical analyses of film. By the end of this course, it is my hope that you will not only be more critical readers and thinkers, but that you will also be able to apply themes and elements from the readings and discussions to your understanding of your own experiences.

 READINGS

Anzaldúa, Gloria and Moraga, Cherríe eds. (2015) This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color.

 Anzaldúa, Gloria (2015) Light in the Dark Luz en lo Oscuro: Rewriting Identity,  Spirituality, Reality.

 

MAS 311 • Ethncty & Gender: La Chicana

36155 • Fall 2017
Meets MWF 2:00PM-3:00PM GAR 0.120
(also listed as AMS 315, SOC 308D, WGS 301)

Description:

The purpose of this course is to examine the various experiences, perspectives, and expressions of Chicanas in the United States. This involves examining the meaning and history of the term, “Chicana” as it was applied to and incorporated by Mexican American women during the Chicano Movement in areas of the Southwest United States, such as Texas and California. We will also explore what it means to be Chicana in the United States today. The course will begin with a historical overview of Mexican American women's experiences in the United States, including the emergence of Chicana feminism. We will discuss central concepts of Chicana feminism and attempt to understand how those concepts link to everyday lived experiences. Specifically, the relationship between gender, race/ethnicity, and class will be key as we discuss issues that have been significant in the experiences and self-identification of Chicanas, such as: family, gender, sexuality, religion/spirituality, education, language, labor, and political engagement. We will be engaging in interdisciplinary analysis not only concerning cultural traditions, values, belief systems, and symbols but also in relation to the expressive culture of Chicanas, including folk and religious practices, literature and poetry, the visual arts, and music. Finally, we will examine media representations of Chicanas through critical analyses of film. By the end of this course, it is my hope that you will not only be more critical readers and thinkers, but that you will also be able to apply themes and elements from the readings and discussions to your understanding of your own experiences.

Readings:

Anzaldúa, Gloria and Moraga, Cherríe eds. (2015) This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color.

 Anzaldúa, Gloria (2015) Light in the Dark Luz en lo Oscuro: Rewriting Identity,  Spirituality, Reality.

 

MAS 374 • Latino Migrations And Asylum

36125 • Spring 2017
Meets MWF 1:00PM-2:00PM PAR 105
(also listed as LAS 322)

DESCRIPTION:

The purpose of this seminar is to study the politics of asylum practices in the United States and forced migration from Latin America. Students will gain knowledge on Latino migrations, asylum and detention through both the lens of global political economy, critical race theory and neo-Gramscian theory and through practical engagement with refugee and migrant organizations/legal practitioners. The course will focus on asylum policies and practices from the 1980s to the present and will draw upon case studies based on asylum seekers from Mexico and Central America among other migrant sending regions. There will be an emphasis on how groups with competing interests and visions struggle to conserve or transform the contemporary asylum regime in a transnational model of society and economy between the United States and Latin America. Finally the seminar will also consider the relationship between asylum and the growth of detention practices and explore the efforts of refugees and legal practitioners to challenge and reform the contemporary asylum regime.

 

TEXT:

  • Andrew I. Schoenholtz, Philip G. Schrag, Jaya Ramji-Nogales(Eds). Lives in Balance: Asylum Adjudications by the Department of Homeland Security. New York, NY: NYU, 2014.
  • Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, Gil Loescher, Katy Long, Nando Sigona (Eds).

The Oxford Handbook of Refugee and Forced Migration Studies. Oxford, UK: Oxford Univesity Press, 2014.

  • Garcia, Maria Cristina. Seeking Refuge: Central American Migration to Mexico, The United States, and Canada. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006.
  • Gonzales, Alfonso. Reform Without Justice: Latino Migrant Politics and the Homeland Security State . New York , CA: Oxford University Press, 2014 .
  • Loyd, Jenna Et al. Beyond Walls and Cages: Prisons, Borders and Global Crisis. Atlanta, GA: University of Georgia Pess, 2012.
  • Paley, Dawn. Drug War Capitalism. AK Press, 2014.
  • Rosa Linda Fregoso and Cynthia Bejarano (Eds.). Terrorizing Women: Feminicide in the Américas. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010.

 

GRADING :

Participation (20 points)

Students are required to participate in course discussions and are expected to attend all the course sessions. Participation will be evaluated based upon the student’s contributions to class discussion and presentations.  Each student will be required to facilitate select reading assignments during a week of class discussion.  Students must turn in a summary of the readings for the day that they chose to facilitate discussion. The two-page summary and analysis should also have thoughtful discussion questions for the class.

Asylum Group Project (30 points) 

Each student will be required to work on an immigration relief project/case study. This will require doing country specific research on a particular social group seeking relief from deportation. Each student will be required to be responsible for one of four components of each project. The Four components are 1) Coordinator, 2) Expert Witness, 3) Researcher 1, and 4) Researcher 2.

Midterm (25 Points)

Students will receive a take home midterm comprised of a series of questions related to the contents covered in class. The midterm will be in essay format and will be roughly 6-8 pages long.

Final (25 Points)

Students will receive a take home final comprised of a series of questions related to the contents covered in class. The final will be in essay format and will be roughly 6-8 pages long. As an alternative to the final advanced students may do a research paper under the supervision of the professor.

MAS 301 • Intr Mex Amer Latina/O Studies

35955 • Fall 2016
Meets MWF 11:00AM-12:00PM BUR 108

FLAGS:   Wr  |  CD  |  II

SOC 308D • Ethncty & Gender: La Chicana

45310 • Fall 2016
Meets MWF 12:00PM-1:00PM GEA 127
(also listed as WGS 301)

The purpose of this course is to examine the various experiences, perspectives, and expressions of Chicanas in the United States. This involves examining the meaning and history of the term “Chicana” as it was applied to and incorporated by Mexican American women during the Chicano Movement in areas of the Southwest U.S., such as Texas and California. We will also explore what it means to be Chicana in the United States today. The course will begin with a historical overview of Mexican American women's experiences in the U.S., including the emergence of Chicana feminism. We will discuss central concepts of Chicana feminism and attempt to understand how those concepts link to everyday lived experiences. Specifically, the relationship between gender, race/ethnicity, and class will be key as we discuss issues that have been significant in the experiences and self-identification of Chicanas, such as: family, gender, sexuality, religion/spirituality, education, language, labor, and political engagement. We will engage in interdisciplinary analysis not only concerning cultural traditions, values, belief systems, and symbols but also concerning the expressive culture of Chicanas, including folk and religious practices, literature and poetry, the visual arts, and music. Finally, we will examine media representations of Chicanas through critical analyses of film and television portrayals.

 

SOC 308D • Ethncty & Gender: La Chicana

45314 • Fall 2016
Meets MWF 2:00PM-3:00PM GAR 1.134
(also listed as WGS 301)

The purpose of this course is to examine the various experiences, perspectives, and expressions of Chicanas in the United States. This involves examining the meaning and history of the term “Chicana” as it was applied to and incorporated by Mexican American women during the Chicano Movement in areas of the Southwest U.S., such as Texas and California. We will also explore what it means to be Chicana in the United States today. The course will begin with a historical overview of Mexican American women's experiences in the U.S., including the emergence of Chicana feminism. We will discuss central concepts of Chicana feminism and attempt to understand how those concepts link to everyday lived experiences. Specifically, the relationship between gender, race/ethnicity, and class will be key as we discuss issues that have been significant in the experiences and self-identification of Chicanas, such as: family, gender, sexuality, religion/spirituality, education, language, labor, and political engagement. We will engage in interdisciplinary analysis not only concerning cultural traditions, values, belief systems, and symbols but also concerning the expressive culture of Chicanas, including folk and religious practices, literature and poetry, the visual arts, and music. Finally, we will examine media representations of Chicanas through critical analyses of film and television portrayals.

 

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  • Center for Mexican American Studies

    The University of Texas at Austin
    210 W. 24th Street | Mailcode F9200
    GWB 1.102
    Austin, TX 78712
    512-471-8358