Research and Fieldwork

Our students and faculty are conducting exciting research. Here is a sample of the research by the Department of Ethnic Studies.

Day of Indigenous Resistance: (De)Colonizing Universal thought

The naming of the past bears a mark on our present. This conversation and roundtable reflects on the meaning of "Columbus Day," and honors the resistance of first peoples and nations of the Americas. While questioning narratives of "discovery," this dialogue historicizes the cultural, socioeconomic and educational dimensions of decolonization, and considers the current implications of a contested naming today. - October 12, 2016. 

Video of Event 

Ethnic Studies Student Projects

Whose Land Is It Anyway?
Spring 2015 Student project by: Justin Marcum, Paige Vogel, Jake Wittwer, Tiana Bonn

The University of San Diego is located on prime, coastal real estate. Who did the land initially belong to, and how did it come to be the home of a private Catholic university?

Since 10,000 BC, at least 600 generations of Kumeyaay peoples occupied what is now known as San Diego County. They lived peaceful and fulfilled lives until a Spanish sailing expedition landed in San Diego in 1542, comprised of explorers, soldiers, and missionaries. The first Kumeyaay village to be occupied by the Europeans was located in what is now known as Old Town. During the European conquests, the Kumeyaays led many rebellions, but were always outfought by European weaponry.

Over the centuries, Europeans carried out genocide on these Native Americans in the name of the Catholic Church. A majority of the Kumeyaay peoples did not survive the colonization of the Europeans. Those who remain try each day to keep their culture alive and relevant. They are currently living on 13 different reservations in San Diego County.

We as faculty and students at USD need to be aware of how this land was achieved, and conscious of respecting the Kumeyaay peoples still living in the area. We can become allies by volunteering as tutors and mentors to local Kumeyaay peoples through the American Indian Recruitment Program. We can also educate ourselves by attending the Barona Cultural Center, or the American Indian Film Festival held locally each year.

American Indian Studies Short Films

Students Document Chicano History - 2012

A group of USD students, under the guidance of Professor Alberto Pulido, PhD, have volunteered to be a part of the Chicano Park-University of San Diego Documentation Project, which launched in January.

Pulido developed the project with a group of both USD and Chicano community members, including Chris Nayve, Director of Community Service Learning and Creative Collaborations . The idea was to tell the history of Chicano Park through the lives of individuals who were a part of a cultural struggle for self-determination and dignity. The group was able to develop a partnership between the Department of Ethnic Studies, the Office of Community Service Learning, Creative Collaborations and the Chicano Park Steering committee. This partnership reinforces this year's Chicano Park Celebration. The theme of the event is: Education and Knowledge: Our Key to a Better Future.

Pulido, known to his students as Dr. Pollo, is currently instructing Ethic Studies 343: Chicano/Latino Studies. Students in this course have been trained in oral history methodology within the Chicana and Chicano experience as well as the power of place in the history of ethnic communities. Utilizing these perspectives, students have been directed to recognize and document the complex identities of the Chicana and Chicano experiences as captured through the history of Chicano Park.

I am playing a role in conserving the history of a park and of a people whose presence is an integral part of San Diego, Janette Rodriguez said.

Chicano Park was established on April 22, 1970. It represents a visible and concrete marker of political awareness and mobilization in the quest for self-determination by community members. Its development was guided by the historical vision of the Chicano people in Aztlan to reclaim a piece of land that they could call their own. Out of this historic vision emerged a series of creative expressions that breathed life into the development and evolution of Chicana and Chicano cultural expressions that have given shape and purpose to Chicano Park. The objective of this project is to capture and tell the story of some of these community cultural expressions along with the people who brought them to life.

This project has given me the opportunity to get to know a Chicano artist, Victor Ochoa, who has dedicated his life to raising awareness about Chicano issues, and serves as an example to the community, Eirene Rocha said.

The students were each assigned a mentor from the community, with whom they have been working closely for four months. They have created a public and political biography of each of these community members lives. The community mentors were chosen from the membership of the Chicano Park Steering Committee. They represent active agents of history who play key roles in the establishment, historical development and evolution of Chicano Park.

The mentors we are working with from Chicano Park were, and still are, vital champions of the Chicano Movement, and I am honored and humbled to be working alongside them, Bianca Bruno said.

Pulido partnered with Nayve and Cara McMahon from the Office of Community Service Learning. McMahon has been assigned to work full-time with the class and serve as a liaison between students and the Chicano Park Steering Committee, utilizing a community service learning approach to the course. The funding for this project came from the newly established Center for Inclusion and Diversity, directed by Carlton Floyd, PhD and Mayte Perez Franco, PhD.

Through the collection of oral histories, students have documented the history of Chicano Park, Chicano/a history, and five unique aspects of Chicano/a cultural expression that emerged as a result of the establishment of Chicano Park.

The Five Cultural Expressions Captured By This Year's Project

  1. Chicano Art as seen in the public and political biography of Victor Ochoa. 
  2. Chicano Music as seen through the life of Ramon Chunky Sanchez.
  3. Community Organizing (Chicano Park Steering Committee) as seen through the life of Tommie Camarillo.
  4. Danzantes (indigenous dance) as seen in the life of Rosa Olga Navarro. See video here.  
  5. Chicano Car Culture (low riders) as lived and experienced by Rigo Reyes.
Our mentors are telling us their stories and their involvement in Chicano Park, Guadalupe Abreo said.  They want to let others know about this struggle and effort so that when they are gone they know they can trust the next generation to continue this cultural and historical tradition.

All five mentors have been active with Chicano Park since its inception and are community in the Chicano Movementin its quest for social justice and self-determination for Chicanos in San Diego and beyond.

I now realize that Chicano Park, in a way, is a tangible embodiment of the decades of struggle, hard work, dedication, and perseverance exemplified by members of the community, Anayensi Jacobo said.

By Alberto Lopez Pulido, PhD

Anne Slagill contributed to this article

Ethnic Studies Department students, alumni, and faculty attend pow wow at Barrio Station, San Diego

Ethnic Studies Department students, alumni, and faculty attend pow wow at Barrio Station, San Diego- Spring 2010

On Saturday, March 20, the USD Ethnic Studies Department was well-represented at the Census 2010 Pow Wow at Barrio Station. The powwow was a fun social gathering of Native community members and friends. The powwow organizers wanted to promote community awareness of the 2010 Census, as American Indians are persistently undercounted. Pictured below are faculty Dr. Gail Perez (3rd from left) and Dr. Michelle Jacob (5th from left), students Wynona Peters (4th from left), Kate Gordon (2nd from right), Roberta Garcia (far right), and alumna Christy Garcia (3rd from right).

Gender in Native America class unveils murals

ETHN 331/SOC 494: Gender in Native America class unveils murals - Fall 2009

Students from Dr. Jacob's Gender in Native America class presented their murals on Dec. 17, 2009. Murals represented key themes of the course, including: decolonization, critique of patriarchy, coalition building, cultural renewal, and resisting borders. Their pieces will be installed at the Ethnic Studies trailer behind the Copley Library. Stop by to see some beautiful and critical art!