Cultural Awareness & Mapping Pedagogical Tool: A Digital Representation of Gloria Anzaldúa's Frontier Theory.

Rosita Scerbo (rscerbo@asu.edu), Arizona State University, United States of America

This project looks at the work of American-Chicana poet and fiction writer Gloria E. Anzaldúa, author of This Bridge we Call Home (2002). My research proposes a digital representation of Gloria Anzaldúa's Frontier theory as part of my scholarly investigation. This study will include the creation of a mapping tool that will reflect the rhizomatic spaces analyzed by the author, raising awareness about the multiple cultural identities found in the United States. Through personal narratives, theoretical essays, poetry, letters, works of art and fiction, This Bridge we Call Home examines issues such as classism, homophobia, racism, political identity, native sovereignty, lesbian pregnancy and motherhood, transgender issues, Arab-American stereotypes, Jewish identities and spiritual activism. These stories are written by women and men, both of color and white, and motivated by a desire for social justice. This Bridge We Call Home invites feminists of all colors and genres to develop new forms of transcultural dialogues, practices, and alliances. The anthology, object of study is the last work produced by the author before she passed away and undertakes a more inclusive essence compared with her earlier writings. The book includes women and men of different classes, nationalities, races, ages and sexual orientations, reflecting the desire of inclusivity and dialogue promoted by the author and editor. This project also attempts to bring together multiethnic voices and promotes a interdisciplinary resource that interest not only the literature and culture discipline, but also other humanities fields, such as history, anthropology, sociology and gender studies.

The result of this project will be a powerful new online education and research tool for undergraduate and graduate students as well as the world community at all levels of expertise. To create this public resource I will use the mapping tool “Google Lit Trips”, a site affiliated with Google. Normally this tool is used to recreate and mark the journeys of fictional characters from famous literature works. In my case I will use the various sections of Gloria Anzaldúa’s anthology that reflect real life experiences of the writers. I will then provide geospatial representations of the true stories narrated by the authors that live some kind of political, racial, sexual or class struggle in the United States. In the book 87 writers are given a space to celebrate their diversity.

In the mapping tool, at each location along the journey there will be placemarks with pop-up windows containing a variety of resources including relevant media, thought provoking discussion starters, and links to supplementary information about 'real world' references made in that particular portion of the text. The author voice herself emerges beyond the limits of either American or Mexican culture and provides a voice to the people of the borderlands. Her work is based on multiple experiences to create a universal history that transcends the social barriers that connect us collectively with each other. While the politics of identities requires subjecting ourselves to specific categories of identity, spiritual activism requires that we get rid of all these barriers.

This project has the objective to put the reader inside the stories, provoking reflections and awareness about contemporary social, political, sexual and racial issue that affect our modern society. The reader will travel alongside with the protagonists of the autobiographical stories through the recreation of 3D geographic tours of the narratives that have been described. At the same time the mapping tool creates an engaging and relevant literary experiences for students. At each location I will be able to include web links, videos, audios, images, annotations and critical activities related with the different sections of the anthology. The experience of the pop up windows provide a range of supplementary information, such as links that give additional information about the 87 authors or cultural traditions that have been mentioned by the characters. The students find themselves seeing the settings almost how they were there. The pop up windows provide engaging content, such as audios, videos or activities related to the story line. These activities are designed to help readers discover connections between their culture and the different cultures that have been described in the story.

One of the primary goals of this project is to emphasize the relevance of cultural diversity in the University environment in the context of the Hispanic world. My objective is to initiate contemporary debates over themes such as immigration, globalization, discrimination, acceptance and inclusion. The mapping tool will explore ways of bringing its unique materials to a wider audience inside and outside the United States. The contribution of this project is not only to continue expressing a dialogue within and between women, women of color, and among people that live in the borderlands, but also to expand visions and theoretical spaces in general. The different stories told in the anthology explore the different shades of the mixed-race identity of women and men that are often perceived as outsiders within their own country.

The digital representation of the anthology and its multiple resources proposes a new attitude towards the learning process of college students and the public sensitivity outside the academia. One of the primary intentions is to dismantle traditional forms of identity, and destroy social boundaries, by embracing difference and otherness as a unique component of every single individual part of our society. The focus on themes such as the effects of migration and globalization are evident in the transnational, transcultural and transgender identities represented though the voices of the 87 writers. The external links provided as resources bring the readers beyond the stories. The students become travelers discovering the similarities and qualities of the characters from cultures beyond their own. This could be an effective way to make students feel part of the stories and hopefully inspire them to fight against the different levels of discrimination that the writers are describing. The final goal will be to include this online platform as an integrative portion of a culture and literature class at the university level.