Abriendo Brecha: Activist Scholarship Conference at UT Austin

February 14-16, 2013
The University of Texas at Austin

Abriendo Brecha (Opening a Path) is an annual conference on activist scholarship held at The University of Texas at Austin.  This conference brings together artists, community activists, and scholars whose work is directed toward social justice. Our goal is to build a vibrant community supporting research, creative production, performance and teaching that connects the university in sustained collaboration with community-based mobilizations for social change, in Austin and beyond.  In this sense, we take the University’s prominent motto—“What Starts Here Changes the World”—quite seriously and literally, giving progressive values of social change an institutional anchor in our training programs.  We are particularly excited about this year’s conference, Abriendo Brecha’s tenth anniversary. We have invited nearly 50 alumni of our programs to discuss their distinctive approaches to activist scholarship, and to reflect on their experiences carrying on these efforts throughout the hemisphere, both inside and outside the academy.


Opening Keynote: Winona LaDuke
Thursday, February 14, 3:00 p.m.
Location: Liberal Arts Building (CLA) 1.302B

Winona LaDuke (Anishinaabe) is an author, orator, and activist. A graduate of Harvard and Antioch Universities with advanced degrees in rural economic development, LaDuke has devoted her life to protecting the lands and life ways of Native communities. She is the founder and Co-director of Honor the Earth, a national advocacy group encouraging public support and funding for Native environmental groups, and founder of the White Earth Recovery Project, one of the largest reservation-based nonprofit organizations in the country, that promotes culturally-based sustainable development strategies, renewable energy and food systems. She is the winner of many national awards, and served as Ralph Nader’s vice-presidential running mate on the Green Party ticket in the 1996 and 2000 presidential elections.

Film Screening: The Battle for Land (Dur. 80 min.)
Friday, February 15, 12:00 – 1:30 p.m.
Location: CLA 1.302E

Filmed throughout the Colombian Pacific and the capital city of Bogotá, The Battle for Land delves deep into the complexities of the mass displacement of Afrocolombian communities. Through an character-driven style, the film pushes us past prevailing ideas in which displacement is seen as an aberration, a sad outcome of the civil war, and progressively reveals a much more intricate picture where violence and uprooting are exposed as an intrinsic part of the government’s project for “progress” where the Colombian Pacific represents a new frontier for development. The film is above all a journey deep into the heart of uprooting and the dark side of progress.

Community Panel:

Resettlement City? Austin’s Refugee Communities” (co-sponsored with the Center for Asian American Studies)
Friday, February 15, 5:00 p.m.
Location: Liberal Arts Building (CLA) 1.302B

Roundtable Discussion:

“Teaching and Practicing Activist Scholarship at UT: Reflections on the Past, Thoughts for the Future:” Drs. Ted Gordon, Charlie Hale, Omi Jones, Shannon Speed, Joao Costa Vargas, and Kamala Visweswaran
Friday, February 15, 7:00 p.m.
Location: Belmont Hall 328

Closing Keynote: Dr. Peter Kiang
Saturday, February 16, 12:30 p.m.
Location: Liberal Arts Building (CLA) 1.302B

Dr. Peter Nien-chu Kiang (江念祖) is Professor of Education and Director of the Asian American Studies Program at the University of Massachusetts Boston where he has taught since 1987.  Peter’s research, teaching, and advocacy in both K-12 and higher education with Asian American immigrant/refugee students and communities have been supported by the National Academy of Education, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Massachusetts Teachers Association, the Massachusetts Association for Bilingual Education, and others.  At UMass Boston, he has received both the Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award and Distinguished Service Award.  Among many contributions to local communities, Peter served for six years as chair of the Massachusetts Advisory Committee for the US Commission on Civil Rights, and eight years as co-president of the Chinese Historical Society of New England.  He holds a B.A., Ed.M., and Ed.D. from Harvard University and is a former Community Fellow in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT.

For questions, email abriendobrechax at gmail dot com



Time Event Location
Thursday, February 14
3:00 p.m. Opening Keynote: Winona LaDuke CLA 1.302 B
5:00 p.m. Opening Reception CLA Atrium
Friday, February 15
8:30-10 a.m. Concurrent Sessions 1a & 1b, 1c CLA 1.302 B, D & E
10:15-11:45 a.m. Concurrent Sessions 2a & 2b, 2c CLA 1.302 B, D & E
12noon-1:30 p.m. Lunch (on your own)  
1:15-3 p.m. Concurrent Sessions 3a & 3b, 3c CLA 1.302 B, D & E
3:15-5 p.m. Concurrent Sessions 4a & 4b, 4c CLA 1.302 B, D & E
5-6:30 p.m. Asian American Community event CLA 1.302 E
7 p.m. Reflections on Activist Scholarship: A Round Table Discussion with UT Faculty Belmont 328
Saturday, February 16
10-12:15 p.m. Double Plenary Session 5 CLA 1.302 E
12:30 p.m. Closing Keynote and Lunch: Dr. Peter Kiang CLA 1.302 B

Notes:  All Session Titles are Provisional; All Chairs are invited only, not confirmed

1A (4) Christen Smith (Chair)  Diasporic Perspectives on Activist Scholarship:  Kia Caldwell, Courtney Morris, Roosbelinda Cardenas, Maryam Kashani (CLA 1.302E)

1B (4) Galio Gurdian (Chair) Joseph Berra (Organizer):  Black and Indigenous Rights in Central America:  Two Decades of CCARC’s Activist Engagement: Joseph Berra, Fernanda Soto, Irma Velasquez Nimatuj, Ruth Matamoros (CLA 1.302B)

1 C (4)  Angela Valenzuela (Chair):  Immigration and the State:  Policing, Detention, and Resistance: Juan Carrillo, Luis Placencia, Chloe Schwabe, Rocio Villalobos (CLA 1.302E)


2A (4/5) Cherise Smith (Chair):  Art, Activism and Social Justice;  Juan Mejia, Nicole Gurgel, Shaka Paul Mcglotten & Amit Gilutz, Tatiana Reinoza (CLA 1.302E)

2B (4)  Shannon Speed (Chair) Pablo Gonzalez (Organizer):  The Red Star of Texas: Zapatismo and Activist Scholarship at UT Austin:  Pablo Gonzalez, Mariana Mora, Melissa Forbis, Vivian Newdick (CLA 1.302D)

2C (4) Gonzalez-Lopez (Chair):  Feminist theory, pedagogy and politics:  Brenda Sendejo, Gail Sue Kasun, Jennifer Goett (CLA 1.302B)


3A (5) John McKiernan-Gonzalez (Chair):  Chicana/o and Latino Politics:  Veronica Martinez-Matsuda, Manuel Callahan, Lilia Rosas, Emmett Campos, Connie McGuire  (CLA 1.302D)

3B (5) João Costa Vargas (Chair):  Violence and Policing:  Jaime Alves, Junaid Rana, Gabriel Solis, Elvia Mendoza, Bruno Renero (CLA 1.302D)

3C (5) Luis Cárcamo-Huechante (Chair):  Indigenous Epistemologies in Resistance: Ajb’ee Jimenez, Emiliana Cruz, Tane Ward, Gio Batz,  Edwin Roman-Ramirez (CLA 1.302B)


4A (5) Arturo Arias (Chair): Violence and the Politics of Memory: Claudia Cervantes-Soon, Elizabeth Velasquez, Hisyar Ozsoy, Andrea Roberts, Claudia Chávez (CLA 1.302D)

4B (4) Eric Tang (Chair):  Activist Austin: Geoffrey Valdes, Sean Sellers, Christina Tzintzun, Haile Eshe, Noriega/Orta (CLA 1.302E)

4C (5) Bjorn Sletto (Chair): Ethical and Political Reflections on Activist Anthropology:

Mark Anderson, Traci Ann Wint, Brandt Peterson, Virginia Raymond, Heather Teague (CLA 1.302B)


5    (8) Stuesse, Perry (Chairs):  Conversations on Activist Scholarship Beyond UT-Austin:  Mohan Ambikaipaker, Whitney Battle-Baptiste, Amanda Walker Johnson, Angela Stuesse, Teresa Velasquez, Chris Loperena, Keisha-Khan Y. Perry, Nick Copeland (CLA 1.302E)



Caribbean Central American Research Council
Center for Asian American Studies
Center for Mexican American Studies
Center for Women and Gender Studies
College of Liberal Arts
Department of African and African Diaspora Studies
Division of Diversity and Community Engagement
Humanities Institute
Native American and Indigenous Studies
Social Justice Institute
Teresa Lozano Long Center for Latin American Studies
Warfield Center for African and African American Studies



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