Community as Space and Place: Collective Activism and Advocacy by Groups in the Southwest United States (Competitive Papers)

Sponsor: Activism and Social Justice Division
Sat, 11/19: 12:30 PM - 1:45 PM CST
Room: Grand Ballroom C - 5th Floor 
This session will be live streamed and recorded for viewing after the convention until December 31, 2022.

This session includes top-rated research papers related to collective activism and advocacy in the Southwest United States - specifically the U.S. Southern Border with Mexico; Albuquerque, New Mexico; South Texas; and Boulder, Colorado. The authors/researchers will bring many voices to the discussion, including #NeverAgain, La Cultural Cura, migrant advocacy organizations, and Democratic Socialists of America. This session includes the division's top paper.


Amy Aldridge Sanford, Middle Tennessee State University  - Contact Me


Billie Murray, Villanova University  - Contact Me


Activism and Social Justice Division
Emphasizing Advocacy
Emphasizing Community
NCA First Vice President


#NeverAgain Means Never Again for Anyone: Jewish Memory and Legitimizing Radical Protest (ASJD Top Paper)

In June 2019 activists revealed the Trump administration was holding immigrant detainees in dangerous and deplorable conditions, particularly near the Southern border. In response, a group of Jewish activists called Never Again Action joined national protests aimed against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), using distinct markers of the Jewish experience. While other organizations were content with marches and demonstrations, Never Again engaged in disruptive confrontations at detainment centers, shutting down operations and blocking entrance to facilities. Claiming that they were mandated by their faith and ancestral suffering, the group labeled U.S. government agencies and personnel as Nazis and brownshirts while integrating Jewish chants, prayers, and music at their protests. Through a rhetorical analysis of their social media, this paper argues that Never Again Action leveraged their Jewish memory as both survivors and religious adherents to authorize disruptive action and foster empathic identification with immigrant detainees. This paper examines how coalitional movements bridge historical difference by selectively using memory to develop communal identity. 


Michael F. Klajbor-Smith, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign  - Contact Me

Honoring Justice for Youth: A Collaborative Framework for Documentation

This paper reflects the first cycle of a long distance journey to achieve justice for youth. There is expectation that there will be many more cycles to come. La Plazita Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico initiated the Albuquerque Justice for Youth Community Collaborative in 2020 and holds the responsibility to move the work forward over the first two years. As an organization, La Plazita Institute's philosophy and approach is La Cultural Cura, or Culture Cures, centering culture and healing. Rooted in a cultural context, the Quinto Sol, or Five Suns, model is rooted in Mexica creation stories. The Quinto Sol philosophy has been strategically positioned throughout time as a way to establish and organize travel through multiple worlds. The model adapts to change and responds to a world that is always shifting, which allows for application in multiple contexts. The act of documentation was framed to reflect the responsibilities of the Nahuat Tlaquilo who serves as a historian and a scribe, communicating through painting, writing, and illustration. The documentation team translates these aspects in multimedia storytelling and collaboratively through painting, drawing, poetry, journaling, photography, and storytelling. The documentation framework acknowledges diverse ways of communicating and uplifts the artistic and poetic messages created by Collaborative members. 


Jaelyn DeMaria, University of New Mexico  - Contact Me


Kee Straits, TLC Transformation  - Contact Me

Imagined Audiences and Activist Orientations of Migrant Advocacy Organizations

This study, part of a larger investigation of a network of migrant advocacy organizations in South Texas, explores advocates' rhetorical strategies and how such strategies are informed by activists' (imagined) audiences. Data gathering consisted of semi-structured interviews of 17 advocates representing 8 organizations, supplemented by approximately 40 hours of participant observation over a two-year period. Findings suggest four categories of aims: educating and persuading the general public, engaging non-supporters through dialogue, supporting and organizing migrants as activists, and building cooperative relationships with authorities. Each of these audiences is engaged differentially, with attention to cultural values, strategic interests, and power dynamics. Activists' strategies and imagined audiences are informed by rhetors' social identities as well as their organizations' goals. Conclusions suggest implications for coalition work, and recommend the concepts of differential activism and agonistic dialogue, given the diversity of organizations and their constituencies. 


Sara DeTurk, University of Texas, San Antonio  - Contact Me

Housing Justice, Civic Engagement, and Socialist Frames: Exploring a Local Right to Counsel Initiative

This essay follows a group of activists in a local Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) chapter as they navigate the challenges presented by planning, strategizing, and authoring legislation for a right to counsel initiative in their local context. In this paper, I argue that DSA chapters encourage critical civic engagement focused on housing justice. Regular involvement in DSA encourages members to use a socialist analysis to understand local, national, and global problems, requiring an interdisciplinary and practical educational process in civic competency, socialist politics, and organizational strategies. I rely on data collected from 10 months of participant observation in a local DSA chapter in Boulder, Colorado from April 2019 to February 2020. I focus on the on the major political project assumed by Boulder DSA from 2018-2020, a right to counsel ballot initiative titled No Eviction Without Representation (NEWR). Developing this ballot initiative involved a multi-year effort that offered numerous educational opportunities for chapter members and leaders to engage with the local political context and promote specific forms of civic engagement directed at tangible social change. The NEWR ballot initiative illustrates the political possibilities of dedicated socialist organizers and demonstrates the value of the political network developed by DSA chapters throughout the country. 


Christopher Charles Barnes, University of Colorado, Boulder  - Contact Me