This project critically and comparatively explores the urban politics emergent within San Francisco's Black, Latina/o, Native American, and Asian American communities during the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Through an investigation of the Third World Strike at San Francisco State College and the community activism of "Los Siete de La Raza" in the Mission District, this study excavates and examines the material and ideological linkages that existed between diverse communities of color, highlighting the dynamic cultural and political identities that were forged in the process of struggle. I detail how activists of color articulated a radical Third World identity that expressed a transformative set of politics and that enabled them to view their separate histories and circumstances as fundamentally related. Further, I argue it addressed multiple oppressions in both local and global contexts, thereby opening up their anti-racist praxis to incorporate a more explicitly internationalist, working class, and feminist orientation. The existence of this over-looked "oppositional consciousness" challenges both conventional studies of the Sixties and contemporary racial politics.
Drawing from recent scholarship that has sought to define the origins of black studies in the U.S. university system, this dissertation attempts not to settle but to open up different ways of asking the questions with which it is preoccupied—what is black studies? What does it mean to ask that question from a contemporary perspective? Toward this end, my object of investigation is not only black studies itself, but also the kinds of thinking, the material resources, and the structures of power that have made the field possible.
Using a methodology derived from Marxist theorizations of ideology, feminist analyses of power, and critical analyses generated inside black studies itself, I read moments of black studies' institutionalization as dynamic political events. I reconstruct such events, which include the formation of The Journal of Negro History (Chapter One), the establishment of the Institute of the Black World (Chapter Two), and the emergence of Black Women's Studies (Chapter Three)—from an archive that includes periodicals, foundation archives, anthologies, and canonical texts in black studies.
Combined, the method and the archive allow for an approach that makes visible social relations that are often masked in analyses of institutionalization. Through critiques of the self-inauguration of the black male elite in the institutionalization of Negro History (in Chapter One), the epistemological consequences of black studies' relation to philanthropy (in Chapter Two), and the normalization of heteropatriarchal ideology in Chapter Three, Disciplinary Matters provides an account of black studies where moments of profound, even radical intellectual possibilities blur with moments of suppression, exclusion, and ideological closure. Through this blurring, this dissertation's attempt to unsettle the question of what black studies is serves also as a way of posing the question of what black studies might have been, and what it might be.
In 1968, the students, faculty, staff and community members of color at San Francisco State University (SFSU) initiated the first Third World Liberation Front (TWLF) movement for Ethnic Studies in the United States. After carrying out the longest student strike our nation had seen at that time, the SFSU TWLF movement successfully created the first and only College of Ethnic Studies in the United States. This radical victory represented a culmination for historically oppressed communities in their effort to achieve liberation in one area of their lives - education. The impact of this achievement reverberated throughout higher education, beginning with neighboring Bay Area universities and spreading across the country. Not only did the SFSU TWLF lead the way and inspire other young revolutionaries and activists to fight for culturally and politically relevant curriculum; this achievement represented a moment of victory for the historically marginalized in the longue durée of American oppression and resistance. In my dissertation I analyze the historical foundation and theoretical framework of the 1969 Third World Liberation Front (TWLF) movement, which resulted in the creation of an Ethnic Studies Department at UC Berkeley. I examine the TWLF as a campaign for self-determination that introduced politically relevant curriculum and pedagogy at UC Berkeley. The new course context was more than just culturally relevant: the study of Native Americans, Chicano/Latinos, Asian Americans and African Americans added a new study of the life, experiences, and culture of communities previously omitted from course curriculum. However, my definition of politically relevant includes the elements of culturally relevant and goes a step further, arguing that a strong radical political framework influenced every aspect of the newly formed field of ethnic studies and black studies. My research fills a gap in the literature because I analyze the social, historical, and theoretical foundations of the TWLF at UC Berkeley rather than simply documenting the movement. Utilizing this interdisciplinary approach, I weave together literary analysis, historical archives, qualitative interviews, and social theory. Most uniquely, I conduct an analysis of the educational implications of this historic moment to engender a holistic examination of the link between education and liberation for historically oppressed communities of color. My project contributes a new perspective to the role of student activism and, importantly, the role of women of color in fomenting change in university curriculum and pedagogy. Most notably, what distinguishes my research is the analysis of the TWLF as one of many pivotal moments in the longue durée of historically oppressed people fighting for their self-determination. The emphasis of this approach is dialectical: it is about how the history of the past informs the present. It refers to an interdisciplinary method of examining the long-term political, social, and economic structures and their impact on our social reality (Lee, 2012). Therefore, in my research I use this concept and methodology as a tool to analyze the impact of the historical system, and social construction, known as race. I focus on selected moments in United States history that were catalysts in the racial formation and oppression of Native Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans, and Chican@/Latin@s. Utilizing a longue durée framework, I trace the experiences of historically marginalized communities and their struggle for freedom against the systems of white supremacy and capitalism. Within this movement, cartography education was employed - first by African Americans, and later by other racialized groups - as a crucial tool with which the oppressed could achieve their liberation.
It focuses on the transition of student activism, beginning with the Third World Liberation Front Strike at UC Berkeley, which resulted in the formation of community-based organizations on the Kearny Street-International Hotel block. This ten-year time frame was foundational in the establishment of Asian American political activism. This period produced a threshold of social and political change in both the university environments and in the Asian American community. The uniqueness of this period stemmed from the ability of Asian American activists to respond to a rapidly changing world and local context.
Understanding why students engaged in protest activity to support ethnic studies comprised the central purpose of this study. Additionally, acquiring insight about how university decisions and larger societal concerns influenced students were also components of this research. Unique aspects of this study were the opportunity to compare the experiences of two generations of activists who attended the same university and supported the same issues.
First-person accounts of reasons for involvement were critical to advancing scholarship in the areas of ethnic studies and student activism. Therefore, thick descriptions were used to convey participants' points of view and experiences.
Sixteen participants were interviewed by the researcher as a means to document their student activist experience. According to qualitative research methodology, the research was a multi-case study: the 1969 and 1999 twLF strikes were analyzed as separate cases. Finally, a cross-case analysis revealed similarities and differences between student experiences and the social-political contexts. A brief examination of key documents served as a means to confirm chronologies and students' recollections of events.
Social justice, alienation, and the importance of ethnic studies, were among convergent themes that emerged from the interviews. Faculty negotiations, minimal African-American student participation, and women in leadership were divergent themes that emerged from the interviews. The cycles of conflict and resistance were the emergent theoretical findings from this research.
Three clear conclusions were drawn from this study: (1) the persistent, insidious nature of racism existed at the university; (2) ethnic studies represented a fertile battleground for fighting race-related issues; and (3) distinct patterns and cycles related to the fight became apparent.
During both strikes, the issue of institutional racism emerged as a cause for the conflict. Ethnic studies became a political forum for conflict, demands, negotiations, and acquiescence. At times, its value as a vehicle for research, scholarship, and teaching was lost amidst the political turmoil. Eventually, an argument over who controlled the production and dissemination of knowledge became a critical point. Students wanted ethnic studies to have a genuine place in academia while the academic system resisted its inclusion. Consequently, the cycles of conflict and resistance continued.