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Professor Burgos to Present “Neither Race nor Ethnicity: Latinidad as a Social Affordance”

Professor Adam Burgos will be co-presenting the Gonzaga University Philosophy Department Colloquium with his collaborator there, Dr. Alejandro Arango on Thursday March 25th at 7:30PM (eastern time) via Zoom. All are welcome.

Abstract: The debate about the definition of Latinidad as a social identity has fluctuated between accounts that put it closer to ethnicity (mainly represented by the work of Jorge J. E. Gracia) or closer to race (mainly represented by the work of Linda Alcoff). We present and defend the claim that the multiplicity of features and experiences of Latinos in the United States is best accounted for by steering away from both race and ethnicity and placing Latinidad in a different theoretical space. We draw from the situated cognition and ecological psychology literature on affordances to argue that Latinidad can be better understood as a multidirectional social affordance: a multifaceted set of possibilities to do and to be done unto. We then focus on four areas that, in most histories of different Latino groups, are part of the objective factors that have come to constitute Latinidad and which provide reasons to shy away from both race and ethnicity: the fact of mestizaje, a diasporic element (even if vicariously), the political horizons and histories of this population, and the multiplicity of sensory-based cultural practices of Latinos. Acknowledging that the subjective uptake of these four areas is different across subgroups and individuals, the notion of social affordance allows us to successfully articulate subjective and objective aspects of social identities in the areas presented. While mainly descriptive, our account finds the complexity we propose necessary for the project of emancipation of both individuals and the collective of Latinos: only by knowing facts that exceed a person’s own recognition and which are seen or understood by others, can this group attain the type of social and political self-determination that it yearns for and is in its horizon. 

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