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"I'm a citizen of the universe": Gloria Anzaldua's spiritual activism as catalyst for social change.

With awe and wonder you look around, recognizing the preciousness of the earth, the sanctity of every human being on the planet, the ultimate unity and interdependence of all beings-somos todos un pais. Love swells in your chest and shoots out of your heart chakra, linking you to everyone/everything .... You share a category of identity wider than any social position or racial label. This conocimiento motivates you to work actively to see that no harm comes to people, animals, ocean-to take up spiritual activism and the work of healing.

--Gloria E. Anzaldua,

"now let us shift ... the path of conocimiento ... inner work, public acts"

IN THIS PASSAGE, drawn from one of her final essays, Gloria Evangelina Anzaldua describes a radically inclusionary politics, or what she calls "spiritual activism." At first glance, the phrase "spiritual activism" might seem like a contradiction in terms, yoking together two opposing concepts: Although the word "spiritual" implies an other-worldly, inward-looking perspective that invites escape from and at times even denial of social injustices, the word "activism" implies outward-directed interaction with the material world-the very world that spirituality seems to deny or downplay. Yet for Anzaldua, these very different worlds and worldviews are inseparable (although not identical). She embraces the apparent contradiction and insists that the spiritual/material, inner/outer, individual/collective dimensions of life are parts of a larger whole, joined in a complex, interwoven pattern. Anzaldua's spiritual activism offers a visionary yet experientially based epistemology and ethics. Spiritual activism is spirituality for social change, spirituality that posits a relational worldview and uses this holistic worldview to transform one's self and one's worlds. (1) Throughout her career, from her earliest publications to her last writings, Anzaldua worked to develop, refine, and enact her own unique version of spiritual activism.

All too often, however, scholars avoid Anzaldua's politics of spirit. Although they celebrate her groundbreaking contributions to feminist theory and her innovative formulations of the Borderlands and the new mestiza, they rarely examine the important roles Anzaldua's spiritual activism plays in developing these theories and many others. In some ways, this avoidance of Anzaldua's politics of spirit probably seems like common sense. After all, those of us working in academic settings are trained to rely almost exclusively on rational thought, anti-spiritual forms of logical reasoning, and empirical demonstrations. As Irene Lara notes, "Within a western framework, writing about spirit and spirituality, as well as writing from a spiritual epistemology that is embodied and ensouled in a woman of color consciousness, is cause for silencing and marginalization." (2) Laura E. Perez makes a similar point:
  Beliefs and practices consciously making reference to the s/Spirit
  as the common life force within and between all beings are largely
  marginalized from serious intellectual discourse as superstition,
  folk belief, or New Age delusion, when they are not relegated to
  the socially controlled spaces of the orientalist study of
  "primitive animism" or of "respectable" religion within dominant
  culture. Even in invoking the spiritual as a field articulated
  through cultural differences, and in so doing attempting to
  displace dominant Christian notions of the spiritual while
  addressing the fear of politically regressive essentialisms, to
  speak about the s/Spirit and the spiritual in U.S. culture is risky
  business that raises anxieties of different sorts. (3)


In short, references to spirit, souls, the sacred, and other such spiritually inflected topics are often condemned as essentialist, escapist, naive, or in other ways apolitical and backward thinking. Similarly, M. Jacqui Alexander observes that despite recent scholarship linking spirituality with socio-political change, "there is a tacit understanding that no self-respecting postmodernist would want to align herself (at least in public) with a category such as the spiritual, which appears so fixed, so unchanging, so redolent of tradition." (4)

This academic spirit-phobia has affected Anzalduan scholarship in several interrelated ways: We might admire Anzaldua's bold spirit vision yet fear that if we explore it in our work, we will harm our careers. Not only will our colleagues scoff at us, but we will have difficulty publishing such explorations. As Lara suggests, these fears can be intensified for Chicanas and other women of colors who are often already viewed as interlopers in the academy. (5) Or, we might appreciate Anzaldua's spiritual activism yet worry that if we try to discuss it in print, our colleagues will re-evaluate her writings in negative ways and reject her theoretical contributions as "New Age," (6) escapist ramblings. Or, we might be suspicious of Anzaldua's references to spirits and souls, question her discussions of precolonial traditions, and discredit her theoretical and philosophical achievements. Thus, for example, one reader interprets Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza as Anzaldua's attempt "[t]o return to the 'traditional' spiritualities that were in place before the arrival of Cortes." According to this scholar, "Anzaldua's language, her grammar, her talk are ultimately completely mortgaged to a nostalgia that I find unacceptable. The resurrection of the old gods (be they 'white' or 'indigenous') is a futile and impossible task. To invoke old gods as a tool against oppression and capitalism is to choose the wrong weapon." (7)

I want to address this objection at length because it reflects such a typical reaction to Anzaldua's spiritualized politics. To be sure, in several passages in Borderlands/La Frontera Anzaldua does seem to romanticize indigeneity. However, a more thorough reading of this text, coupled with an investigation of her later writings, offers a very different interpretation. Although revisionist mythmaking does play a role in her spiritual activism, Anzaldua does not try to resurrect "old gods," reclaim an "authentic" precolonial spirituality or religion, or in other ways nostalgically reinvigorate pseudo-ancient traditions or beliefs. Instead, she investigates a variety of indigenous and post-indigenous histories and traditions in order to learn from them, and she applies what she learns to our contemporary situation. As she explains in a 2002 e-mail interview, "the past cannot be captured, but it must be remembered." (8) This use of memory serves at least two forward-looking purposes for Anzaldua and other spiritual activists. First, by remembering the past, we respect and can learn from our ancestors' wisdom. Second, this awareness makes it less likely that we will repeat previous mistakes. Rather than going back to some unchanging precolonial tradition, Anzaldua re-members the past; she borrows from and alters a variety of belief systems and worldviews, creating an activist-based spirituality that is deeply informed by contemporary events.

As I will explain in the following pages, Anzaldua's theory of spiritual activism is designed to meet twenty-first-century needs; it offers valuable lessons for feminists and other social justice activists. Her politics of spirit demonstrates that holistic, spirit-inflected perspectives-when applied to racism, sexism, homophobia, and other contemporary issues-can sustain and assist us as we work to transform social injustice. First, though, I describe Anzaldua's theory of spiritual activism in more detail.

I struggle to "talk" from the wound's gash, make sense of the deaths and destruction, and pull the pieces of my life back together. I yearn to pass on to the next generation the spiritual activism I've inherited from my cultures.

--Gloria E. Anzaldua,

"let us be the healing of the wounds"

Anzaldua's spiritual activism enabled her to make meaning out of the apparently meaningless events of her life, especially those situations--"the deaths and destruction"-that caused her the most pain. Significantly, this meaning-making endeavor was a difficult, often torturous, struggle. Although sometimes tempted to become immersed in despair or to give up in defeat, Anzaldua drew on her holistic worldview and insisted on her personal agency, her ability to learn from even the most negative life events.

Anzaldua offers the most extensive discussion to date (9) of her theory and praxis of spiritual activism in "now let us shift .(R) the path of conocimiento.(R)inner work, public acts." As the title implies, in this essay Anzaldua urges herself and her readers to enact transformation (or "shift") by focusing simultaneously on self-change ("inner acts") and outwardly directed social activism ("public acts"). In one of the essay's final sections, appropriately titled "shifting realities ... acting out the vision or spiritual activism," she describes how spiritual activism enabled her to address individual and collective needs simultaneously:
  You reflect on experiences that caused you, at critical points of
  transformation, to adopt spiritual activism. When you started
  traveling and doing speaking gigs, the harried, hectic, frenzied
  pace of the activist stressed you out, subjecting you to a
  pervasive form of modern violence ... To deal with personal
  concerns while also confronting larger issues in the public arena,
  you began using spiritual tools to cope with racial and gender
  oppression and other modern maldades--not so much the seven
  deadly sins, but the small acts of desconocimientos: ignorance,
  frustrations, tendencies toward self-destructiveness, feelings of
  betrayal and powerlessness, and poverty of spirit and
  imagination. (10)


As this passage indicates, Anzaldua's spiritual activism intertwines "inner works" with "public acts," private concerns with social issues. Indeed, this simultaneous attention to personal and collective issues/concerns is a vital component in spiritual activism.

It is crucial, then, to distinguish Anzaldua's spiritual activism both from the mainstream "New Age" movement and from conventional organized religions. Unlike the former, which focuses almost, if not entirely, on the personal and thus leaves the existing oppressive social structures in place, spiritual activism's holistic approach encompasses both the personal and the systemic. Spiritual activism begins within the individual but moves outward as these individuals (or what Anzaldua calls "spiritual activists") expose, challenge, and work to transform unjust social structures. And unlike the latter, which often impose authority on individuals through external teachings, texts, standards, and leaders, spiritual activism locates authority within each individual. As Anzaldua explains in an early discussion of the ways U.S. women of colors have used spirituality to develop new forms of resistance: "Our spirituality does not come from outside ourselves. It emerges when we listen to the 'small still voice' within us which can empower us to create actual change in the world." (11) By reclaiming and nurturing this inner spiritual power, the women Anzaldua describes become agents of change. More specifically, they acquire increased self-esteem and develop holistic epistemologies enabling them to expose social injustice. In this way, spiritual activists can work simultaneously for individual and collective change. Ana Castillo illustrates one form that this increased self-esteem can take in Massacre of the Dreamers. As she explains,
  acknowledgment of the energy that exists throughout the universe
  subatomically generating itself and interconnecting, fusing, and
  changing ... offer[s] a personal response to the divided state of the
  individual who desires wholeness. An individual who does not sense
  herself as helpless to circumstances is more apt to contribute
  positively to her environment than one who resigns with apathy
  to it because of her sense of individual insignificance. (12)


Although spiritual activism begins at the level of the personal, it is not solipsistic; nor does it result in egocentrism, self-glorification, or other types of possessive individualism. Rather, spiritual activism combines self-reflection and self-growth with outward-directed, compassionate acts designed to bring about material change. Look for instance at the way Anzaldua describes the closely entwined dynamics of self-awareness, oppression, resistance, and transformation in Borderlands/La Frontera:
  The struggle is inner: Chicano, indio, American Indian, mojado,
  mexicano, immigrant Latino, Anglo in power, working class Anglo,
  Black, Asian--our psyches resemble the bordertowns and are
  populated by the same people. The struggle has always been
  inner, and is played out in outer terrains. Awareness of our
  situation must come before inner changes, which in turn come
  before changes in society. Nothing happens in the "real" world
  unless it first happens in the images in our heads. (13)


In this passage, "inner" and "outer" are so intimately interrelated and interwoven as to occur simultaneously; each depends on, influences, and shapes the other.

For Anzaldua and other spiritual activists, self-change and social transformation are mutually interdependent. In one of her earliest published writings, "La Prieta," Anzaldua describes this intricate reciprocal process linking self-change with social justice actions:
  I believe that by changing ourselves we change the world, that
  traveling El Mundo Zurdo path is the path of a two-way movement-a
  going deep into the self and an expanding out into the world, a
  simultaneous recreation of the self and a reconstruction of society.
  And yet, I am confused as to how to accomplish this. I can't
  discount the fact that thousands go to bed hungry every night.
  The thousands that do numbing shitwork eight hours a day each day
  of their lives. The thousands that get beaten and killed every day.
  The millions of women who have been burned at the stake, the
  millions who have been raped. Where is the justice to this? (14)


I have quoted this passage at length because it so effectively illustrates three important dimensions of Anzaldua's spiritual activism. First, Anzaldua insists that self-change should not be an end in itself; instead, this "recreation of the self" must be part of a larger process requiring both intense self-reflection and back-and-forth action on individual and communal levels. Second, as Anzaldua's frank question ("Where is the justice to this?") indicates, spiritual activism's transformative process is a difficult, complicated endeavor, filled with uncertainty and unanswered questions. Third, and closely related to this second point, Anzaldua does not deny the violence, pain, and other forms of suffering that so often occur in this world. She addresses the injustice without downplaying or in any other way denying its significance. By so doing, she confronts the paradox of personal agency and structural determinacy. Rather than ignore, diminish, or attempt to resolve this paradoxical situation, she chooses the more difficult pathway and decided to inhabit the contradiction:
  I can't reconcile the sight of a battered child with the belief
  that we choose what happens to us, that we create our own world.
  I cannot resolve this inmyself. I don't know. I can only speculate,
  try to integrate the experiences that I've had or have been witness
  to and try to make some sense of why we do violence to each other.
  In short, I'm trying to create a religion not out there somewhere,
  but in my gut. I am trying to make peace between what has happened
  to me, what the world is, and what it should be. (15)


Fully acknowledging the suffering, as well as the ambiguities, paradoxes, and unanswered questions, Anzaldua confidently insists on the political effectiveness of her relational worldview. As I have argued elsewhere, she bases this confidence on her metaphysics of interconnectedness. Drawing on indigenous philosophies, Eastern thought, psychic literature, and her own experiences, she maintained her belief in a fluid, cosmic spirit/energy/force that embodies itself throughout--and as-all existence. (16) Thus in a 1982 interview she explained that "Spirit exists in everything; therefore God, the divine, is in everything ... it's in the tree, the swamp, the sea .... Some people call it 'God'; some call it the 'creative force,' whatever. It's in everything." Twenty years later Anzaldua made a similar claim: "Spirit infuses all that exist--organic and inorganic--transcending the categories and concepts that govern your perception of material reality." (17) I point out the time span between these two assertions in order to underscore the duration of Anzaldua's belief. Despite the relentless racism, sexism, and other forms of oppression and despite the many communal and personal setbacks, private losses, and health-related difficulties she experienced throughout the years, Anzaldua retained her relational worldview.

This belief in the interrelatedness of all life forms is a crucial component in Anzaldua's theory of spiritual activism and facilitates the development of new tactics for survival, resistance, and transformation on all levels. In what follows, I build on this radical interconnectivity to explore one of spiritual activism's most important--yet difficult--theoretical implications: the invitation to move beyond the binary-oppositional frameworks we generally use in identity formation and social change.

But I'm sure that with the Chicana dykes I've met, I'm odd, an outcast. Because a lot of them are nationalists and I don't believe in nationalism; I'm a citizen of the universe. I think it's good to claim your ethnic identity and your racial identity. But it's also the source of all the wars and all the violence, all these borders and walls people erect. I'm tired of borders and I'm tired of walls .... I don't believe that we're better than people in India or that we're different from people in Ethiopia. One billion people go to bed hungry every night ... There are droughts in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Eastern Africa. ... People are dying every day. And then people talk about being proud to be American, Mexican, or Indian. We have grown beyond that. We are specks from this cosmic ocean, the soul, or whatever. We're not better than people from Africa or people from Russia. If something happens to the people in India or Africa--and they're starving to death and dying--then that's happening to us, too.

--Gloria E. Anzaldua, Interviews/Entrevistas

Anzaldua's self-positioning in the above epigraph represents a startling contrast to conventional models of identity. Usually, self-identification functions through exclusion and binary opposition: we define who and what we are by defining who and what we are not. These exclusionary identities occur within a restrictive framework that marks, divides, and segregates human beings based on narrow, dualistic models of difference. As Patricia Hill Collins explains, "In either/or dichotomous thinking, difference is defined in oppositional terms. One part is not simply different from its counterpart; it is inherently opposed to its 'other.' Whites and Blacks, males and females, thought and feeling, are not complementary counterparts--they are fundamentally different entities related only through their definitions as opposites." (18) This oppositional logic reduces our interactional possibilities to two mutually exclusive options: Either we are entirely the same or we are entirely different. In this either/or system, difference becomes rigidly divisive. When we view ourselves and others through this binary lens, we assume that our differences are too different--too other, as it were--to have anything of importance in common with those whom we have defined as our others. Such stark either/or assumptions leave no room for the messy complexities of compromise and exchange so vital to coalition work and community-building.

Anzaldua's spiritual activism offers a different approach, one bypassing this exclusionary logic. As she explains in her introduction to this bridge we call home: radical visions for transformation, "Many of us identify with groups and social positions not limited to our ethnic, racial, religious, class, gender, or national classifications. Though most people self-define by what they exclude, we define who we are by what we include--what I call the new tribalism." (19) Significantly, Anzaldua does not discount the importance of gender, ethnicity/'race,' sexuality, ability, and other identity-related components. However, she maintains that these conventional categories are too restrictive and cannot adequately define us. Indeed, she suggests that these identity-based categories have been and still are used to disempower and oppress us: "the changeability of racial, gender, sexual, and other categories render[s] the conventional labelings obsolete. Though these markings are outworn and inaccurate, those in power continue using them to single out and negate those who are 'different' because of color, language, notions of reality, or other diversity." (20) When we base our assessments of others entirely--or even primarily--on their physical appearances and social locations, we make biased, inaccurate assumptions about their politics, worldviews, and so forth. When we act on these assumptions (as we too often do), we unnecessarily close ourselves off from potential allies. Or as Anzaldua so eloquently asserts, "For the politically correct stance we let color, class, and gender separate us from those who would be kindred spirits. So the walls grow higher, the gulfs between us wider, the silences more profound." (21)

Positing radical interconnectedness, Anzaldua dismantles these walls by building bridges. She adopts flexible, context-specific perspectives enabling her simultaneously to see and see through exclusionary identity classifications. She does not ignore the importance of color, class, gender, and other identity markers; however, she puts these classifications into a more holistic perspective. As in my epigraph to this section, she defines each person as a part of a larger whole--a "cosmic ocean, the soul, or whatever." By so doing, Anzaldua can insist on a commonality shared by all human beings, a commonality we share despite the very real differences among us. For Anzaldua, this "common factor" goes beyond--but does not ignore--identities based on gender, 'race,' or other systems of difference; it is "wider than any social position or racial label." Indeed, Anzaldua locates this identity factor within nonhuman life as well. As she explains, "Your identity has roots you share with all people and other beings--spirit, feeling, and body comprise a greater identity category. The body is rooted in the earth, la tierra itself. You meet ensoulment in trees, in woods, in streams." (22) It's important to note that for Anzaldua this shared identity factor does not make us identical. As I use the term, "commonality" and "sameness" are not synonymous. Anzaldua's commonalities are heterogeneous and multifaceted.

Anzaldua's practice and theory of El Mundo Zurdo, or "The Left-Handed World," indicates one form her complex commonalities can take. As the phrase "left-handed world" might suggest, for Anzaldua El Mundo Zurdo represents a highly creative, fluid, and open-minded perspective and space. Thus she asserts that "The left hand is not a fist pero una mano abierta [but an open hand] raised with others in struggle, celebration, and song." Anzaldua's concept of El Mundo Zurdo is quite possibly her oldest concept. She began using the term "El Mundo Surdo" (23) in the late 1970s, when she organized a series of poetry readings with that title in San Francisco. She invited a variety of people, including feminists of all colors, U.S. "Third World" writers, lesbians, and gay men, to read in El Mundo Surdo Reading Series. Despite the many differences among them, participants shared several commonalities, including their so-called deviation from the dominant culture, their personal experiences of alienation/ discrimination/oppression, their interest in issues of social justice, their shared rejection of the status quo, and their work as creative writers and artists. Several years later, in her introduction to the final section of This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color and in "La Prieta," Anzaldua developed a theoretical description of El Mundo Zurdo. She explains that El Mundo Zurdo represents alliances among people from a variety of different social locations. Although inhabitants of El Mundo Zurdo are very different from each other, they forge commonalities and develop alliances enabling them to work together to bring about revolutionary change: "We are the queer groups, the people that don't belong anywhere, not in the dominant world nor completely within our own respective cultures. Combined we cover so many oppressions. But the overwhelming oppression is the collective fact that we do not fit, and because we do not fit, we are a threat." Significantly, El Mundo Zurdo people are not all alike; their specific oppressions, solutions, and beliefs are different. Anzaldua accepts these differences and uses them to forge commonalities, asserting that "these different affinities are not opposed to each other. In El Mundo Zurdo I with my own affinities and my people with theirs can live together and transform the planet." (24)

I want to emphasize the innovative possibilities opened up by Anzaldua's inclusionary models of identity formation. Typically, feminists and other social justice activists develop politics and actions around identity-related issues. As Leela Fernandes explains, "identity continues to serve as the ground from which to work for change and to which to retreat for a sense of safety and belonging." Although this approach can be useful, it limits us in at least two ways. First, because identity-based politics rely on already-existing categories that originated in oppressive histories, they inadvertently support the unjust socio-political framework under which we currently live. These tainted categories restrict our imaginations and thus limit our visions of social change. Fernandes makes a similar point, noting that,
  while identity-based movements are effective in mobilizing short
  term political action, in the long run they cannot produce an
  alternative future that is free from the very identity-based
  divisions and inequalities that they oppose. While oppositional
  movements based on identity have been necessary to address
  the blindness to various forms of injustice, such movements
  cannot in the long run provide a viable alternative because they
  inevitably must rest on a form of identification that explicitly or
  implicitly is based on an oppositional distinction from another
  group. (25)


Second, identity-based politics' exclusionary categories can limit our ability to make useful alliances. Like the oppositional identities from which they emerge, identity-based politics rely on and reinforce an us-against-them worldview. When we ground identities and alliances in dualistically defined categories, we establish and police boundaries--boundaries that shut us in with those whom we have defined as "like" "us" and boundaries that close us off from those whom we define as different. These boundaries prevent us from recognizing our complex commonalities and developing broad-based projects for social change. In such instances, identities become ends in themselves, rather than useful tools as we move toward larger goals like transformation, liberation, and social justice.

My point here is not that we should dismiss all identity categories and declare ourselves from this day forward "color-blind," gender-blind, and so forth. Instead, I am concerned by the lack of self-reflection that so often accompanies identity-based politics. When we automatically label people by color, gender, sexuality, religion, or any other politically charged characteristics, we assume both a false homogeneity within and radical differences between each categorized group. In such instances, the boundaries between various groups of people--and, by extension, the theoretical perspectives designed to represent them--become rigid, inflexible, and restrictive. These monolithic categories distort our perceptions, creating arbitrary divisions among us and a combative mentality that inhibits social change. When we use identity-based categories in such automatic, unthinking ways, the labels function as impenetrable, unsurmountable obstacles. We trap ourselves within narrow worldviews and cannot perceive our interconnectedness with others.

This binary-oppositional framework leads to frozen, dogmatic positions; intragroup battles; and judgmental, dismissive attitudes--or what Alexander appropriately describes as "mono-thinking." (26) When we structure our teaching, our politics, or, more generally, our lives according to this dualistic sameness/difference framework, we assume that there is only one right way to think, act, theorize, or self-define. These oppositional energies become poisonous when we direct them toward each other, as we too often do. In such instances, we engage in what Timothy Powell describes as "corrosive exchanges" and embark on "[a] downward spiral of ever more hostile counteraccusations." (27) Although Powell focuses specifically on debates within academic multiculturalism, I have seen (both in person and in print) this dynamic happen in a variety of situations, when people or groups oppressed in similar (not identical) ways attempt to develop alliances that fragment from within and often over fairly minor issues. The us-against-them stance we have employed in oppositional forms of consciousness seeps into all areas of our lives, infecting the way we perceive ourselves and each other. When we turn this lens against each other-as we so often do-we implode. Rather than work together to enact progressive social change, we battle each other, thus reproducing the status quo. (28)

Anzaldua's spiritual activism compels me to question whether the binary-oppositional energies so crucial to many social justice theories are as useful today as they were in the past. Like Alexander, I believe that "[o]ur oppositional politic has been necessary, but it will never sustain us; while it may give us some temporary gains ... it can never ultimately feed that deep place within us: that space of the erotic, that space of the soul, that space of the Divine." (29)

In her writings, Anzaldua speaks from and to this "deep place within us." By so doing, she enacts a transformative politics of spirit seen in many of her theories, including (but not limited to) her theories of E1 Mundo Zurdo, conocimiento, mestiza consciousness, the Borderlands, nepantleras, nos/otras, new tribalism, and spiritual activism. (30) Positing our radical interconnectedness--or what she describes in "now let us shift" as "the deep common ground and interwoven kinship among all things and people" (31)--Anzaldua challenges us to move beyond mono thinking, binary-oppositional politics, and other forms of self-destructive thought and action. Her theories, and her willingness to risk ostracism by insisting on spiritual activism, offer innovative tools we can build on as we create new theoretical perspectives, pedagogies, and social justice actions like "nepantlera activism," "healing suenos," and "listening with raw openness." (32)

NOTES

I have been thinking, talking, and trying to write about spiritual ctivism since I first encountered the term when I was editing Anzaldua's interviews in the 1990s. This essay is only my most recent attempt to explore (and enact!) this complex theory. Thanks to the many people who have explored these ideas with me: Suzanne Bost, Renae Bredin, Irene Lara, Eddy Lynton, Carrie McMaster. Harry McMaster, Nery Morales, the students in my 2003 and 2004 Gloria Anzaldua graduate seminar, and the audience at the 2002 NWSA panel on Anzaldua. Special thanks to Gloria Anzaldua for giving me the term "spiritual activisim," for our many discussions on this topic, and for always taking those extreme risks. I dedicate this essay to her spirit.

(1.) Anzaldua was using the term "spiritual activism" back in the early 1980s in her early interviews (Gloria Anzaldua, Interviews/Entrevistas, ed. AnaLouise Keating [New York: Routledge, 2000], 38, 178). However, many other activists and scholars also use this term. In fact, my October 2006 Google search turned up 75,500 hits. For a more extensive discussion of Anzaldua's theory of spiritual activism, see my "Shifting Perspectives: Spiritual Activism, Social Transformation, and the Politics of Spirit," in Entre Mundos/Among Worlds: New Perspectives on Gloria Anzaldua, ed. AnaLouise Keating (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), 241-54.

(2.) Irene Lara, "Bruja Positionalities: Towards a Chicana/Latina Spiritual Activism," Mujeres Activistas en Letras y Cambio Social 4 (Spring 2005): 30.

(3.) Laura E. Perez, "Spirit Glyphs: Reimagining Art and Artist in the Work of Chicana Tlamatinime," Modern Fiction Studies 44, no. 1 (1998): 37-38.

(4.) M. Jacqui Alexander, Pedagogies of Crossing: Meditations on Feminism, Sexual Politics, Memory, and the Sacred (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2005), 9.

(5.) Lara, "Bruja Positionalities," 10-45. I borrow the term "women of colors" from Indigo Violet, "Linkages: A Personal-Political Journey with Feminist of Color Politics," in this bridge we call home: radical visions for transformation, ed. Gloria E. Anzaldua and AnaLouise Keating (New York: Routledge, 2002), 651-63. Like Violet, I use this term, rather than the more common "women of color," to underscore the diversity among women.

(6.) I put "New Age" in quotation marks to emphasize my belief that this so-called New Age is not really new but simply represents the most recent manifestation of longstanding movements and traditions.

(7.) Benjamin Alire Saenz, "In the Borderlands of Chicano Identity, There Are Only Fragments," in Border Theory: The Limits of Cultural Politics, ed. Scott Michaelsen and David E. Johnson (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997), 86-87.

(8.) Gloria E. Anzaldua, "Speaking Across the Divide: An Email Interview," SAIL: Studies in American Indian Literatures 15 (Fall 2003-Winter 2004): 20. For an extensive discussion of Anzaldua's non-romanticized, politicized use of cultural traditions, see my Women Reading Women Writing: Self-Invention in Paula Gunn Allen, Gloria Anzaldua. and Andre Lorde (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1996).

(9.) I say that Anzaldua offers the most extensive discussion to date because she has several unpublished manuscripts that explore spiritual activism and related issues. See, for example, The Gloria Anzaldua Reader, ed. AnaLouise Keating (forthcoming, Duke University Press, 2009).

(10.) Anzaldua, "now let us shift .... the path of conocimiento .... inner work, public acts," in this bridge we call home, 572. Although Anzaldua uses second person rather than first person throughout "now let us shift," she is describing her own experiences. She does so to engage her readers and draw them more deeply into her words. Also, throughout her career, Anzaldua code-switched-moving between English and various other languages, including Spanish, Nahuatl, and Spanglish. In this passage, "maldades" can be defined as institutional and structural evils. "Desconocimientos" is a word Anzaldua coined to describe both the intentional and the unintentional forms of resistance to knowing people employ to prevent themselves from confronting painful truths and situations.

(11.) Gloria Anzaldua, "El Mundo Zurdo," in This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, 2d ed., ed. Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua (New York: Kitchen Table/ Women of Color Press, 1983), 195. Anzaldua cites Luisah Teish, "OK Momma, Who the Hell Am I? An Interview with Luisah Teish," also in This Bridge Called My Back.

(12.)Ana Castillo, Massacre of the Dreamers: Essays on Xicanisma (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1994), 159.

(13.) Gloria Anzaldua, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (San Francisco: Aunt Lute, 1999), 87.

(14.) Gloria Anzaldua, "La Prieta," in This Bridge Called My Back, 208.

(15.) Ibid., her italics.

(16.) I discuss this metaphysics of interconnectedness in more detail in "Risking the Personal: An Introduction," in Anzaldua's Interviews/Entrevistas, 11-12. Anzaldua was especially influenced by Aztec and Toltec indigenous philosophies and by the writings of Sri Aurobindo, The Mother, and Jane Roberts.

(17.) Anzaldua, Interviews/Entrevistas, 100; twenty years later: Anzaldua, "now let us shift." in this bridge we call home, 558. Alma Levine provides a detailed analysis of Anzaldua's spiritualized epistemology in "Champion of the Spirit: Anzaldua's Critique of Rationalist Epistemology," in EntreMundos/Among Worlds, 171-84.

(18.) Patricia Hill Collins, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment (New York: Routledge, 2000), 70.

(19.) Anzaldua, "(Un)natural bridges, (Un)safe spaces," in this bridge we call home, 3.

(20.) Anzaldua, "now let us shift," in this bridge we call home, 541.

(21.) Anzaldua, "La Prieta," in This Bridge Called My Back, 206.

(22.) Anzaldua, "now let us shift," in this bridge we call home, 558.

(23.) Note the change in spelling from "El Mundo Surdo" to "El Mundo Zurdo." The shift from "s" to "z" in the word "Zurdo" occurred during the copyediting of This Bridge Called My Back. Although Anzaldua was not pleased with this alteration, eventually she accepted and adopted it. For more on this issue see her archives, located at the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection at the University of Texas, Austin.

(24.) Anzaldua, "La Prieta," in This Bridge Called My Back, 209, her italics.

(25.) Leela Fernandes, Transforming Feminist Practice: Non-Violence, Social Justice, and the Possibilities of a Spiritualized Feminism (San Franscisco: Aunt Lute, 2003), 28, 26-27, my emphasis.

(26.) M. Jacqui Alexander, "Remembering This Bridge, Remembering Ourselves: Yearning, Memory, and Desire," in this bridge we call home, 98.

(27.) Timothy B. Powell, "All Colors Flow into Rainbows and Nooses: The Struggle to Define Academic Multiculturalism," Cultural Critique 55 (Fall 2003): 168, 175.

(28.) Alexander explores this dynamic in the final chapter of her Pedagogies of Crossing.

(29.) Alexander, "Remembering This Bridge," in this bridge we call home, 99.

(30.) Anzaldua mentions many of these theories in the interviews collected in her Interviews/Entrevistas, and I explore them in more detail in my "Shifting Worlds, una entrada," in Entre Mundos/Among Worlds, 1-12.

(31.) Anzaldua, "now let us shift," in this bridge we call home, 566.

(32.) The term "nepantlera activism," is Kavitha Koshy's; she coins this term in her "Nepantlera-Activism in the Transnational Moment: In Dialogue with Gloria Anzaldua's Theorizing of Nepantla," Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-knowledge 4 (summer 2006): 147-62. The term "healing suenos" is Irene Lara's; she coins it in her "Healing Suenos for Academia," in this bridge we call home, 433-38. The term "listening with raw openness" is mine; I use it in my Teaching Transformation: Transcultural Classroom Dialogues (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2007).
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Author:Keating, AnaLouise
Publication:Feminist Studies
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Date:Mar 22, 2008
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