Difficult Subject: Community of Practice on Immigration

Difficult Subject: Community of Practice on Immigration


Teaching about immigration has never been more urgent as messages about scarcity, economic and environmental crisis, crime and national identity compete to shape our views on borders and the people who cross them. With a focus on the US southern border, this community of practice provides a safe space to explore ideas about south-to-north migration, the role of the US in determining economic and social realities of sending countries, oral histories, media streams, and a deep dive into what it means to be an "American" at hemispheric, national and local levels.

Our community of practice explores key problems and prospects of immigration pedagogy through readings, viewings, lecture, discussion, experiential exercises, culinary developments and dialogue. We’ll take into account approaches from human rights, labor, fine and applied arts and oral histories for a multi-sensorial and community-centered learning experience with both online and in-person sessions in Columbus and an experiential-learning field trip. The program will culminate with an on-campus, curriculum-development workshop.


January 20, 2024 (in person)

Who are we and how do our names, faces and stories of home and place affect our understanding of migration to the United States today? What are some of the risks and rewards involved in teaching about migration to young people? Our first module will take a long historical approach to understand what it means to be an “American.” We’ll examine who is invited — and who is excluded — to participate in the national project and be introduced to a selection of free tools and resources available to educators in this field. 

February 2, 2024 (in person)

How can we make sense of migration narratives when there are so many conflicting reports and opinions about who belongs in the United States and who should be excluded? We’ll analyze mainstream news reporting to understand how different media outlets stoke our emotions. We then examine the oral history of Rubén Castilla Herrera, an Ohio leader of immigration reform, and learn from immigration attorney Nicholas Pasquarello about the Columbus Sanctuary Movement, migrant rights and the prospects of decriminalization and abolition.

March 2, 2024 (via Zoom)

Xenophobia is the dislike of or prejudice against people from other countries. While our natural human condition instills a powerful need to feel accepted in our group, what happens when members of our community perpetuate xenophobic prejudice and view migrants and other vulnerable populations as less than human? Our third module offers a participant-focused session that dives into U.S. histories of intolerance, while surveying national and local programs and centers facilitating, supporting and promoting the integration efforts of individuals and communities.

April 6, 2024 (in person)

A 2015 report issued by the UCLA Blum Center on Poverty and Health in Latin America ranked Ohio last in the nation for policies and laws that exclude undocumented immigrants. Rating each state’s policies as “inclusive” (supporting health and well-being) or “exclusive” (harming health and well-being), this module looks at Ohio’s history of population, migration and narratives of inclusion and exclusion through the markers of race, class, language, gender and other categories to understand how the state has developed ideas of territoriality and belonging.  

May 18, 2024 (via Zoom)

A diaspora is a dispersion of a formerly-concentrated group of people sharing cultural similarities and homelands who have been compelled to displace and live in geographically-distant areas of the world. In module five, we examine diasporic cultural expression and the artistic practices that help create and incentivize placemaking and cultural pride. We’ll read The Distance Between Us: A Memoir by Reyna Grande and When I Get Older: The Story behind "Wavin' Flag" by K’NAAN to explore various pedagogical possibilities of memoir and music in the study of displaced peoples.  

June 7, 2024 (in person)

It’s an all-too-common Columbus story: Popular restaurants offering Mexican-inspired fare veer into the unsavory territory of cultural misappropriation. How can we learn from past mistakes related to appropriation, microaggressions and slurs to promote equitable social engagement and informed consumer behaviors that foster dignity and respect? We’ll go on an alternative taco tour of migrant-owned local businesses to sample heritage cuisine, interrogate racist tropes in the culinary marketplace and consider how food can serve as a scaffolding for cultural border crossing and discovery.     

About the Facilitator

Woman with dark hair wearing a dark shirt and motorcycle jacket

Paloma Martinez-Cruz teaches Latinx Cultural Studies in the areas of performance and popular culture; decolonial methods and practices; and Latin American and Latinx gender studies and feminisms. She is the author of Trust the Circle: The Resistance and Resilience of Rubén Castilla Herrera Food Fight! (2023), Millennial Mestizaje Meets the Culinary Marketplace (2019) and Women and Knowledge in Mesoamerica: From East L.A. to Anahuac (2011). She is the editor of A Handbook for the Rebel Artist in a Post-Democratic Society by Guillermo Gómez-Peña and Saúl García-López (Routledge). An interdisciplinary scholar-artist, she publishes poetry and fiction, directs and performs with the Taco Reparations Brigade performance troupe and coordinates Onda Latinx Ohio, an arts initiative showcasing Latinx arts from the Midwest and beyond.