National Latino Museum: A Fix for Ignorance and Exclusion

From the New York Times Room for Debate Blog: Arlene Davila is a professor of anthropology and American studies at New York University. She is the author of “Latino Spin: Public Image and the Whitewashing of Race” and the forthcoming “Culture Works: Space, Value and Mobility Across the Neoliberal Americas.”

In the current political context it has become a cliché to put down any ethnic specific project as balkanizing and unnecessary. Yet the growing xenophobia and heightened nativist political climate enveloping the immigration debate and Latinos has shown otherwise.

At the core, current debates manifest the vast ignorance of Latinos’ history in the American mainstream, and their consistent representation as newcomers and foreigners, rather than as a central component of American history and culture. In this context, the debates over whether a National Museum of the American Latino will be built and in what fashion will undoubtedly reflect larger debates over the past, present and future of Latinos in America. Continue reading

The People’s Podcast Party

Two new populist podcasts for your aural enjoyment.

Against the Grain, Tuesday January 6th 2009:

Download program audio (mp3, 48.47 Mbytes)
How many incompetently represented people get convicted, or even executed? In the volume We Dissent: Talking Back to the Rehnquist Court (NYU Press 2008), Abbe Smith describes what’s happened to poor people’s access to effective legal representation.

Leonard Lopate, Tuesday December 23 2008:

Find out how more than 40 million diverse Latinos may have been unfairly lumped into a single homogeneous market by pollsters, marketers, and policymakers. Arlene Davila is author of Latino Spin: Public Image and the Whitewashing of Race.

The Latino Spin Book Party & Danceathon


In what was no doubt the loudest and most-danceable party in NYU Press history, author Arlene Davila welcomed over one hundred of her friends and colleagues into the King Juan Carlos I Center at NYU to celebrate the release of her book Latino Spin: Public Image and the Whitewashing of Race. Cranking out the Puerto Rican tunes was DJ Medina, while the NYU Press staff poured drinks and watched the book fly off the shelves. A great success!

More pictures: Continue reading

Spin on the Latino Middle Class

latino spin
Although we’re not in the habit of posting regular book reviews on this blog, the San Francisco Chronicle’s take on Arlene Davila’s Latino Spin is particularly insightful.

Conservative pundits describe them as a growing mass of border jumpers and job thieves who cling to their native tongue and, therefore, represent a grave threat to the economic future and cultural integrity of the United States. Or, if Latino advocates are to be believed, they are no more subversive than past waves of immigrants: They have middle-class (and consumerist) aspirations and, over time, they can be relied upon to follow the example set by the Irish, the Italians and the Poles, and assimilate into the fabric of America.

Yet it’s that last representation – Latinos as new but nonthreatening actors ready to join the American mainstream – that most troubles New York University political scientist Arlene Davila in her insightful book, “Latino Spin: Public Image and the Whitewashing of Race.”