image of Tayna Diaz-Kozlowski

Tayna Diaz-Kozlowski

A new course at Illinois State University will explore the experiences of Chicanas living and speaking in complex social realities. Instructional Assistant Professor Tayna Diaz-Kozlowski will lead Women’s and Gender Studies 391: Chicana Feminism this fall.

“Chicana” is a signifier used by women who are born in the United States and have at least one parent of Mexican descent. Diaz-Kozlowski explained “Chicana” is a politicized term that women give themselves. “The word is a way to claim a political identity at the same time cultivate a collective politics with communities of which you are part,” she said.

Diaz-Kozlowski noted the term arose in the 1970s in the wake of the Chicano Nationalist Movement and the Feminist movement. “Chicana women were excluded from leadership roles in both the Chicano National Movement and the Second Wave Feminist Movement,” she said. “Responding to the racism and sexism operating in both movements respectively, Chicanas created their own “sitios y lenguas” spaces and languages to articulate their needs and experiences as Chicanas.”

The class will delve into the intersection of lived experiences though the exploration of labor, education, literature, art, sexuality, and spirituality—as viewed through Chicana lived experiences. “To understand Chicana feminism, you have to understand power is relational so patriarchy cuts across forms of disempowerment such as racism…sexism…heterosexism…that are operating simultaneously in the lives of Chicanas and other women of color,” said Diaz-Kozlowski.

From books like Ana Castillo’s Massacre of the Dreamers to Yolanda M. Lopez’s archive of art that reimagines Our Lady of Guadalupe, the course will study Chicana feminism as more than an intellectual discourse. “Chicana feminism is a strategy for survival for women of color in a highly stratified society that refuses binaries and is always moving towards intersectionality and hybridity,” she said.

Diaz-Kozlowski added the course is open to all students, and does not ascribe to a homogenous conceptualization of “Chicana.” On the contrary, it forges deeper into the heterogeneity of Chicana experiences. “This will be a nuanced class. What is exciting about this course is it carves out an intellectual space to explore and celebrate the ongoing importance of Chicana feminism and how it is animated through creative expressions, political representations, and the lived realities of generations of Chicanas,” she said. “Chicana feminism is an ongoing exploration that speaks to how Chicanas live their lives, and with whom they live it.”

Registration of the course is open now. For additional information, contact the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at (309) 438-2947.