Fierros, Cindy O., and Dolores Delgado Bernal. “VAMOS A PLATICAR: The Contours of Pláticas as Chicana/Latina Feminist Methodology.” Chicana/Latina Studies 15, no. 2 (2016): 98–121.

Apparently pláticas is increasingly important especially in the field of education. It is a Chicana/Latina feminist method. This article focuses on underlying assumptions.

Both authors grew up in family groups where they learned various customs including that women could be strong and independent [so pláticas seem to refer to family gatherings and the conversations that ensue, that reinforce these local community norms and customs -- [
Note 1 defines pláticas as 'informal conversations that take place in one-on-one or group spaces, and which are a "way to gather family and cultural knowledge through communication of thoughts, memories, ambiguities and new interpretations" (Gonzales 1998, 647)'] The tradition can be extended to housemates at college and they can be used in research and data collection, where they become 'collaborative community-based research' (99) [the practice is called platicando]. They help weave together the personal and the academic, and the methodology encourages people to share stories about 'the body, educational success and challenge, families, migration and immigration'in their pláticas. Pláticas continue beyond the classroom. The academic can still be pursued away from school. They have now developed pláticas as a research methodology, especially as students were challenged to articulate the term in their methodology chapters and to conceptualise it.

There are more general Chicana/Latina feminist methodologies, and pláticas have been used in sociological research with Latina populations without the particular nuance of feminism, a way method refers to techniques or strategies to collect data, while methodology provides the theory and analysis of the research process including the framing of research questions, and epistemology is the study of knowledge in general and the way in which one understands the world, a whole system of knowing linked to worldviews. It follows that epistemological orientation is closely tied to methodology.

There has long been an argument that we should look for new knowledge 'in liminal spaces and interstitial gaps' (101) for unheard voices. Cultural intuition has suggested to Chicana/Latina scholars that they should explore decolonial and anticolonial traditions of their own that already involve ways of knowing and being.

The interest arose from people focused on Hispanic research, where traditional models were not seen to work well. Instead a more culturally appropriate form was required, something more '"friendly, intimate and mutualistic"' form of dialogue (103). Usually, the process begins with a discussion of how the interviewer has been linked to the interviewee, often via a mutual contact, then there is the combination of the proper interview and informal conversational byplay which may include 'verbal and non-verbal culturally sanctioned modes of communication and sharing of information'. Finally, there is a 'display of appreciation by both parties… [and possibly]… additional composition of all personal characteristics, sharing a family and home relics… And sharing of gifts' (103). All three constitute the plática methodology. The technique enables social mapping and the harnessing of local support networks, the building of further relationships reinforcing mutuality and reciprocity and building rapport, trust and warmth.

Subsequent scholars in social work and mental health employed this work [originating in Valle and Mendoza], and found it would help to defeat participant decline, that it was more '"culturally syntonic "' (104) and provided greater understanding, but later work did not show how researchers could become familiar with participants' contexts nor provide any context for the methodology,, nor explain how trust was established in the first place, how a platica was established.

More generally, the concept risks seeing cultures in a centralised and static entity, which tends to underplay power differentials and other tensions in marginalised populations. There may not be just one Latin culture and not all self identified Latinos may subscribe to it. Platica can also be seen as an 'initial nicety'   (105) requiring more valid data collection processes, preceding 'real' interviews , akin to p preliminary small talk. Alternatively, platica can be seen as a distinct method to collect data with no particular theoretical or epistemological perspective, not a particular extension of knowing or being.  none of this particularly validated the everyday lives of Latinos as alternative sources of knowledge.

Chicana/Latina scholars have further developed the methodology, focusing more on the epistemological issues. For example there is been a focus on family cultural and historical stories, shared experiences and ideas [Guajardo and Guajardo], concerned with how people experience reality and how they might actually developed educationally, openly recognising knowledge as socially constructed and prioritising everyday experiences in research.

The unique dimensions of Chicana/Latina scholarship has also been a focus, where individual pláticas have been combined with group pláticas, where the products were viewed as actual data and used to engage Latino youth. The practices were seen as actively theorising lived experiences, advancing Chicana intellectual knowledge, encouraging theorisation about lived experience.

It is possible to extract five principles from these developments, drawing upon published scholarship within a Chicana feminist epistemological orientation. That indeed is the first basic principle — that it draws on Chicana feminist theory, sometimes combined with other critical theories about marginalised individuals and how oppression works, including rationalisation and intersectional identities. Here, platica helps share stories, build community and acknowledge shared vulnerabilities and can be combined with CRT. [Examples page 110].

In another example [2nd principle?], a transnational feminist space was imagined for theorising and reflecting on linguistic diversity training allowing a critique of scientifically based knowledge as the only legitimate form, acknowledging participants as co-constructors this was apparently implemented in a Utah university to make sense of Latina educational experiences, and also in work with young Mexicans who understand Latin mothering and its layers of socialisation.

[3rd principle?] There are connections between everyday lived experiences and research, for example connecting family, language, sex and gender of a particular group of women of colour and a predominantly white institution, showing how the different categorisations interrelated to influence education experiences (112) or how the lives of scholars becoming faculty are also 'not separated from their lives as mothers, sisters, partners and community members'. The platicas showed how these various roles could influence their roles as scholars, and even for example help decide individuals respond to job offers. The platicas allows for more fluid discussions unlike interviews. Contributors can raise topics. 'Holistic life forces… Are not only welcomed but understood as necessary' (113)

[4th] there is a potential space for healing and therapy, catharsis, a spiritual act, listening fully with all five senses, self-discovery, addressing tram, coping strategies, unburdening, especially balancing the demands of academia and family' (114) openness and vulnerability have to be developed by both researcher and contributor.

[5th] reciprocity and vulnerability and researcher reflexivity, trust depending on reciprocity. Researchers must share everything that they ask of their contributors, they must be talking back-and-forth and 'researcher reflexivity', 'a meaning making process between two scholars'[shades of Bourdieu's understanding or Rouch's indirect discourse?], Especially in group pláticas, where there is an attempt to make sense of the lives of other women. It is the collaborative process to 'unpack multiple identities' (115).

The method draws upon 'the rich analytic theory of Chicana feminism' where contributors are seen as knowledge creators essential to meaning making,  where methodology is relational, where researchers are responsible to contributors and are equally vulnerable. Only this can de-colonise the research proces and reclaim neglected voices and overlooked sources of everyday knowledge. Participants epistemological position must be honoured. Relations of power must be reflected upon, and conventional power differentials disrupted. There will be specific differences and nuances.

[This is very promising, but how generalisable is it? It describes the ideal seminar in a way, but avoids the immense social divisions between researchers/pedagogues and subjects/students. If only we could establish trust! Chicana women might have achance is they are marginal to academe anyway. So might some proles? But there are age differences, general cynicism,power differntials ,bad faith, the knight's move  and all that]