Notes on: Calderon-Berumen, F.,  Espinosa-Dulanto, M. & O'Donald, K. (2022) Testimonio at work: the power of Malintzin researchers. International Journal of Research & Method in Education, 45(4): 370-380, DOI: 10.1080/1743727X.2022.2076829

They describe themselves as Latin American women, once travellers now US dwellers,mestizas, Malintzin*. They have been on a journey and faced invisibility. They tried to debunk USA colonising constructs. They've chosen to work with their heritage feminist epistemologies and to argue for platicas and testimonios as methods to highlight how USA higher education 'reinforces an apartheid of knowledge' (370), through its 'decision-making process of gatekeeping practices'. They want to show how experiential knowledge makes a contribution although this is not taken into account and their 'ancestral knowledges may have been constantly devalued and dismissed as racialised and indigenized and not following Westernised standards'.

Their multiple identities intersect their scholarly work and their own lives, but they live in 'tight, highly controlled white Eurocentric/westernised spaces'. This means they often have to wear masks to protect themselves [ Anzaldua is cited], meaning that their identities are fluid and yet 'simultaneously interconnected with their surroundings', so they can go back-and-forth acting and re-enacting masks and identities, learning the rules of the academic field but also how to bend and break them. They know how and when to become visible, how to unshackle their identities and relearn their heritages, when, where and how to wear masks and when to take them off. They see themselves as having no home, undocumented, foreign, wanting to 'build sacred spaces, to heal, focus on ourselves, call out marginalisation, alienation and critically processing our decoloniality' [endless pseudery] (371). They cite Delgado and others to condemn HE in the USA as Eurocentric, dominated by white privilege, meritocracy, objectivity, and individuality, and thus devaluing alternatives, separating out knowledge, needing to be challenged with platicas and testimonios, and unconventional ways of writing to disrupt 'establish methods of educational research'.

They are aware of the implications and consequences. They are 'Malintzin' researchers, with multiple roles, engaged in platicas, learners and working mothers but also academics, researchers and insiders, usually they write in English, but they often think in different languages, sometimes a mixture, including indigenous languages like Quecha. They note that epistemologies are woven into language and languages are embedded in bodies and memories. Given that English is the dominant language in the USA they need to keep translating and offering counter stories, shaping new spaces deciding what is shareable and what should become sacred. This is not easy and they are constantly questioning themselves about who this research is for and who the audience might be. They decide they are to protect the women who have shared their experiences and stories, even though the occasional '"reward" of a publication' might be nice (372). Voicing injustice is more important, personal experience from 'the colonial wound', the intention to decolonise, to open the door to experiential knowledge, make space for 'otherwise not heard voices', including BIPOC ones, work against colonial methods, potentially 'racialised and indigenize educational research'.

Lots of people have said that platicas and testimonios provide suitable methodologies to enable researchers 'to theorise lived experiences with a political intent'. They want to render meaningful experiences. They have emerged to share, which produces testimonios, shared through narratives and 'poetic performance renderings'[oh no], in order to decolonise academia challenge Eurocentric research, think decolonially and engage in '"a transdisciplinary analytic in which the problems precede the method"' [citing a piece which includes Mignolo as an author] (372).

P and T enable an array of 'experiences issues and discourses'to be included and 'as epistemologies' [decided already] they melt away traditional Western categories — 'individual ownership, reality, fiction and truth'. Engaging in P involves the traditional way of sharing knowledge in many Latino families and communities, using conversations, family and oral history traditions, communal trust, and developing a Chicana feminist methodology 'braided with other critical theories' that centre experiences of marginal individuals and the way they are oppressed by multiple systems. They want these P to develop not as traditional research methods, but rather as conversations 'founded in solidarity, dwelling in radical love' [citing Freire and hooks]. T can help express and document intense experiences, where the personal and private become political . They surpass traditional approaches because they do not support the status quo but count, describe, unveil, act as the voice of the forgotten and raise consciousness. They lead to self reflection, they help dig into open wounds and enable participants to see the necessity of composing a T. Together, they stand out among methods for qualitative research [no criticism of these other methods?].

They are both a survival tactic and a 'liberating venue', offering sense of the self, and resistance, 'in our own language'. We create text — in its broadest sense… that reify [sic] who we are' (373). This is the opposite to gatekeeping, it is sharing. It is crucial to do this when doing critical educational research with and for communities of colour. 'We don't need anybody else's permission, we can just be our true self' [naïve, but more than a hint of the micro-politics involved here], although we are aware of the risks. Nevertheless it is work that matters and worth the pain.

We are constantly crossing borders and we have to learn how to navigate and overcome the coloniality of power. 'They make us think we don't belong'. We are 'circumscribed' by skin colour, cultural background, gender and sexual orientation. We are forced to master another language and given no chance to show who we are. We have to use masks. However once inside, we are particularly alert to representations 'careful about epistemicide, welcoming pluralism' and constantly interested in building bridges 'as a way of reifying [sic] our commitment, solidarity with the epistemologies of the South [a reference to our old mate De Sousa Santos here]. Our projects and journeys are as complicated as their identities. Constant mutations are celebrations of struggle differences and multiplicity, we are bridges to and for ourselves and yet are also walked over. We are witnesses, but we have experienced survival and negotiation.

[Then we get Karla's testimonio — oh good]

Living in the USA meant she lost her 'full potential towards playfulness'. Her father was away on business, and she was trusted in an unusual way. She was a good teen but did not understand what was going on. She did difficult exams after hours of studying and passed with flying colours, and then tried to enjoy the summer in the USA. However she did not return to Mexico and this left her confused and in 'an abyss of paralysing silence that lasted for years'. (374) Her parents [NB] decided to stay in Texas despite promises to let her choose where to go. She became 'a voiceless creature' without her own opinions or feelings. She disappeared, she did not exist — 'why did my own parents had to [sic] dismember me?' (374). Sadness and distrust polluted her life, and she turned into a shadow of a self. Her family life was destroyed so was her ability to enjoy surprise and welcome uncertainty — this is her open wound. She now realises that worlds are constructed by stories, and that these can be connected together in solidarity, radical love, which is why she wants to share this testimonio here. She sees this as 'intrinsically decolonial' displacing Western rationality and enacting 'our theorising of lived experiences' [what a sorry self-indulgent story, and what's it got to do with US colonialism? Her strict Mexican family seem to have crushed after she experienced US liberalism and teen culture]

Miryam's testimonio [in the form of free poems and commentary — even better!]

It all seems to be about her thoughts on life, how it's full of stormy times sweet moments, emotions, all melded together building a text and a collection of memories.

Then it's followed by a piece of text saying that she can now recognise the wound on others after reading the writings of women of colour, especially somebody called Lugones on streetwalkers and how they 'hang out' in order to network and collaborate. This is like platicas and testimonios she says.

Then she quotes another poem, this time in Spanish.

Then another commentary, about the need to scream your thoughts but also be 'respectfully disrespectful' (375). Hanging out helps them share subjectivities and create intersubjectivities, do healing work that 'also adds to our intellectual and academic work', and 'grow hope, curiosity, creativity, love, possibility and potentiality'. Then it's back to Lugones on the need to enter other people's worlds and see how each person is constructed within a world, exposing subjectivity, excepting vulnerability, exposing a bit of ourselves in order to get to know another person, and interaction. We might feel we do not agree with the way we are perceived. We might feel dehumanised, in colonialism and 'structures of power and hegemony' we are always under constant surveillance (376).

Which leads to another short poem, and then another part of the testimonial in the form of a lengthier free poem

This one is about a rape, and how it was a shock because she was living in an otherwise nice world, and felt protected. However this protection seems to been offered by a patriarch who was 'also my father', and as a result she never felt feeble as a female, and was not aware that she was so vulnerable, until one night she walked away and was raped, a raped virgin. That man later became her protector, a fiancé [spelt with a double e], also her college professor. No one wanted to hear what had happened. And then two years later, 'two years of constant abuse, constant rape' she was tossed aside. It's not pretty but she finally found some equilibrium and learned her place..

The piece ends with a two line poem from Moraga and Anzaldua about having a foot in both worlds but refusing to feel split by it.

[Back to collective commentary I think]. There were foreign US dwellers and WOC [only in Spanish -- mujeres de color] entering the US academic world, realising that if they are to gain upward mobility they must have their scholarly contributions measured evaluated and accounted for, even if this 'minimises the primordial essence to the original intention of the work... systematic reductive strategies'(378). Should they surrender or resist? They chose to resist, to do work that 'avoids erasure and gives opportunity and voice to the plight of people of colour' they want to challenge traditional procedures and allow P&T to ensue, to offer options to speak up or to play with words 'in a liberatory scream or a poetic whisper', to write about it, make it public or not, to use the traditional academic guidelines or create 'their own process of presenting decolonising research'[what on earth did they have in mind I wonder, and where would they place this particular piece?]

Their individual journeys are both similar and distinct, but different circumstances brought them together in a collective journey, so they can now be open to one another, help heal each other's wounds, grow personally and professionally, increase the courage to resist and learn the skills they need to do what matters. They experience 'the bliss of collaboration', and increasingly deal with oppositional concepts 'since our work meets the academic standards, yet it disrupts colonial traditions' [really? Only in very tolerant special editions I would have thought]. Sometimes ['many times'] the work has been rejected, both 'teaching practices and scholarship' because they want to do work that resists oppressive tactics of assimilation, and some colleagues insist they do work that they see as relevant, rigorous, objective and scholarly. However they are encouraged by critical scholars like Anzaldua and hooks, Lorde and Bernal to claim their cultural and experiential knowledge so they do: 'we tell stories to signify subjectivities. Our stories transform us', become 'performance narratives and poetic testimonios', shared with all those in search of a home who came to this foreign land seeking the American dream.

Yes they are at war with systematic structures and institutionalised racism and they do have to wear masks, but they go back to heal wounds and gain courage to show up again they resurface as Nepantleras** [Anzaldua]. When challenged to specify their procedures they 'assert' that testimonio is based on personal experience and 'how the person decides to share his or her story. After that the researcher's creativity, skills, experience and solidarity need to come to action' this is why it is collective. [ie academics tart it up? Another kind of colonialism really?]. We hope P&T will find their place in educational research 'without our need to justify its legitimacy', without scholars having to struggle to produce this type of work.

*Malintzin aka La Malinche was, according to her wikipedia entry
'an interpreter, advisor, and intermediary for the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés ... In Mexico today, La Malinche remains a powerful icon - understood in various and often conflicting aspects as the embodiment of treachery, the quintessential victim, or the symbolic mother of the new Mexican people ...Mexican feminists defended Malinche as a woman caught between cultures, forced to make complex decisions, who ultimately served as a mother of a new race.'

**I don't remember this term in Anzaldua but I googled it and got this (

The Nepantleras is a group of young women formed in 2013 around the idea of empowerment and a safe space for women to discuss issues pertaining to women and women’s rights. Original members were high school age girls from the Eastern Coachella Valley, including Coachella, Indio, Mecca, Thermal, and North Shore, working with young adult Latinx women mentors. The work involved the examination of colonialism & patriarchy, promotion of self-love & self-care, exploring sexuality & individuality, and mining personal narrative & promoting storytelling.