My Mother, The Painter: Storytelling in Central American Studies

Thursday, Oct 21, 2021 | 1:00 pm - 2:30 pm

Virtual Event- Zoom Webinar

Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration (REI) Colloquium
My mother, the painter: Storytelling in Central American Studies

Leisy J. Abrego, Professor and Chair in the Department of Chicana/o and Central American Studies, UCLA
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Central American Studies is a budding field in the United States where increasingly, members of the diaspora are using research to better understand the experiences of war, migration, denial of refugee status, denial of legal protections, and identity development. As a Central American Studies scholar and teacher of qualitative research methods, I am interested in ethical forms of research with communities made vulnerable and harmed by the state. Should we engage people in conversations about painful and traumatizing experiences? And if we do, who is the audience for those projects? What are some ways to honor them and their stories? In this talk, I will share the story of an interview I conducted with my mother, Margoth Abrego. Although the initial goal of the exchange was to focus solely on her art, the meandering conversation ultimately included her recollection of patriarchal violence, war trauma, and state-sponsored violence – details that provide context for understanding her creative process, artistic themes, and joy. Storytelling produced through such conversations is one possibility for engaging survivors of state violence, honoring their experiences holistically, and highlighting their agency in intimate ways.

Leisy J. Abrego is Professor and Chair in the Department of Chicana/o and Central American Studies at UCLA. Her research and teaching interests are in Central American migration, families, gender, and the intimate consequences of U.S. foreign and immigration policies. Her scholarship analyzing legal consciousness and legal violence explores the structures that produce inequality and the modes of resistance of different subsectors of Latina/o/x immigrants, including undocumented students and transnational families. She is the author of Sacrificing Families: Navigating Laws, Labor, and Love Across Borders (Stanford University Press, 2014); Immigrant Families (with Cecilia Menjívar and Leah Schmalzbauer, Polity Press, 2017); and We Are Not Dreamers: Undocumented Scholars Theorize Undocumented Life in the United States (co-edited with Genevieve Negrón-Gonzales, Duke University Press, 2020).

The Race, Ethnicity and Immigration Colloquium invites speakers from the Berkeley campus and other institutions to share research touching on various aspects of race, ethnicity, and immigration. One important theme explored by the colloquium is the changing shape of ethnic politics in the country. A second, closely related theme is the impact of immigration on the nation and on California’s political and economic life. Recent censuses show important changes in the country’s ethnic make-up: large increases in the Latinx population, the emergence of a group of residents who prefer to identify themselves as bi-racial, and changing patterns of naturalization among the various immigrant groups. These changes have altered the meaning of the civil rights revolution and have important implications for public opinion, electoral outcomes and government policy. REI colloquia are open to all members of the campus community.

For more information, contact the REI coordinator, Prof. Christian Paiz (Ethnic Studies), at

This REI Colloquim is co-sponsored by the Center for Race & Gender.

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