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Happy to be Here

One tends toward land, one toward sea. Meet our two newest faculty members.

M. Bianet Castellanos

My anthropological inquiry of migration was inspired by my own migration experience at the age of three. It was an atypical migration in its sheer volume. In the mid-1970s, my mother, accompanied by her eight children and her younger brother, left her village and extended family in Mexico to join my father, who was working as a migrant farmworker in the San Joaquín Valley of California.

My siblings and I went on to spend summers, weekends, and vacations alongside our parents in that valley, picking fruit and vegetables to support our large family. This backbreaking work introduced me to the social, economic, cultural, and legal barriers that define class and race in America.

After receiving my B.A. in anthropology from Stanford, I joined Teach For America to improve the social and economic opportunities of minority students. For three years, I taught bilingual education in low-income California school districts.

My work with these communities was incredibly rewarding, but I returned to graduate school at the University of Michigan to think critically about education, gender, and economics vis-a-vis migration processes. Before coming to Minnesota, I was a University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Ethnic Studies at UC San Diego.

I am now working on a book examining the role indigenous people play, through their labor and culture, in the development of tourism, transnational spaces, and the modern nation-state. It is based on an ethnography of a Yucatec Maya community’s migration experiences to Cancún, Mexico’s most popular tourist city. I have worked with this community for over 15 years, a reflection of my commitment to sustaining long-term relationships with indigenous communities.

My new project, based on a hemispheric approach to indigenous studies, explores gender, class, and race relations among Maya immigrant communities in Southern California. My work will benefit immensely from the interdisciplinary approach to class, race, and gender of the American studies department at the University of Minnesota. I am very excited to be here, and look forward to helping to build the department’s post-national curriculum.

Kale Fajardo

My research interests in Filipino seafaring, maritime trade, migration, and trans-oceanic connections began to take shape when I lived and studied in Santa Cruz, California, in the 1990s.

I raced for a local Hawaiian outrigger canoe club and spent many hours training in the water. At the same time, in graduate school at UC, Santa Cruz, I was involved in lively debate with Pacific Islander graduate students who were pondering Pacific Islander histories of travel, as well as Chicana students interested in issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality in “the borderlands” (e.g., along the U.S./Mexico border).

My interest in these sorts of social and cultural issues, as well as my love of the sea, eventually led me to research the intersections of travel, seafaring (which includes shipping/ maritime trade), migration, and masculinity in the “border spaces” of an archipelago like the Philippines. In 1997–98, I conducted ethnographic and historical research on these issues in the port cities of Manila and Oakland.

While writing my dissertation in Oakland, I worked full-time at Bay Area non-profit organizations, including Global Exchange, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, the Asian and Pacific Islander Wellness Center, and the National Maritime Museum Association. It paid the bills, but more than that, it gave me opportunities to collaborate with—and learn from—many activists and educators who shared my interests in making local/global connections and organizing for social justice.

I finished my Ph.D. in cultural anthropology in 2004 and moved to Minneapolis (a river city!) in summer 2005. I am now writing a book, to be titled Cross Currents, exploring how we can rethink some of the dominant notions of globalization by being more attentive to oceanic spaces, places, and movements. Examining Filipino seafaring from pre-colonial sailing to the global shipping industry, I hope to expand understanding of the role of maritime trade in past and present globalizations. Another goal is to examine the impact of maritime trade and seafaring on how people understand or imagine masculinity (in its many forms).

I’m thrilled to have joined this department. There’s a lot of energy here around post-nationalist American studies and a strong commitment to looking at communities in the U.S. locally, transnationally, and globally. I am honored to work among such visionary colleagues.