Biography


 

Dates:
+ Born Boston, Massachusetts August 1987 to a Guatemalan immigrant and a Yankee mother, a pharmacist and a public school counselor, respectively.
+ Entered (1992) and graduated (2005) Pentucket Regional Public Schools.
+ Entered (2005) and graduated (2010) Amherst College.
+ For more details, please read below or consult my résumé (click on pane to the left).


 

Because society surpasses us, it obliges us to surpass ourselves; and to surpass itself, a being must, to some degree, depart from its nature— a departure that does not take place without causing more or less painful tensions.
—Émile Durkheim, "The Dualism of Human Nature and Its Social Conditions" (1914).

[written 2009]

The teleological reconstruction of lives as if they have some type of purpose, goal, or intention, whether interrupted by or forged from extraordinary experiences, voyages, and dramatic conversions, smuggles in an implicit claim about human ontology, sociality, and history: that the logic of life, the meaning of experience, is to be found in the individualized encounter of an always-already premade subject with the random impingements of the external world. This psychosocial tendency, historically made and historically variable, towards affirming the constancy and intelligibility of the 'self' displaces or misplaces the true causal, characterizing, and constitutive factors of any person or of a personhood-- even his undeniable 'uniqueness', individuality, personality-- from the ensemble of social relations to the solo performance of 'growth' or 'development' or achievement. To better present and represent a life, then, the (auto)biographer should consider the subject's cognition and conation, properties and propensities, affect and effect in terms of her objective position and active positioning in social space, that is, a historically evolving field of interests and illusions.

Desubjectivization, the systematic destruction of the ideology of the individual and of identity qua individual in the process of scientific investigation, can be a painful process, risking reduction of meaning, experience, and feeling, while reifying structure, field, and society. This can be avoided, I think, by realizing that disassembling the fiction of the individual does not invalidate social experience, but instead inquires into the social causes and social effects of those experiences. It is not consciousness that is false, or feelings that are wrong-- but the way we account for them, in concept and in retrospect, that prevents true understanding of the self by refusing to relate its function and production to society. My interests and activities are certainly enjoyable and rewarding on many levels, but to apprehend and comprehend their real significance, their actual cause and their objective effects, requires a thorough socioanalysis.

My attraction to research on schooling, for example, is determined by my sociobiography—not to say that it was inevitable, but that intellectual interests and orientations toward intellectual interests emerge from the position and dispositions that a specific ethnic and class location inculcates through practical experience which, in my case especially and in societies with mandatory schooling generally, is manifested in the transitions and transactions between home learning and school learning—hence my disposition to think of schools as central and crucial institutions in the lives of youth (perhaps universalizing my own short experience), in the transmission of culture (the contrast between home lives and school culture was made evident to me in my own conflicted passage between the two, but perhaps even more so by observing the home lives of friends from working-class and poor families), in the production of inequality (ditto, also I never felt as if I deserved what I had or did or got in school, this disposition being perhaps born of religious training), in the management of populations (my public school, again, being fortuitously located in a district that had what seemed like extreme diversity of class, though not race), and so on. Schools are not as central a site of the (re)production of inequitable ethnic and class relations as I suppose (because of my class bias, scholastic disposition born of highly educated parents, and the reasons listed previously)—while they certainly structure dispositions to inevitable positions and perform ideological functions, making the system truly democratic, such that advancement would be truly stochastic along ethnic and class lines, would still produce ‘losers’ in the zero-sum game of capitalism. Even if the teacher was an agent that can effect symbolic redistributions of cultural capital and so discursively make schooling more egalitarian, this occludes and occults the true source of domination: exploitative relations of production, not unfair channels of distribution.

Socially investigating my own social investigation, then, reveals my origin in a middle class family that had and valued 'educational capital' more than capital. A family that imparted to me a dominated ethnicity in a predominantly white area without the consequent stigma because of the preceding, ie academic ability, and because of light skin. A Protestant upbringing that functioned effectively, in conjunction with the preceding, ie race-consciousness, to create in me an intellectual but also gut level reaction against injustice. A childhood in a class-diverse area, in conjunction with the preceding, ie a protosociological eye for fairness, disadvantage, and privilege, that created a sensitivity to the prejudicial, if not prejudiced, function of schooling.

Listing these objective factors as the progenitors of my subjectivity is not enough, however: I fail to meet my own standard of ateleological accounting if I refer and defer to my past to explain my 'mature' self. Indeed, it is a trite and typical examination. I have to continue until there is no subject left, until 'what I am' is revealed as a highly particular confluence of general factors.

We might more productively start from the 'I' that's writing now. This very process of writing is a strategy, and the product is an artifact, of a (petty) bourgeois socio-logic that just happens to be embodied in a biological individual (and which can be found in other individuals, texts, and institutions). I am the articulation of a position in social space. I am the educated middle class, I live its struggles in the small manifestations of its stakes. Specifically, 'I' define 'myself' (these single quotes will become cumbersome, please just imagine them from now on, as I refer to both my self as individual and as class position and as productive and reproductive strategy) against the richer and better established (but academically less able and hence less deserving in this worldview) fractions of the bourgeoisie. My concern for injustice, which I gloss above as being religious in nature and other-focused, is at least reinforced by, if not caused by and even reducible to, my own sense of indignation at the ungratefulness and unworthiness of the obtuse and puerile rich. Ideologically, I want school to be the level playing field, the meritocratic sorting mechanism, the democratic melting-pot-- learning that it is not, that the poor get fucked and the rich get richer and the middle class settles for scraps, leads to my reformism (that is, accommodationism-- concentrating on school and changing school, instead of, say, capitalism and changing capitalism). I love school, but am betrayed by it; I believe in it, but I am repelled. School is the God of my class fraction, it created me, it lifted me out of the proletariat (or at least into a more comfortable segment of it), and while I am elect, while I am saved-- the very precariousness of that situation, coupled with the evidence of the forsaken around me, makes me doubt that it is a loving master, and I despise its overindulgence in cruelty, and fear for my own security. . .

So I am bound to reach for the highest academic prizes, even as I criticize them, even by criticizing them (this is why I sociologize sociology, and study education anthropologically). I hate attending Amherst, but what alternative is there? I decry elitism and careerism, but what else is the purpose of this website and the form it is written in if not to impress employers and professors? I am the academic bourgeoisie, and I am condemned to love and to hate the school, agent of my creation, author of my destruction, and my final judge.

(Whether this can be surmounted by me, on the individual level, remains to be seen. Will I, recognizing its fruits as false and its operations as unjust, accept the risks and trials of forsaking my only path to advancement, and seek to change the social relations that condition and precondition it? Or will I accept mental insecurity and chronic self doubt for the hollow comforts of the academic life well lived?)