CSUN Community Takes Ethnic Studies Stand With ‘Shakespeare’

Screenshot from the documentary, “Outlawing Shakespeare: The Battle for the Tucson Mind.”

Screenshot from the CSUN-created documentary “Outlawing Shakespeare: The Battle for the Tucson Mind.”

Ethnic Studies can be be a controversial topic. Where some see it as a history class, others see a divisive area of study. In Arizona, the government took the latter stance, passing House Bill 15-112, effectively ending Mexican-American studies programs in the state because it “advocate(s) ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.”

For some in the CSUN community, it was too much. They banded together, and with help from the CSUN Chapter of the California Faculty Association, created a documentary to highlight the struggle they saw going on. They called it “Outlawing Shakespeare: The Battle for the Tucson Mind.”

“I think the most active thing we can do is to get people informed of what’s going on and what’s been happening in Tucson and how the situation regarding ethnic studies does not simply have only implications for Tucson or the state of Arizona,” Bryant Partida, 24, a third year master’s student in Chicana/o Studies, told Daily Sundial reporter Mercedes Richardson. “I believe what’s going on really reflects what could happen on a national scale.”

The title of the documentary comes from the Arizona State House Bill 15-112’s banning of William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” on the grounds that what many argue is a negative portrayal of Shylock, a Jewish character, falls outside the bill’s guidelines. It is this type of disconnect, the CSUN documentary makers say, that is what they’re trying to bring to the forefront in this battle. Just because Latinos are learning about their culture doesn’t mean they’re, according to another line in the bill’s language, “promot(ing) resentment toward a race or class of people.”

“Should Latino students be reading about Asian literature, Jewish literature, African-American culture or learning about different religions? Absolutely,” Gabriel Buelna, Chicana/o Studies professor at CSUN and the documentary’s executive director, told the Sundial. “This is about making sure Latinos are represented equally in everything. Not less, but equally.”

For more: CSUN Students and Faculty Create a Documentary Giving Insight to Effect of Arizona Ethnic Studies Ban [Daily Sundial]