Teaching In/Between: Curating Educational Spaces with Autohistoria-Teoría and Conocimiento

by Leslie C. Sotomayor II (Texas Tech University)

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Leslie Sotomayor weds the transformative acts in Gloria Anzaldúa’s scholarship to her students’ and her own articulation of personal and collective testimonios. Using her course on Latina feminisms as her case study, Sotomayor decolonizes the privileging of white experience, rendering visible, instead, narratives that remain under-represented. The educator emerges as curator, as healer and messenger; curating, for Sotomayor, “is a concept and an action.” She articulates a glossary of empowerment that combines the Academy’s “trending terms” with a LatinX vocabulary that remains resolutely unitalicized. The banyan tree—a potentially essentialist metaphor—is transformed, in Sotomayor’s hands, into a historically-grounded, ancestral epiphyte.
[...] Sotomayor’s call to reform higher education is perfectly timed to respond to the contemporary climate of rising critiques of systemic racism and privilege in higher education and in the art world.

Dr Charlotte H. Wellman
Edinboro University of Pennsylvania

This book offers a critical intervention that very much recognizes teaching as an art — this is aside from academic discussions of teaching as performance. Instead, this book situates the authenticity of self through coming to know the self, which acts as a gateway to an interconnected and transformative classroom. In this space of interconnectedness based on lived experiences and story, the educator becomes curator encouraging active and communal learning, growth, and reflection.
Sotomayer offers educators everywhere much to think about in regards to how they approach their classrooms and what it means to decolonize a space historically rooted in imperialism and whiteness. Refreshingly, Sotomayer realizes this aim is far too expansive for any one book or paper, but does offer an important voice for consideration as we all unlearn the ways in which we have internalized the harmful narratives of colonialism. Sotomayer’s work also gives the reader a space to envision what these teaching practices could look like in a largely mediated space as our world shifts toward more digitally-based forms of connection.

Dr Stevie N. Berberick
Washington and Jefferson College

“Teaching In/Between: Curating Educational Spaces with Autohistoria-Teoría and Conocimiento”, by Leslie Sotomayor, is a groundbreaking and timely work which speaks to the nature of the school curriculum of the American Education system. The Author highlights the ways in which the school curriculum, wittingly or unwittingly, alienates minority and underrepresented groups and their cultural heritage from the mainstream White cultural dominance at all levels of the country’s Education System. She employs Gloria Anzaldua’s theories of autohistoria-teoria and conocimiento to argue her case, addressing and providing practical solutions that would help to decolonize the white hegemonic academic dictates of the current Education system and the alienating nature of its curriculum. A major strength of the book lies in the fact that the Author locates herself at the center of the study, recalling her personal experiences as student at the college level, and how she found herself almost completely alienated by the nature of the US Education system, as the curriculum relegated her Puerto Rican and Cuban-American cultural backgrounds and language to the fringes of the university courses. This experience thus motivated her to choose Autohistoria-Teoria, the genre of writing about one’s personal and yet, collective history because she strongly believed that her own experiences on a US college campus were not unique, as there are several groups within the country’s Education system similarly experiencing the alienation that she also went through. She supports her case, by incorporating stories from her students whose campus experiences also corroborated her story of alienation, lack of minority faculty, and the problem of heavy emphasis placed on the English Language, which completely reduces their presence on campus to near invisibility. Ms. Sotomayor’s Book is, therefore, timely, as it is greatly needed to support the current calls for international cultural diversity and inclusion at all levels of society. The book is a perfect recommendation for educators and students at all levels of the American Education system, the various School Boards and Districts and other similar educational bodies seeking to address and empower minorities and underrepresented groups struggling with cultural alienation within the American Education system. The author presents a simple, easy to read and understand writing style, which will appeal to most students and readers alike. The personal stories also make the work highly original, which many readers can easily associate with, in their own personal lives. She provides solutions and approaches to assist educators and school officials within the mainstream Education system, as well as students and curriculum experts, in attempts at implementing an inclusive education system that embraces all cultures and groups within the American society. It is a highly recommended book for the modern needs of students, educators, and all those involved in creating a society that is both diverse and unified at the same time, and in which all cultures and groups are equally represented.

Dr Clemente Abrokwaa
Penn State University

“Teaching In/Between: Curating Educational Spaces with Autohistoria-Teoría and Conocimiento” contains a well-documented overview and discussion of the relevance of feminist theory and the decolonization of the curriculum at all educational levels. While chronicling her personal experiences from childhood to receiving a Ph.D. in Art Education and Women's studies at Penn State University, Dr. Sotomayor skillfully merges the most current thinking regarding feminist theory, the decolonization of the curriculum and social justice. She uses the notion of “autohistoria-teoría" or self‐knowledge practices to illuminate the colonialization of the educational experience” in the United States' public schools. Sotomayor suggests that a reframing of the curriculum is necessary for the schools to provide an optimum education for every student. She proposes the creation of “curatorial education environments” that do not entail a regurgitation of information or a traditional banking system of education, rather a system that would be supportive of conversations with creative acts through individual and collective lived experiences, histories, and various contests. Dr. Sotomayor calls for the “decolonization” of the educational system and the provision of an education that integrates the soul, mind, spirit, and individual experiences into the learning process.

Dr. Grace Hampton
Pennsylvania State University

'Teaching In/Between: Curating educational spaces with autohistoria-teoría and conocimiento' is an iteration of an educator's embodied teaching and theorizing through testimonio work. Sotomayor, through a decolonizing feminist teaching inquiry, documents and analyzes her experiences as a facilitator in higher education while teaching the undergraduate course 'Latina Feminisms, Latinas in the US: Gender, Culture and Society'.

This unique book is her interpretation and implementation of the seven recursive stages of Gloria Anzaldúa's conocimiento theory as transformative acts to guide her research design and teaching approach. Sotomayor's distinct bridging of Anzaldúa's theories of autohistoria-teoría and conocimiento offers an expansive perspective to how theorizing and curating our lived experiences can be transformational processes within academia. Sotomayor applies Anzaldúa's theories and her own theorizing to curate educational spaces that decolonize White hegemonic academic canons and empower underrepresented learners who may experience a deep sense of not belonging in academia. She situates herself in the study as curator, and her practice as curator as an agent of self-knowledge production and theorizing to create self-empowering learning environments.

Sotomayor's work dwells within the lineage of border and cultural studies with shared voices of Gloria Anzaldúa, AnaLouise Keating, Mariana Ortega, Ami Kantawala, Maxine Greene, and Ruth Behar. Her work is considered a guide for teaching practitioners and researchers who hope to develop ways of knowing within their teaching environments that are inclusive and holistic for learners through a non-linear transformative process. 'Teaching In/Between' can be adapted for classroom use for pre-service teachers and instructors as well as creative interpretations for interdisciplinary works within Chicana/x, Latina/x, Art Education, Visual Arts and History, Women's & Gender Studies, Border and Cultural Studies.

List of figures



Foreword by Dr. Christen Sperry García
No Representation is Representation: Teaching Nepantla through Art Practice
No Representation is Representation in Art Education
A Gloria Anzaldúa Informed Art/Teaching Approach
Fighting Racism in Arts Curriculum


Chapter 1 Curating feminist educational spaces: Definitions, lineages, and metaphors
Lineage of testimonios
Embodying feminist decolonial education
The Banyan tree: Toward a sense of belonging and self-empowerment
Chapter 2 Facilitating conversations between Gloria Anzaldúa and Maxine Greene: Theorizing within creative acts and art education
Gloria Anzaldúa’s theory of conocimiento and autohistoria-teoría
Seven acts of conocimiento
Trans/national/cultural spaces

Chapter 3 Decolonial feminist thoughts
Latina feminisms and decolonial feminisms: Genealogies and overviews
Terminology: Decolonization and decolonial feminisms
Decolonial imaginary

Chapter 4 Borderland theory in curating a Latina Feminisms curriculum
Researcher positionality: Teaching toward transformative learning with non-oppositional politics
A feminist teacher inquiry process
Analysis approach: Critical self-reflection, transformation, and healing
My autohistoria-teoría: Self-theorizing in the making
I remember my abuela making my favorite dish, guanimes….

Chapter 5 Decolonial feminist teaching in seven acts
Curating transformative act one: Arrebato susto
Curating transformative act two: Nepantla
Curating transformative act three: The Coatlicue state
Curating transformative act four: Reframing
Curating transformative act five: Autohistoria-teoria
Curating transformative act six: Renewing
Curating transformative act seven: Nepantlera

Chapter 6 Transformative learning and curatorial pillars
A call for awakening
A sense of belonging/wandering
Not belonging: Autohistoria-teoría
Healing through our wounds: Conocimiento
Conclusions and implications
Critical reflections
Curatorial challenges
Implications for art education


Further reading

Appendix A: Glossary of terms

Appendix B: Latina Feminisms course syllabus
Dates & Topics Schedule

Appendix C: Latina Feminisms assignment description


Dra. Leslie C. Sotomayor II, is an artist, curator, writer and educator. Her dual Ph.Ds are in Art Education and Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies from The Pennsylvania State University. Sotomayor focuses on Gloria Anzaldúa's theory of conocimiento and autohistoria-teoría — a feminist writing practice of theorizing one's experiences as transformative acts — to guide her teaching methodology and create a curriculum for empowerment and transformation in curating educational spaces that decolonize White hegemonic academic canons.

testimonios, autohistoria, conocimiento, Anzaldúa, feminist, teaching, educational, underrepresented, anti-racist

Bibliographic Information

Book Title

Teaching In/Between: Curating Educational Spaces with Autohistoria-Teoría and Conocimiento





Number of pages


Physical size



7 B&W

Publication date

May 2022