Gender, College, and Cultural Citizenship: A Case Study of Mexican-Heritage Students in Higher Education

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In an article titled “Narrating Cultural Citizenship: Oral Histories of First Generation College Students of Mexican Origin” (Benmayor 2002), I argued that higher education is a negotiated cultural space where first generation students of Mexican heritage (FGMH) construct an integrated subjectivity. A space from which, as historical outsiders to higher education, FGMH students strive to integrate their ethnic/racial, familial, generational, and educational worlds, rather than abandon any one of them. I frame this negotiated space as a claim for cultural citizenship (Flores and Benmayor 1997), where FGMH students affirm their collective right to be in the university in significant numbers, with first-class citizen status in the nation-state and in higher education. I base this analysis on three years of oral history and ethnographic research with first generation college students on my own campus. Students in my Oral History and Community Memory course focused on this topic, recording interviews with approximately sixty FGMH students on our campus. 1  Mexican-heritage students, mostly from the Salinas Valley, comprise over 25 percent of our student body. They variously identify as Mexicana/o, Chicana/o, or Mexican American. The majority are daughters and sons of immigrant Mexican farmworkers; others are second or third generation in the United States, and a few have deep ancestral roots in this region.
Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationGendered Citizenships: Transnational Perspectives on Knowledge Production, Political Activism, and Culture
StatePublished - 2009


  • Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
  • Oral History
  • Higher Education

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