Boriken Syllabus

Land Acknowledgement

We gather together to engage in knowledge sharing, discourse, and disruption with the land currently known as Puerto Rico. The set of islands (an archipelago that includes what is currently known as Puerto Rico, Vieques, Culebra, and other uninhabited islands), was called Boriken, meaning “land of the great lords,” by its original caretakers, the Taíno people. Shortly after the arrival of the Spanish the population of Taínos dramatically decreased through disease and the violence of enslavement, although there are accounts that many fled to the mountainous interior of the island. In order to advance their colonial project, the Spanish brought the first enslaved African people to work the mines and later sugar cane fields. In addition to Europeans, the influence of both the Taíno and West African cultures can be seen in the food, language, and music in present-day Puerto Rico.

As scholars of higher education, we commit to robustly interrogating the history of this place. This requires us to reflect on the tenuous and contested relationship with the United States, rooted in colonialism and empire, and its role in higher education. Likewise, we recognize that as visitors we must always be mindful of our relationships, connection, and responsibility to place. This requires us to engage with its history, honor its people, and to be in right relation with land, water, and all creation. We embrace the opportunity and responsibilities of learning with and being in community with the people and land of Puerto Rico.
 

Invitation to the ASHE Community

As the ASHE community prepares to travel to San Juan, Puerto Rico, it is important to acknowledge the tenuous and contested relationship that Puerto Rico has with the United States. We do this in the spirit of this year’s theme, as we (re)consider borders—what they signify and who they are meant to include (or exclude).

Likewise, we recognize that as visitors we must always be mindful of our relationships, connection, and responsibility to place. This requires us to engage with its history, honor its people, and to be in right relation with land, water, and creation. We embrace the opportunity and responsibilities of learning with and being in community with the people of Boriken (Puerto Rico). The unincorporated territory currently known as Puerto Rico was originally known as Boriken by the Taíno people, meaning “land of the great lords.” As a demonstration of our commitment to honoring place and disrupting coloniality, we have titled this syllabus after the Taíno place name for what is now known as Puerto Rico.
 
The Boriken Syllabus was co-constructed in community with members of the ASHE 2021 Local & Community Engagement Committee (LCEC). As a part of our charge from ASHE President, Dr. D-L Stewart, the LCEC seeks to engage the ASHE membership and conference attendees in a form of place-based learning, offering an opportunity to consider and engage with the meaning and praxis of transformative change in our interwoven communities--geographical, institutional, virtual. As such, the Boriken Syllabus was developed as an invitation for participants to (re)consider our scholarly engagements through place-based sensibilities. The co-construction of this syllabus was guided by one critical question; what does it mean to be in relationship with place?
 
This syllabus is organized into four sections. We crafted these units with the hope that they both build upon and are in relationship to one another, rather than as hierarchical or stand-alone sections. Within each unit, we provide a number of guiding questions to organize the scholarly engagements. We endeavored to provide a variety of formats that include: books, public scholarship, news articles, documentaries, and music. Rather than a set of texts to be read in its entirety, each section offers a number of topical areas and readings that can be engaged individually. This scholarly collection is not meant to serve as an exhaustive or authoritative list, but rather an entry point for us to engage in our understanding of place; offer some perspectives on responsible local engagement; and nuance our understanding of a currently contested space that is oft-conceived as a playground for visitors. In this spirit, we envision the syllabus as a scholarly space to be in community with ASHE members. We invite you as a community to think alongside us, engage in dialogue, critically reflect upon and (re)consider borders, and extend this work through your own contributions. 
 
As you navigate the Boriken Syllabus, we invite you to continually reflect on your relationship with place and engage with the following questions: 
1.  How do we understand place? What does it mean to be in relationship with  place?
2.  How do we understand a place in order to be responsible visitors? How do we honor its history and come to understand its present?
3.  How do we engage with place as visitors in responsible, respectful, and reciprocal ways?
4.  How do we interrogate the intersections of our scholarly engagements and the local communities that we visit?
 

Table of Contents


Section 1

Honoring Place: Understanding Place, Space & Displacement



 
 

Section 2

Colonialism, Settler Colonialism, and Soveriegnty: Reflecting on their Role in Higher Education

 
 

Section 3

Contested Space: The Enduring Legacy of Colonialism in Puerto Rico




 
 

Section 4

The Puerto Rican Higher Education System in an Era of Resistance/Refusal and Turmoil

 


 


Contributors

Thank you to members of the ASHE Local & Community Engagement Committee and graduate students who engaged in the co-construction of this syllabus. 
 
  • Dr. Awilda Rodriguez, Co-Chair LCEC
  • Dr. Heather Shotton, Co-Chair LCEC
  • Dr. Lucy Arellano, LCEC Member
  • Tabatha Cruz, LCEC Member 
  • Dr. Enid Rosario-Ramos, LCEC Member
  • Dr. Mirelsie Velázquez, LCEC Member
  • Dr. Erin Kahunawaika'ala Wright, LCEC Member
  • Dr. Natalie Youngbull, LCEC Member
  • Tamah Minnis, Graduate Student
  • Cassandra Arroyo, Graduate Student
  • Manilyn Gumapas, Graduate Student