• Ivan Gonzalez-Soto

Blogging Through the Rubble

Updated: Feb 2

This is it. My first blog post. A character count of three thousand and forty-four bytes to process the world as it currently stands. It's not exactly what I expected my first blog post to be and I'll try to explain some of that below. You see, earlier this year, I had an idea to start a blog that would outline the experiences, challenges, and accomplishments of my graduate education—the ups and downs as they materialized with an occasional tip here and there. Nothing novel, but something that could help students like me. I envisioned a blog that would offer tips on navigating graduate school for fellow first-generation, Mexican-American students and students of color in the humanities.

Then a lot happened and the world changed in ways I hadn't anticipated.

A global pandemic hit, our campus careened to virtual mode, and a loved one tested positive for COVID-19. People all over the planet organized for Black lives, and movements against police brutality and systemic racism shook the foundations of white supremacy, capitalism, and the oppressive systems they sustain. Then my 93 year-old grandmother in northern Mexico passed away. The world was crumbling fast. But the world was also mobilizing and building something new as I sat inside my one-bedroom apartment reading books in critical race theory and new western history. These books are helping me prepare for my qualifying exams, but more importantly, though, these books are helping me make sense of the world. (I'll try to make sense of them in future posts.)

While I debated whether or not to start this blog, I realized that the perfect day to start one would never really come. I've accepted that I can't change these tumultuous times, but I can still blog to reflect on the world. I already write a précis for every book I read, so this new practice could only help in the struggle. While my academic précis summarize the books I read, this blog will help me navigate the rubble of a world falling apart. It may not be perfect, but it's one place to start.

My name is Ivan and I'm a graduate student in the Interdisciplinary Humanities Graduate Group at the University of California, Merced. I study race, labor, and the environmental history of southernmost California’s arid lands to analyze how water systems, industrial agricultural, cross-border policies, and media make the Imperial Valley. (The area I study is also the place I grew up in.) My research examines the ways in which Imperial Valley’s environmental health is rooted in structures of technological domination over nature and institutional racism. My goal is to communicate my work with broad audiences in a manner that helps build a future that I want to be a part of—a future that reflects a better world for people living in the Imperial Valley and along the US-Mexico border. I'd also like to become a university professor one day, but that's a post for another time. At the moment, I'm closing in on my third year of graduate school and I hope this blog helps fellow humanities students like me.

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