Thanks to reader MYoung, I now know that among the radicals of the academy, conventional orthography and typography have been found too oppressive. According to Prof. Sandra Soto of the University of Arizona, in her book, “Reading Chican@ Like A Queer: The De-Mastery of Desire,” writes:

My investment in “de-mastery” extends to the ethnic/racial signifier that I use in the book’s title and, where appropriate, within the book itself. My queer performative “Chican@” signals a conscientious departure from certainty, mastery, and wholeness, while still announcing a politicized collectivity. Certainly when people handwrite or keystroke the symbol for “at” as the final character in Chican@, they are expressing a certain fatigue with the clunky post-1980s gender inclusive formulations: “Chicana or Chicano,” “Chicana and Chicano,” or “Chicana/o.” But I want my “Chican@” to be more capacious than shorthand. I mean for it to catch our attention with its blend of letters from the alphabet on the one hand and a curly symbol on the other hand, a rasquachismo that at first sight looks perhaps like a typo and seems unpronounceable. While some people pronounce “Chican@” as “Chicana, Chicano” or “Chicana/o,” I prefer the diphthong ao.

The ethnic signifiers “Chicana,” “Chicano,” and “Chicana/o” when they are used as nouns and not adjectives announce a politicized identity embraced by a man or a woman of Mexican decent who lives in the United States and who wants to forge a connection to a collective identity politics. I like the way the nonalphabetic symbol for “at” disrupts our desire for intelligibility, our desire for a quick and certain visual register of a gendered body the split second we see or hear the term. “Chican@” flies under or over the radar of what Monique Wittig calls “the mark of gender” (The Straight Mind). Or better yet, it does something less sneaky but more impactful: it stays within purview but refuses the norms of legibility and the burdens of visibility, thereby effecting what Angie Chabram-Dernersesian would describe as la ruptura (“‘Chicana! Rican? No, Chicana Riqueña!’” 280) or what José Esteban Muñoz might call a “disidentification” (Disidentifications).

Ah. Good to know. I can imagine a Mexican immigrant couple, having worked hard in the fields all their lives to give their children a chance at a better life here in the North, sending their oldest daughter off to college. Yes, when she graduates, she will owe tens of thousands of dollars in student loans. But she will have something no one in her family has ever had: a college degree, and with it, the foothold from which to launch a new life.

And the girl goes off to college, and into years of indebtedness, for the privilege of filling her head with this Marxist claptrap. It’s easy to laugh at this stuff, but when I read it, I’m more deeply impressed by the lack of love for literature, for reading, for beauty. Ideology — religious ideology, political ideology, all ideology — is the death of art, of joy, of life.

In her book, Prof. Soto rejects complaints within the academic Chican@ Studies community that lesbian feminist views on the subject are inauthentic and harmful to the cause:

And as the neoliberal corporatization of higher education continues to shrink the already slim resources allocated to ethnic studies units, it becomes more imperative that progressive thinkers challenge charges of feminist and queer divisiveness leveraged by those who purport to care most about social change.

Ah, the old “divide and conquer” strategy of the colonial master! Sandra Soto is not fooled. Watch out, ye machos — I think the lady has both an ampersand and a hashtag in her purse, and she’s not afraid to use them!

The work of Sandra Soto reminds one that it’s not an unambiguously bad thing that the universities are starving for resources.