GRIC member and MacArthur Fellow examines ‘Borderlands’with new center

Christopher Lomahquahu

Gila River Indian News


An Arizona State University professor and Gila River Indian Community member launched a center aimed at creating dialog on the lives of Indigenous and underrepresented groups. Earlier this year, Natalie Diaz, MacArthur Fellow and Associate Professor at ASU, ushered in the announcement for the Center for Imagination in the Borderlands.


The center officially launched in January of this year, which included guest speakers Ofelia Zepeda, Tohono O’odham Nation poet, Deana Haggag, CEO of United States Artists, and Valeria Luiselli, author.


Diaz serves as director of the center, which has garnered the attention of notable institutions like the Vera List Center for Art and Politics at the New York School in New York City, according to an ASU press release.


The concept for the center is to create an opportunity for discussions related to Indigenous people and others who are on the “Borderlands” of America’s society. The terms “Borderlands,” is a take on the boundaries between individuals and society and how they interact with it to find diversity in sensitive areas of discussion.


“There is a way of Mojave thinking where we say, ‘It’s been dreamed,’” Diaz said in the ASU Now article. “It doesn’t mean you fell asleep and a vision came to you. It means there are things set in motion that we have yet to arrive at... This idea of collaboration is one of the ways we’re trying to arrive there.”


Her resume for work in creating diversity in collegiate institutions goes back to her upbringing on the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe on the border of Arizona and California, and interactions with her connection to the Community.


“It’s not easy to be the body I am,” she said. “Queer, Native, Mexican, Latina, woman. It is lucky to have found ASU, that ASU found me, and that I am among these collaborators and provocateurs,” said Diaz in the ASU Now article.


As a result of this collaboration, the school has announced two fellows, Maria Hupfield and Carolina Caycedo. Their involvement with the center at ASU will help promote dialog on Indigenous perspectives.


According to an ASU press release, Diaz, was, “among the small group of experts who selected Hupfield and Caycedo for the inaugural fellowship. Each artist will receive an award of $15,000 to support their two-year appointment beginning in fall 2020 and running through spring 2022.”

The work continues on throughout the summer, as the center provides commentary on issues impacting individuals from diverse communities.


Arizona is a crucible for the many questions we find ourselves asking locally, nationally and throughout the world,” said Diaz in the ASU Now article.


She said, “Arizona and ASU are unique spaces with the incredible capacities to broad these conversations because Arizona is a place of tension that necessitates the kind of thought capable of influencing and catalyzing the futures we believe we deserve.”